Man accused of smashing East Palo Alto church windows pleads not guilty

A man accused of smashing the windows of three churches in East Palo Alto because he needed to go to the bathroom plead not guilty Monday to three felony counts of vandalism, the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office said Tuesday.

Robert Banks, 21, of San Jose, was reportedly seen by police smashing a church window with a shovel Sunday morning about 4 a.m., prosecutors said, and he was arrested.

Investigators found two other nearby churches with smashed windows.

The churches vandalized were The Church of Living God on Pulgas Avenue, Mt. Olive Missionary Church, also on Pulgas Avenue, and Street Open Door Church of God on O'Connor Street, prosecutors said.

Banks' defense said that he had to go to the bathroom but could not find any bathrooms in the churches. The damage is estimated to be more than $5,000, prosecutors said.

Banks plead not guilty to all charges and will return to court Feb. 24 for a preliminary hearing. He was released on his own recognizance on the condition he stays at least 100 yards away from the damaged churches.

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