Nino Chubabria explains how Mkurnali’s legal service for homeless teenagers (funded by SGF) helped Sergi prove his innocence and avoid a prison sentence.
“Sergi was charged with stealing a woman’s purse and tearing off her golden necklace in Tbilisi, on Jvania Street on the 7th of February 2018 at 19:40. This would mean a 3 to 5 year prison sentence.
We got involved as soon as we heard the story from one of Sergi’s friends. We went to see Sergi, who was on remand. Apparently, he had confessed to the crime, although he said he did so because he couldn’t convince the police that it was not him.
Sergi said he was with a friend in a different part of Tbilisi at the time the theft took place. Unfortunately, this friend had previously been in trouble so nobody would believe his alibi. Additionally, the woman had somehow identified him as the robber. In court, the law enforcement officers told Sergi that they would make his punishment lighter, if he admitted to the crime.
We still decided to question Sergi’s friend. He mentioned that Sergi helped a stranger. He told us that an old man came out of the pharmacy, exclaiming that he was short of money and he had to go back home and get it. Sergi offered to help. Since Sergi didn’t have change, he went inside the pharmacy to buy the medicine for the old man. So we went to the pharmacy and asked to see the security footage. The manager told us that he could not give us information without the owner’s permission, and he was in Gudauri (a winter skiing resort).
We had 2 options: either we could go to Gudauri, or we could give this information to the authorities. The second option was unrealistic, because the authorities would not bother with a case when they had a confession. Instead of talking on the phone with the owner, we thought it would be better to travel to Gudauri and talk to him face to face. We went there, explained the situation and we asked him for help. He called the manager, who then gave us the recording on the same night.
On the recording, you could clearly see Sergi, his friend and the old man who Sergi helped. The recording was dated 2018, February 7th, between the times 19:29 to 19:33. With this recording it was obvious that Sergi was innocent, because he physically could not get from there to Jvania Street in 7 minutes (to cover this distance you need at least 30-40 minutes). After showing this tape in the prosecutors office, they were forced to take off the blame and free him from prison immediately.