James Jimenez, a 36-year-old Brooklyn auto mechanic, claimed he was too stupid to know what he was doing when he and a companion stole Kirsten Dunst’s brown Balenciaga handbag from her penthouse suite at the Soho Grand Hotel. In spite of his “brainless” defense, Jimenez was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. He could have received 17 years.
On Aug. 8, 2007, Dunst arrived in Manhattan’s Soho district for an on-location shoot of “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.” She was assigned the penthouse suite at the Soho Grand Hotel, which she and the rest of the crew proceeded to use as a green room.
Enter Jimenez and Brooklyn plumber Jarrod Beinerman. During filming, they strode right past the paparazzi and mobs of onlookers into the penthouse. “I thought it was just a building,” he said at his trial. And the crowds? “I don’t know,” he said. “I thought it was construction or something.”
While Jimenez and Beinerman roamed the building, Dunst and the other actors repeatedly traveled between the suite to the street to shoot their scenes; the penthouse remained unlocked.
Early on Aug. 9, Dunst returned to the suite to find that her Balenciaga handbag, complete with credit cards, sunglasses and $2,000 in cash, was missing from the room. Other actors using the suite also reported missing items at that time.
Perhaps the brightness of the movie lights obscured their vision, but it seems that neither Jimenez nor Beinerman ever noticed the outdoor surveillance cameras that captured their entrance into the hotel, including the one that filmed them giving each other high fives.
At each of the two ensuing trials, Jimenez claimed repeatedly that he did not have the necessary smarts to have been the burglar. His only role had been companion to Beinerman as he ran an important errand: providing pot to the actors in the film, he maintained. Jimenez insisted that he, himself, was too dumb to have realized any drugs were involved at the time. Jimenez also said he had no idea that the white shopping bag he’d carried out of the penthouse suite contained Dunst’s purse.
Although the evidence against him included DNA samples, eyewitness testimony and extensive surveillance footage, Jimenez complained to the judge at his sentencing, “I really don’t understand why I’m being charged.”
“I understand,” replied Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jill Konviser.