Lawyer says witnesses will absolve man in theft

Trial begins for third person accused in biggest robbery of gems in The City’s history

A suspected jewel thief whom police allege participated in the largest jewel heist in San Francisco history did not do it, his attorney says, maintaining that two new witnesses will prove his client’s innocence.

Troy Smith, 43, also known as Devin Smith, gave himself up to the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department in March after almost three years on the lam. His brother, Dino Smith, and their friend and alleged heist collaborator George Turner were already in custody, but detectives say they offered no information about Troy Smith.

Opening statements in Troy Smith’s trial on charges of armed robbery, burglary, false imprisonment and conspiracy are due to begin today in San Francisco Superior Court.

Troy Smith and his co-defendants are accused of breaking into a vacant restaurant next to a high-end Union Square jewelry store in the middle of the night, then busting through an adjoining wall and lying in wait to hold up the store’s employees as they came in to open for business. The thieves held up four Lang Estate employees with pistols as the employees came in to open the store on the morning of April 7, 2003.

Investigators caught up with Turner at a motel near Ocean Beach on June 18, 2003. They used fingerprints and footage from an outdoor security camera to identify their suspects. Investigators tracked Dino Smith to New York, where they arrested him on June 7, 2004.

But Troy Smith’s trail seemed to dry up. The Federal Bureau of Investigation even stepped in and offered a $50,000 reward, but Troy Smith remained elusive until he strolled into the San Francisco Hall of Justice at about noon on March 6 and surrendered.

“He wanted his day in court,” Troy Smith’s lawyer, Tito Torres, said outside the courtroom Tuesday as jury selection began to wrap up.

Torres said two new witnesses have surfaced who will indicate that Troy Smith did not participate in the heist. The two witnesses, by their own admission, sold most of the stolen jewelry, Torres said.

In addition to his new witnesses, Torres said the store employees previously identified other people as having done the burglary.

“What does he [prosecutor Jerry Coleman] do when the witnesses will testify that it was someone else?” Torres said outside court

Dino Smith was sentenced to 23 years in prison after he was found guilty last November. George Turner pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 13 years earlier this year.

amartin@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

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