‘Bizarre’ harassment case dissolves

In what prosecutors call a “bizarre” case, a Daly City man arrested last year for an alleged three-year phone harassment campaign against a businessman of Middle Eastern descent will face dramatically reduced charges in his upcoming jury trial.

Francisco Rebustes, 53, was arrested by Daly City police June 22, 2006, on felony stalking and hate crime charges after authorities traced numerous phone calls to Rebustes’ residence through a device on the businessman’s phone, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office. The traces were made after the victim filed a complaint with police citing harassing phone calls over several years.

A subsequent search of Rebustes’ home turned up extensive phone recording equipment and paperwork listing the victim’s phone number, prosecutors said. The former phone company employee was also allegedly in possession of methamphetamine and nunchucks.

But in a complete reversal, prosecutors dropped all charges related to the alleged stalking and hate crimes on June 26 of this year, and a judge reduced thedrug and weapons charges to misdemeanors.

Deputy District Attorney Sheryl Wolcott, who called the case “bizarre,” said the District Attorney’s Office decided to drop the charges because the victim had trouble articulating the details of his complaint. It was also difficult for investigators to tie the alleged harassment to specific dates, because the harassment took place over the phone and was spread out over three years, she said.

She said the two men were virtual strangers and that the victim said he couldn’t remember ever meeting Rebustes.

Lewis Romero, Rebustes’ attorney, said the victim in the case was not credible, and Rebustes, who is Filipino, did not commit a hate crime. He also said that the small amount of what police described as methamphetamine was seized illegally.

“I respect the prosecutors’ office’s interest in going after people who target others for their race, but in this case, they got it wrong,” Romero said. “I think this was a knee-jerk reaction.”

Romero admitted his client had phone surveillance equipment, but said it was because Rebustes was the victim of harassing phone calls himself.

Rebustes appeared in San Mateo County Superior Court briefly Monday for a pretrial hearing. Judge Gerald Buchwald agreed to postpone Rebustes’ Sept. 10 jury trial. Rebustes will appear in court again on Sept. 7 for a new trial date.

tbarak@examiner.com

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