Jeffrey New, Dyslexic Man, Acquitted Of Cashing Fraudulent Check

Categories: Crime
I cannot spell, let alone write a check.
A man's learning disability might have saved him from jail time.

A jury acquitted Jeffrey New, a 62-year-old Vietnam vet, Wednesday of having attempted to cash a stolen check at a Bank of America, the public defender's office announced.

New, who had became mentally and physically disabled after a car accident, "can barely" spell, which was the flashpoint of his defense.

But, still it wasn't a slam-dunk case : While the trial only lasted a day, the jury deliberated a full six hours before deciding he was less a Keyser Sose and more a hapless victim.

New claims a man approached him on March 26, 2010, on San Bruno Avenue and Bacon Street in the Portola neighborhood, with some peculiar questions: Was New carrying an ID and did he want to make a quick buck by cashing a check for him?

His defense attorney, Ariana Downing, said that New is small, vulnerable, and appears to be down-on-his-luck, according to a statement.

"Half of his face is paralyzed and his disability is apparent within moments of speaking to him," Downing says.

New decided to help the man out and strolled into a Bank of America to cash the check. But the computer alerted the teller that the checkbook had been lost recently. Instead of getting a fist full of bills, New was cuffed and hauled to jail.

The defense hinged on the testimony of a handwriting expert who had analyzed New's handwriting and decided it didn't match the penmanship on the check.

As his defense attorney sums up: "Mr. New has severe dyslexia and can barely spell, much less fill out a check."

As for whether New thought the check was valid or not at the time of cashing it, the police never asked, the public defender's office says.

The jury let New go free -- acquitting him of burglary, petty theft, and possession of a completed monetary document.

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