A man's learning disability might have saved him from jail time.
A jury acquitted Jeffrey New, a 62-year-old Vietnam vet, Wednesday of having attempted to cash a stolen check at a Bank of America, the public defender's office announced.
New, who had became mentally and physically disabled after a car accident, "can barely" spell, which was the flashpoint of his defense.
But, still it wasn't a slam-dunk case : While the trial only lasted a day, the jury deliberated a full six hours before deciding he was less a Keyser Sose and more a hapless victim.
New claims a man approached him on March 26, 2010, on San Bruno Avenue and Bacon Street in the Portola neighborhood,
with some peculiar questions: Was New carrying an ID and did he want to make a quick buck
by cashing a check for him?
His defense attorney, Ariana Downing, said that New is small, vulnerable, and appears to be
down-on-his-luck, according to a statement.
"Half of his
face is paralyzed and his disability is apparent within moments of
speaking to him," Downing says.
New decided to help the man out and strolled into a Bank of America to cash the check. But the computer alerted the teller that the checkbook had been
lost recently. Instead of getting a fist full of bills, New was cuffed and hauled to jail.
The defense hinged on the testimony of a handwriting expert
who had analyzed New's handwriting and decided it didn't match the penmanship on the check.
As his defense attorney sums up: "Mr.
New has severe dyslexia and can barely spell, much less fill out a
As for whether New thought the check was valid or not at the time of cashing it, the police never asked, the public defender's office says.