Dozens of women have come forward to accuse a tattoo-covered 34-year-old man named Bill Gene Hobbs of grabbing, following and harassing them on the streets of San Francisco.
As the district attorney’s case against Hobbs has grown his notoriety, so have criticisms about leniency on crime in the city, largely overlooking the role of the state’s broken mental health system that fails to provide rehabilitation.
The signs of Hobbs’ mental instability and aggressive conduct were first noted by the city in 2021, after he was arrested for allegedly following and grabbing a 15-year-old girl but was found unable to defend himself in court. Due to a shortage of mental health beds–where Hobbs could’ve been kept for longer and received treatment–he spent the entirety of his sentence in jail, according to Deputy Public Defender Nitin Sapra.
Over four months and 11 court hearings, a treatment bed never opened up. Hobbs served his maximum sentence and was released by June 2021.
Interviews with Hobbs’ acquaintances, a former attorney and a family member paint a complicated picture of an individual with a pattern of risky behavior and run-ins with law enforcement and the court system that seemed to satisfy no one, not least his alleged victims.
At over 6 feet tall and with a buzz cut, Hobbs foists an imposing figure and has been described to have a look of “pure evil” by one of his alleged victims.
Past associates from Bakersfield described Hobbs as a “creep” who was known to hang out in the city’s drug scene. But there are others who suspect that his recent alleged actions are the result of a serious mental break compounded by drug use.
“He never tried to kiss me, touch me or be anything but respectful. It just doesn’t make sense at all,” said Amber Villalobos, Hobbs’ friend from Los Angeles, in a Facebook message. “Maybe he started doing hard drugs or doesn’t have medication.”
Hobbs’ social media posts indicate a long-standing obsession with sex, struggles to keep a job and a penchant for breaking the law.
“Fuck stealing cars and going on high-speed pursuits even though it was fun for the little time I ran,” Hobbs wrote in an October 2012 post once he was released from jail after stealing a car.
In 2015, Hobbs apparently took his motorcycle on the freeway without proper brakes and went flying over a center divider, landing him in the hospital and with a dizzying scar running down his shin.
Upon release from San Francisco County Jail in 2021, Hobbs allegedly returned to what was a habit of inappropriately approaching women on the street—in ways that terrorized the women who encountered him.
In one of the 22 charges, a woman named Madeline E. describes an encounter with Hobbs in which he approached her from behind, wrapped her in a “bear hug” and carried her for 15 feet while she was walking her dog in the Marina District.
Another woman named Karina S. recounts when Hobbs tried to hook her arm and grab her waist while she was jogging in Golden Gate Park. She said that Hobbs followed her as she ran away.
Hobbs' mother, Alice Hobbs, called the charges against her son ridiculous and said that her son “just needs better pick-up lines.”
“He’s a good kid. Though I’ve got to stop saying that, since he’s 30-something now,” she told The Standard in front of SF Superior Court on Monday.
The District Attorney’s Office filed six more charges against Hobbs this week as women continue to come forward.
Hobbs now faces a maximum sentence of three years for the sole felony charge and could face more time depending on the court’s handling of the 21 misdemeanors. Hobbs’ attorney, public defender Max Breecker, has not yet declared a doubt of sanity, instead arguing that Hobbs should be released to live with his mother in Bakersfield.
His former attorney, however, argued that Hobbs got caught up in a court system that isn’t equipped to help him.
“It’s a frustrating demonstration of the criminal justice system’s inability to have a lasting effect,” Sapra said. “Hobbs’ case just went from court date to court date without him ever actually being placed.”
David Sjostedt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org