Michiko Fujisaka moved slowly. At age 70, she’d recently had heart surgery, and used a cane to get around Japantown. On May 24, 2014, she returned to her building on Sutter Street, unlocked the metal gate, and went inside — not noticing that a slim man in his late 50s had slipped in behind her. He followed her upstairs to her apartment, and when she unlocked her door, he pulled her inside and stole a heavy gold chain from her neck.
“I was quite scared,” Fujisaka said in her testimony in court. “When he came in, I wanted to go outside, but he started pulling me inside.”
Later that week, German Woods was caught on pawn-shop security cameras selling a similar necklace to the one Fujisaka claims was stolen. The footage was the clincher in a case that the San Francisco Police Department had been chasing for weeks.
Three years later, on a Thursday morning in June, Woods sat in a small courtroom in San Francisco’s Hall of Justice. The hard wooden seats for the public were mostly vacant: No one attended his verdict reading except for a few Hall staff and a couple reporters from Asian news organizations. After a trial that spanned nearly a month, 11 jurors found Woods guilty of 17 counts of burglary and elder abuse.
The pattern of his behavior was consistent: Woods repeatedly targeted the elderly in Chinatown and Japantown during the spring and summer months of 2014. More than 150 pieces of evidence, including security camera footage and witness testimony, proved that Brown would enter a multi-unit housing complex pretending to be management, trying apartment doors until he found one that was unlocked. On April 19, 2014, Brown opened the door to an apartment…
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