Judge announces mistrial in case of 50-cent robbery

Jurors deliberating the fate of a homeless man on trial for a 50-cent robbery announced they were hopelessly deadlocked Friday, prompting the judge in the case to declare a mistrial.

The jurors were split 8-4 in favor of acquitting 42-year-old Stephen Paul Quiles, who claims he was simply panhandling when he asked a man for beer money in a South San Francisco laundromat Jan. 7.

The victim, Ernie Dicicco, said Quiles had moments earlier flashed a gun, which authorities later learned was a toy. Quiles maintains he took the toy gun out of his pocket momentarily while rooting through his pockets for change.

After getting the two quarters, Quiles shook the man’s hand and left the Chestnut Cleaners on Chestnut Avenue and El Camino Real. Police arrested him a short time later sipping, his beer in the same laundromat. Quiles was charged with felony robbery and faced five years in prison.

Following the mistrial, Quiles’ attorney Eric Liberman said he was surprised his client wasn’t exonerated.

“What I’m honestly standing here wondering is how four people could think this guy is guilty and how conservative San Mateo County really is. But I concede I’m not standing at my most objective place right at this moment,” he said.

Liberman said he believes the victim was frightened by Quiles, who was drinking and talking to himself in the laundromat, and feltthreatened by his strange behavior. But it was never Quiles’ intention to scare or rob him, he said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said prosecutors will now decide whether to retry the case, to try to negotiate a plea bargain or drop the charges. The decision will be made by Thursday, he said.

It remains unlikely, however, that the case will be retried.

“Obviously we don’t want to be naïve here. Two-thirds of the jury voted not guilty,” Wagstaffe said.

Following the mistrial, jurors declined to speak with attorneys about their decision.

Wagstaffe said prosecutors did not regret the decision to try the case.

“The one thing we know for sure is our victim isn’t lying. He’s a good, honest man who was victimized. The real issue was whether it was the defendant’s intent to rob him,” he said.

tbarak@examiner.com

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A lab worker from the Medical Examiner’s Office was arrested with an evidence bag of methamphetamine in August. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Audit over lab worker meth arrest finds medical examiner is missing drugs

An audit of the Medical Examiner’s Office prompted by the arrest of… Continue reading

City officials argue that the dominance of a few third-party delivery services gives them disproportionate leverage against restaurants. (Courtesy photo)
Cap on food delivery app fees may remain until indoor dining allowed at full capacity

Proposal seen as financial relief for restaurants struggling in pandemic

A voting station will be open in Portsmouth Square in Chinatown from Oct. 31 until Nov. 3 to let residents drop off ballots and provide assistance to SRO residents. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chinatown voting station to help SRO residents make their voices heard

In a bid to boost voting access for single-room-occupancy tenants in Chinatown,… Continue reading

Public observation pier at the new Judge John Sutter Regional Shoreline.
New regional park officially opens next to Bay Bridge toll plaza

The East Bay Regional Park District opened a new shoreline park Wednesday,… Continue reading

Most Read