DA refuses to prosecute man who stole 2 memorial benches in Ocean Beach

by on August 9, 2011 · 14 comments

in Ocean Beach, Popular

Cat Cappellucci, Turko, John Story and Anthony Cappellucci sit on the George Story Memorial Bench, when it was re-installed last month.

John Story had some bad news for us about the memorial benches yesterday.

John is the son of George Story, whose memorial bench at the foot of Del Mar Avenue in Ocean Beach was stolen exactly one month ago. Both the Story bench and the memorial bench for “Butch” Cappellucci were taken off the bluff by neighbor Robert Bryson on July 8th. Bryson, who lives just north of the small bluff lot where the Story bench had been for over ten years,  had paid a junk yard dealer with a crane $300 to illegally remove the benches.  Bryson has admitted all of this to the police.

A representative of the District Attorney’s office called John Story on August 8th, and informed him – to his shock – that the DA would not be prosecuting Bryson.  When Story asked why not, he was told that the police could not determine the ownership of the benches.

This incredulous turn of events was forecast by the City’s ambivalence towards the benches ever since they were removed by Bryson and George Gonzalez, the owner of the crane and junk yard.  Legendary TV consumer activist Michael Turko had been instrumental in finding and then returning the benches to their rightful spots.

Neighbor's photo of crane taking one of the memorial benches on July 8, 2011. Neighbor Robert Bryson admitted to hiring he crane operator to remove them. Now the DA refuses to prosecute.

John Story was almost speechless when he called the OB Rag last night. “We went through the City. We did everything the City wanted us to do. The City placed the bench there.”

As Turko would say, “It ain’t right!”

Here is the DA’s website – perhaps we could complain.

Both the Story’s and Cappellucci’s benches were installed by the City of San Diego. Both families were assured by the City that everything was kosher; the families had paid for the benches originally and had donated them to the City. The City placed them on the public right-of-way on the bluff overlooking the cliffs.   The Story bench was placed at its spot ten years ago. The Cappellucci bench had been there for about two years.

For the DA and police to now say that Bryson will not be prosecuted flies in the face of all logic and common sense.  To use the excuse that the police cannot determine ownership of the benches makes this all seem like a Hollywood farce.  And as John Story commented, “This opens the door for anyone to take other city properties, ….”

The benches were donated to us – the people of San Diego and the people of Ocean Beach.  A man stole them from public property. The man admitted as such. And now our “protectors” refuse to do anything about the thefts.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG August 9, 2011 at 11:33 am

Has Mr. Robert Bryson stated his motive for removing the benches? Sounds like there could be some Hatfield & McCoy action going on here. First, there was the slighting of one of the participants; then there was the sound of someone loading a shotgun; then that person decided to not blow someone away. Then the benches were stolen. There is precedent for the police inaction: the U.S. Govorporation stole all the land from the indigenous population because they couldn’t determine whose land it was. The logic then was thus: If a chief is willing to sell land for trinkets, then it isn’t worth much, & if it isn’t worth much, then it can be stolen, & if they fight back, the govorporation can develop a policy that condones massacre; and that policy will stand until the present day. Just look at the massacre in Afghanistan & Iraq. You see, everything is related.


avatar dave rice August 9, 2011 at 8:54 pm

His stated motive was that he didn’t like members of the public hanging out on public property near his house – reasons stated were that they’d smoke, talk too loud, and poo in the bushes.


avatar Jettyboy August 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Seems that the law only considers private property if it has a very big stock value & belongs to someone they consider “important”. All together now – Oink, oink, oink!


avatar Jack August 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Well isn’t that a surprise…I’ll bet Bryson would be hanging by his n*ts in a single cell by now if the memorial bench had a name on it like “Burnham,” or “Jacobs,” or “Geisel.” So does this mean Bryson can have the benches removed again without fear of prosecution?


avatar John Story August 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Forgive and forget. Peace! The Story family


avatar liveinOB August 9, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Amen John!


avatar Louisa Golden August 10, 2011 at 6:18 am

My respect and thanks to you.


avatar thinking out loud August 10, 2011 at 7:10 am

Mr. Story noble of you. However the law IS the law. Stealing is stealing.
How would your Father have dealt with this. Would he have said Oh well the benches are back ?
I have photographed over and over again Port and City workers violating City Water water Laws….Port workers pressure washing black grungy water RIGHT into the Bay….City workers on Mission Bay washing paint debris into the back of Fiesta Island. I have photos of City workers digging a hole on Sunset Cliffs and buying concrete waste…..They keep doing it because nobody is EVER held accountable. Port and City officials say ” it’s not THAT much illegal” or ” we will have a talk with workers” what crap..
It is just NOT about the benches it is principal.
If this were La Jolla or if it were a well to do family they would be pissed off.


avatar John Story August 13, 2011 at 8:59 am

As much as I agree with you, I believe it is time to put this matter to rest.


avatar Jack August 10, 2011 at 7:38 am

Thank John for reminding me….


avatar Ruth August 11, 2011 at 8:52 am

I am glad the benches are back, but do not think it is right that there will no consequences for the man who had them removed. At the very least a fine should have been levied. It is ludicrous that the city cannot determine ownership of the benches. If they were considered public property and they were removed or damaged, you can bet there would be some sort of charges filed. I understand the homeowner’s concern about untoward behavior at the benches, but surely there are other ways of dealing with the situation.


avatar Louisa Golden August 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm

It was my understanding that the home owner did call the city and got bad info that the benches were placed illegally and that he was free to remove them on his own. It was also my understanding that one of the benches turned out not to have proper permits (again due to city error) and the other had missing permits (city error again) and that all that mess had to be straightened out.

Even if home owner’s claims were false, remember, the DA has to prove all formal elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a high standard to meet, given all the mess with records and mistakes made by the city. It would cost plenty to pursue, be unlikely to deter future crimes by anyone and do very little to protect the public from vandals.

In this case, public censure has been clear. The community came together, condemned the action and worked to restore what was damaged. Maybe the consequences were appropriate, public humiliation and the de facto $300.00 fine the home owner appears to have levied on himself. ;-)

Mr. Story is right. Time to let go. (Maybe next time I see a lot of trash in a public access area next to a private house, I’ll take a minute to pick up a piece or two as a minor contribution to civil society.)


avatar Bill Ray August 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Anyone who needs a primer in the city not knowing it’s lower ventricle from a hole in the ground need look no further than the west end of Santa Cruz Ave. The police will tell you all day long “it’s OK to park at the very end against the curb” then the ticket squad comes along and nicks you for parking in a no-parking zone “because there’s a sign that says no parking”.

Either paint the curb red or remove the no parking signs. This is starting to resemble the way things are done in TJ.

If indeed the city messed up then I retract my calling the guy a thief.


avatar taxman August 22, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I was just checking on Bryson’s address on the internet.
His tax assessment is only $200K, even though the house is probably worth $1 million.
So he is paying 1/5 of his fair share of prop taxes (Prop 13 subsidy for the rich).
And he complains and feels slighted and victimized by society.
Also his house is permitted for only 1100 sq ft according to tax records. It certainly looks bigger than that on birds eye view at Bing maps. Maybe code compliance should check up.


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