Man acquitted of assault in attacks along Embarcadero

Defense attorneys argued suspect was suffering psychotic episode at time of alleged assaults

A man held in connection with a pair of attacks along the Embarcadero last February has been acquitted of assault charges after defense attorneys argued he was experiencing a psychotic episode.

George Kennedy, 49, was riding a bicycle on Feb. 15, 2020 when he approached a woman jogging along the waterfront and stabbed her, police said at the time. Shortly after, Kennedy allegedly hit a female tourist with a tool near Pier 39.

Police later tackled Kennedy from his bicycle and arrested him, according to the Public Defender’s Office. Television news footage from his arrest along the Embarcadero showed Kennedy dressed like an old-fashioned train conductor wearing a cap and overalls.

At trial, defense attorneys argued Kennedy should not be convicted because he was experiencing an acute psychotic episode and not conscious at the time of the attacks.

Kennedy was acquitted on Monday after jurors heard testimony from five expert witnesses, including one who said Kennedy had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, according to his attorneys.

“Cases like this are uncomfortable for all of us who care about the health and safety of our communities, but this case reminds us that criminal court is not the appropriate venue to address mental illness,” Deputy Public Defender Martina Avalos said in statement.

Kennedy was convicted of one misdemeanor charge for resisting arrest but released with credit for time served having been held in custody since his arrest 14 months ago, defense attorneys said. He is a veteran of the U.S. military.

“Prison was never going to be the solution to Mr. Kennedy’s mental illness,” Avalos said. “Now, he can continue to get the medical care he needs through his full coverage with the Veterans Administration.”

Public Defender Mano Raju said Kennedy “did not have the awareness and intent that the law requires for a criminal conviction.”

“This case is a prime example of how the criminal legal system is not designed to solve our public health and safety problems,” Raju said in a statement.

District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Rachel Marshall said prosecutors“respect the jury’s decision and the criminal legal process.”

“We wish there were—and are continuing to push for— better available tools for addressing mental illness in our legal system,” Marshall said.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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