Robbery charges against chef a red herring

Charges against a San Francisco chef were all cooked up by police, a jury decided this week.

Police arrested Matthew Martinez, 28, on Oct. 6 after an undercover officer posing as a drunk asked him to buy a cigarette, according to the Public Defender’s Office.

“The staggering man holding a beer was one of eight undercover officers near Eighth and Mission streets, part of SFPD’s controversial Robbery Abatement Team,” reads a statement from the office. “The unit has drawn criticism as a costly operation that entraps San Francisco’s poorest residents.”

After Martinez gave the officer a cigarette, the undercover gestured with his chest at some money falling out of his pocket, according to his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Prithika Balakrishnan.

Martinez then took a dollar bill and pushed the rest of the money back into his pocket. That’s when police officers “threw him up against a car and handcuffed him.”

After deliberating for 15 minutes on Tuesday, a jury found Martinez not guilty.

A spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office said we “respectfully disagree” with the decision.

“Those who are down on their luck are often targets of crime and they deserve the protection of the law like any other citizen,” said spokeswoman Erica Derryck. “We will continue to work to ensure the safety of every San Franciscan no matter what their circumstances may be.”

Public Defender Jeff Adachi has been a vocal critic of the robbery stings.

“This case illustrates how easily the line between crime prevention and crime manufacturing can be crossed,” Adachi said in a statement.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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