Jury acquits homeless man who claims he smashed Uber driver's windshield in self-defense

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A jury acquitted a homeless man who claims he was acting in self-defense when he smashed the windshield of an Uber driver's car with his skateboard in San Francisco's Marina District in December, according to the San Francisco Public Defender's Office.

The homeless man, identified as 49-year-old Martin Knaak, claimed the Uber driver, Philip Nuccio, pursued him, both in his car and on foot.

According to a spokeswoman at the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, their client maintains that Nuccio sped toward him in his car early on the morning of Dec. 6 and that he threw his skateboard at the car in self-defense.

San Francisco Public Defender's Office spokeswoman Tamara Barak Aparton said that Knaak was walking along Moulton Street, not far from Lombard and Fillmore streets, when he saw an Uber driver in a Toyota Prius, later identified as Nuccio.

Nuccio apparently saw Knaak jaywalking on a nearby street and motioned for him to walk in the crosswalk. Knaak maintains that the driver then flicked him off, smiled and revved his engine, Barak Aparton said.

In response, Knaak poured his soda onto the Prius, at which point, Nuccio, who is hearing impaired, began to pursue Knaak, allegedly traveling down the wrong side of a street and following him on foot, while videotaping him.

The Uber driver allegedly got back into his car and started accelerating toward Knaak. Fearing for his life, Knaak threw his skateboard at the oncoming car, smashing the windshield, according to Barak Aparton.

Knaak apparently called 911 to get help, but when police arrived, they found Knaak distraught and allegedly, instead of taking his statement, placed him under arrest, Barak Aparton said.

The Uber driver, meanwhile, described an unprovoked attack on his car to the officers, according to the public defender's office.

Nuccio testified through an American Sign Language interpreter during the trial, claiming that he did not pursue Knaak, according to the public defender's office.

The Uber driver's cellphone video allegedly contradicted his claims, according to the public defender's office.

Barak Aparton said the video footage shows the Uber driver pursuing Knaak on foot.

On Friday, following a three-day trial, jurors found Knaak not guilty of vandalism and resisting arrest, according to his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Eric Guttschuss.

"Police made assumptions without ever hearing Mr. Knaak's side of the story. He was the victim of a crime. He needed help," Guttschuss said.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Knaak "deserved every bit of the police response and protection that would have been afforded to a wealthy San Franciscan."

According to San Francisco District Attorney's Office spokesman Max Szabo, the district attorney's office does not intend to file charges against Nuccio at this time.