A former salesman at a San Luis Obispo jewelry store was found not guilty Friday of two felony counts of receiving stolen property, but a jury found him guilty of a misdemeanor charge of delaying a police officer in his duties.
William “Mack” McBurney, 57, was acquitted by a jury of six men and six women of the most serious allegations against him.
Deputy District Attorney Karen Gray argued McBurney knew he was buying stolen property when he purchased a stolen diamond ring worth more than $20,000 for $204, and then a stolen sapphire worth $3,500 for $132.
But defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu argued that McBurney did not know the rings were stolen when he bought them as an employee of his son’s store, All That Glitters, in the Madonna Plaza.
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“I don’t remember the last time I felt as saddened about a verdict as this one,” Funke-Bilu said. “My client’s business had suffered wrongfully for so long.
I hope this will be some small step towards regaining their good reputation.”
Juror Kyle Chubbuck, a 19-year-old Paso Robles resident, told The Tribune after the trial that the case wasn’t proved beyond a reasonable doubt. “There was no smoking gun that told us he knew for sure the jewelry was stolen,” Chubbuck said.
The jury spent two days deliberating after a two-week trial.
Judge Michael Duffy dismissed two misdemeanor charges during the trial alleging that McBurney was operating without a second-hand dealer’s business license. That’s because Travis McBurney was the president and director of store operations. Travis McBurney has since obtained the license, he testified.
Chubbuck, an assistant manager at a retail store, said that he believed McBurney knew the value of the rings, but chalked up the low prices he paid for them to good negotiating.
“We didn’t feel super-excited about letting him off, but we also talked about how it’s much better to let a guilty man walk free than to have an innocent man convicted,” Chubbuck said.
Chubbuck explained that because McBurney initially denied buying the rings, and didn’t at least say “I’m not sure” when he initially was questioned, the jury felt he was guilty of delaying the investigation.
McBurney publicly thanked the jury at the conclusion of the verdict hearing.
He faces up to a year in County Jail; sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 14.