Would-be space traveler acquitted on several charges of robbery and assault 

In an astronomical case, a man who thought the apartment he allegedly broke in to was actually a spaceship was acquitted of the most serious charges he faced.

Santino Aviles, 41, was found not guilty Tuesday on charges of robbery, attempted robbery, assault with force likely to cause great injury and battery with serious injury, said spokeswoman Tamara Barak Aparton of the Public Defender's Office. Aviles was convicted of two misdemeanors for battery and assault. And a mistrial on a burglary count was declared after the jury hung on the charge.

Aviles was accused of sneaking in to a Mission apartment that he thought was a docking bay to a spaceship that would take him away from Earth while he was reportedly in a meth-induced psychosis, Aparton said.

He faced up to 14 years in prison if he had been convicted on all counts.

The epic odyssey began May 31, 2014, when Aviles started experiencing hallucinations and false perceptions associated with methamphetamine psychosis, Aparton said. He thought he was being pursued by an unknown enemy and that the Earth's destruction was imminent.

Once Aviles spotted the apartment building that he believed looked like a spaceship docking station, he rang the buzzer and a resident let him in. He immediately tried to get to the roof, but the resident who buzzed him in grew suspicious and told Aviles to leave.

Aviles then went out on the fire escape and entered an apartment through an open window. Once inside, he passed out on the couch.

When he woke, he began packing for space, Aparton said. During court testimony, Aviles said he put an inflatable exercise ball onto the fire escape that he thought he could use to float through the galaxy. He also used the resident's backpack to stow a “passport” and earthquake kit. The passport was a picture of a woman who had long black hair like Aviles, and Aviles believed the “passport” would guarantee a seat on the spaceship.

Eventually, more earthly problems snagged Aviles' plans when the residents woke up to find the would-be space traveler in their apartment.

The male resident tackled and punched Aviles while the female resident struck him with a bat, Aparton said. Aviles sustained a black eye and other injuries during the altercation.

Jacque Wilson, Aviles' attorney, said that Aviles had no intention of entering the building to rob or hurt anyone.

“This was not the act of a violent criminal but a frightened man in the midst of a mental health crisis,” he said.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the case was grossly overcharged.

“Fortunately,” he said, “the jury cut the case down to size.”

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