Hearing for serial Castro offender Triball pushed to January

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Friday December 23, 2022
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Zero Triball, as seen in a video he posted to YouTube, is awaiting trial in San Francisco for a litany of charges. Photo/ YouTube.jpg
Zero Triball, as seen in a video he posted to YouTube, is awaiting trial in San Francisco for a litany of charges. Photo/ YouTube.jpg

A San Francisco Superior Court judge pushed to early 2023 a preliminary hearing for a man who, many say, has terrorized Castro residents and visitors for the past few years. For the time being, he is expected to remain in police custody.

Zero Triball, 36, who has been arrested a number of times since 2020 for alleged physical attacks on various people throughout San Francisco's LGBTQ neighborhood, appeared before San Francisco Superior Court Judge A. Marissa Chun the morning of December 23. Triball was booked December 10 and is currently being held in San Francisco County Jail on 15 separate charges, including battery with serious bodily injury, assault with force likely to commit great bodily injury, child endangerment, assault with a deadly weapon, contempt of court, vandalism, second-degree robbery, and assault. He is being held on $101,000 bond.

Rather than rule on the matter Friday morning, Chun continued Triball's preliminary hearing date to January 4. But she did allow people who had interacted with Triball to give statements, though their comments won't be entered as testimony in the case.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman has been closely following Triball's case. Only the day before, he had sent a letter to Chun stating that Triball "has repeatedly cycled through the criminal justice system and continues to exhibit alarming and violent behavior" and urged the court to keep him in custody.

Mandelman's office had notified a number of Triball's alleged victims about the hearing and several of them sat in virtually Friday morning, in order to address Chun about their experiences with Triball. Two Castro neighborhood businesspeople, Terry Asten Bennett of Cliff's Variety and Bill Lemon of the Castro Country Club, which operates a coffee shop, described incidents when Triball had attacked either them, their employees, or interfered with day-to-day proceedings at their businesses, essentially holding the neighborhood "hostage," as Bennett told Chun.

Lemon noted that he had filed for a stay-away order for Triball, saying he'd done so "because we simply don't feel safe with him in the neighborhood, period."

Bennett underscored Lemon's statements, adding "Our neighborhood is simply not safe with him in it."

Two more people told Chun about their own encounters with Triball. In each case, Triball had physically assaulted them on the street, they said.

Zack Karlsson, who was allegedly assaulted by Triball on February 7, 2020, told Chun that there were numerous other people who had been attacked by the man but who had never bothered to report their encounters with him.

"Triball's impact on the community is still largely undocumented," Karlsson said.

While he noted Triball had violated numerous court orders over the years, Karlsson also said city agencies and the court had failed to hold him to account. His own encounter with Triball, Karlsson said, had pushed him and his husband to move to Oakland, and he had begun seeing a therapist, racking up nearly $40,000 in expenses since the assault.

Greg Rojas, who has lived in the Castro for 24 years and was allegedly attacked by Triball earlier this year on Halloween as he was leaving a Castro bar, was prepared to offer his own statement Friday. But Chun encouraged him to "hold your statement" so that Rojas could offer testimony under oath during cross-examination by lawyers.

Chun added that he could provide a written statement, which Triball's public defender, Adam Lipson, could then obtain during the discovery process for the trial. Lipson did not address Chun during Friday's proceeding.

Mandelman told the judge he was there to support the others who spoke. Acknowledging "not much happened" at Friday's proceeding, Mandelman told the Bay Area Reporter that he through his letter and the others who spoke had accomplished what they set out to do by addressing the judge.

"I think we did what we sort of intended to do. To let this judge know that Triball has a long and problematic history in the Castro, his behavior has impacted a lot of people, and that he does not seem to be somebody who can be released into the community without it being a significant public safety risk," he said.

UPDATED 12/23/22 with comment from Supervisor Mandelman.

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