Man held for trial in Castro burglary

  • by Meg Elison, BAR Contributor
  • Wednesday August 7, 2019
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Man held for trial in Castro burglary

A man was held over for trial Tuesday in the case of an alleged burglary in the Castro in late June in which jewelry and other items were stolen from the home of a prominent lesbian attorney.

The alleged burglar left behind used needles, heroin, and dirty dishes, homeowner Angela Padilla previously told the Bay Area Reporter.

Carlos Gomez-Miranda, 31, of San Francisco, was arrested and arraigned at the end of July in San Francisco Superior Court on charges of first-degree burglary, grand theft, and a misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen property.

During a preliminary hearing August 5, San Francisco Police Sergeant Chien-Ping Chou testified that he had arrived to evaluate the home on July 1, after the victims had begun to clean up. The house showed extensive signs of violation; with every dresser drawer dumped out and every closet ransacked, he said.

The timeline for the alleged burglary was difficult to establish. Padilla and her family had been away for a week, and did not discover the break-in until they came home and noticed the mess on the morning of July 1.

Chou told the court that Padilla provided him with pieces of evidence she had found: wrappers and packages from food items she said had come from outside her house, as well as two receipts from a nearby 7-Eleven where the items had been purchased. Taking those and an inventory of Padilla's missing jewelry, Chou told the court that he began to investigate.

The store manager of the 7-Eleven provided Chou with the surveillance footage from the time stamp on the receipts, he said, as well as stills from the video. Using those images, two other officers apprehended Gomez-Miranda and brought him to Chou for questioning. He was booked into San Francisco jail July 20, according to the San Francisco Sheriff's Department.

Chou testified that at the time of his arrest, Gomez-Miranda had five pieces of jewelry on his person that Padilla was able to identify as her own when he emailed her pictures.

San Francisco Deputy Public Defender William Helvestine attempted to establish a line of questioning as to how the house was secured: asking did Chou believe Gomez-Miranda had broken a window or a lock to gain entry, or had simply come in through an open window. He asked if the back door had been discovered unlocked. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Vedica Puri dismissed those questions as irrelevant.

Based on Chou's testimony on the value of the recovered items, prosecutor Samuel Beckerman of the San Francisco District Attorney's office asked that Gomez-Miranda's misdemeanor property charge be upgraded to a third felony charge. The judge granted that request.

Gomez-Miranda pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

Helvestine made a renewed request to release Gomez-Miranda on his own recognizance pending trial, citing the defendant's involvement in treatment programs in San Francisco that have been caring for him since his HIV diagnosis earlier this year. Helvestine also pointed out that Gomez-Miranda has lived in the city for 17 years and would not be likely to flee.

At that moment, Beckerman asked for a sidebar and the attorneys conversed with the judge out of earshot.

Afterward, Puri announced to the courtroom that Gomez-Miranda is also awaiting trial for a second separate felony residential burglary.

The B.A.R. spoke briefly with Helvestine, who confirmed the additional felony burglary charge, but said that it was a San Mateo County case and he didn't know much about it yet. When asked whether the news came as a surprise to him in court, Helvestine said that he probably shouldn't answer that question. The case was filed in June, before the Padilla burglary allegedly took place.

"Invasion of someone's home is a crime that will not be tolerated in San Francisco," Puri said from the bench. She noted that she had evaluated the alternatives, seeking to be fair to Gomez-Miranda. However, based on the evidence and the additional charge, Puri was not inclined to be lenient.

"Simply availing himself of these services is not enough of a reason," she said, denying release. Bail was set at $25,000.

The B.A.R. verified the San Mateo County burglary case online. Michael Hroziencik, Gomez-Miranda's defense attorney in that case, spoke with the B.A.R. by phone Tuesday with an update.

"It started off as a felony, but a judge reduced it to a misdemeanor," he said, explaining that this previous burglary was not as serious. "Gomez-Miranda broke into this guy's RV. If he'd been living in it, that would be a residential. But it was in storage, and so not his residence. Gomez-Miranda was just a homeless guy looking for a place to sleep."

Gomez-Miranda was arrested June 3 in that case and pleaded no contest to the charges. Gomez-Miranda was sentenced to 30 days in jail and was released June 18, based on good behavior, Hroziencik said.

In July, after the alleged San Francisco break-in, Padilla, the 53-year-old homeowner, attorney, and nonprofit founder, told the B.A.R. she was done with the city; after 28 years this was the last straw.

She said that she had previously planned to remain in San Francisco until her children had finished school, but that this incident made her feel as though it was unsafe to stay. Padilla has three children: 12, 14, and 17 years old.

"Yes, I'm still planning to leave," Padilla told the B.A.R. via text message August 2. "It's just too much."

Padilla told the B.A.R. that she intended to be present at every court date.

"I am going to make sure the D.A. doesn't let the case get dismissed without a proper trial," she wrote. However, Padilla was not present Tuesday. She told the B.A.R. via text that she had a family emergency.