Palo Alto man pleads no contest to 2008 robberies

Feb. 1, 2010, 12:00 a.m.

Jeffrey Owen Smith, a 39-year-old Palo Alto resident, has entered a plea of no contest to a series of robberies that took place in 2008, the San Jose Mercury News reported last week.

The crimes were at the center of a racial profiling controversy involving former Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson, who eventually resigned under mounting pressure from the community.

The robberies occurred in a variety of locations in Palo Alto, including two near the California Avenue Caltrain station. Smith attacked women who were walking alone.

Smith pleaded no contest last Monday to four counts of second-degree robbery, one count of attempted robbery and one count of receiving stolen property, according to the Mercury News. Smith is set to receive his sentence, which could be up to 28 years in prison, on March 11.

As police worked to investigate and stop the muggings, which took place primarily at night, Johnson made a number of comments at a city council meeting that appeared to condone racial profiling. Specifically, she said, “If my officers see an African American who has a do-rag on his head, absolutely the officers will be stopping and trying to find out who that person is.” Johnson later apologized for her comments, then resigned in December 2008.

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