Woman accused of climbing fire escape to burglarize apartment acquitted

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) —A 36-year-old woman was acquitted last week by a San Francisco Superior Court jury of first-degree residential burglary and grand theft after a man alleged that she broke into his high-rise apartment last year but she said he brought her there for a sexual encounter and was interrupted by his wife, according to the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

Tara Lowe was accused of climbing nine stories up a Tenderloin neighborhood apartment building fire escape, while wearing high heels, to burglarize an apartment on June 17, 2015, defense attorneys said today.

Lowe faced 17 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Lowe was acquitted of the more serious charges last Thursday but was convicted of petty theft, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to time already served. She spent a year in San Francisco County Jail because she couldn’t afford bail, defense attorneys said.

Officers arrested Lowe as she was screaming for help on the streets. A 42-year-old man told officers Lowe had stolen items from his apartment, prompting him to chase after her, according to defense attorneys.

Officers found jewelry, a wallet and an iPod belonging to the man’s wife in Lowe’s purse.

The man claimed he was in his apartment making dinner when his wife came home. When their dog barked, the man’s wife went to investigate and discovered Lowe ducking out of the bathroom window, defense attorneys said.

Lowe apologized to the man’s wife and said she had been locked out after fighting with her boyfriend on the third floor. Lowe then descended down the fire escape.

As the husband was taking the elevator downstairs, his wife called him and told him some of her belongings were missing.

The husband then pursued Lowe through the streets, alleging she was waving a metal pipe and threatening him, according to defense attorneys.

Lowe told police that the man had brought her upstairs to the apartment for a sexual encounter, but shoved her out of the window when his wife came home unexpectedly.

During the trial, Lowe’s defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Carla Gomez, argued that the man’s account was impossible.

Lowe, who was intoxicated and wearing high heels and an ankle chain made of jingling bells, would have had to climb nine stories up the fire escape and then gain entry to the unit without any burglary tools.

Additionally, it was unlikely that the woman would have gone unnoticed by both the man and his dog once inside their 450-square-foot studio apartment, defense attorneys said.

The man’s allegation that Lowe had thrown her shoes at him and swung a metal pipe were both proven false by cellphone video shot by a neighbor. The man also described Lowe as having blue eyes to a 911 dispatcher, a trait he would have been unable to see if his only contact was chasing after her in the street, according to the public defender’s office.

“The man’s story didn’t make sense on any level, and the jury could not reconcile his account with the evidence,” Gomez said in a statement.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the case illustrated the wastefulness and injustice of the bail system since the city spent money to keep Lowe in jail for a year for what amounted to petty theft.

“The complaining witness’ story didn’t add up,” Adachi said in a statement. “Poor Ms. Lowe was jailed for a year on the basis of an untruth. But thanks to her public defender, investigator and members of the jury, she is finally free to resume her life.”

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