Burglary Trial’s Defendant’s Cell Records Reviewed, Show Evidence of Selling Marijuana

By Jamie Moddelmog

On Thursday, the long-running burglary trial of Joseph Hernandez, Rakhem Bradford, and Joshua Givens resumed with testimony from two police officers.  One officer had reviewed the contents of Mr. Hernandez’s cellphone, while the other deciphered some of the language found in conversations on that phone.

The day began with Sergeant Michael Munoz of the Davis Police Department returning to the stand.  Sgt. Munoz continued to be questioned about cellphone data from the phones of the defendants.  He had obtained this data through a technology called “Cellebrite” and downloaded it all onto his computer.

His testimony mainly related to photos recovered from Mr. Hernandez’s phone.  Several photos that were brought up were from the MMS (Multimedai Messaging Service) and SMS (Short Message Service) “sent” folder on Mr. Hernandez’s phone.  Others were from his Instagram account.

The photos that Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin focused on were those of a 40-inch flat screen TV, an iPhone 5, and a silver MacBook.  Sgt. Munoz conducted a search of Davis Police Department records to see if anything matching the description of the items had been reported stolen.

A flat screen had been stolen from an apartment in the complex at 2121 Glacier Drive in Davis, where a PS3 gaming console, PS3 remotes and eight video games were also stolen.  The MacBook matched the description of one reported stolen from a house on Anderson Road, a case that Sgt. Munoz was not investigating at the time.

Munoz contacted the individuals who had reported the thefts and sent them the pictures on Mr. Hernandez’s phone.

The woman who reported her flat screen TV stolen said that she did not recognize the TV in the picture on Mr. Hernandez’s phone.

According to Cellebrite data, the photos were sent from Mr. Hernandez’s phone on July 12 of 2013.  The photos were modified, but the date and time of modification matched the date and time it was sent in an MMS message.

The next witness called was YONET (Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team) Agent Gary Richter.  Agent Richter stated that he often worked undercover to catch drug dealers and was required to “know the lingo.”  He claimed that he had investigated no less than 100 cases of marijuana sales.  He was certified before the court as an expert in the sale of marijuana.

Ms. Serafin asked him a series of questions about different terms and their meanings.  These terms would be referenced later when reviewing records from Mr. Hernandez’s cellphone.

She asked if he had heard “kush” or “tree” as terms used to describe marijuana, and he said he had heard both.

He stated he had not heard the term “cookies” in reference to marijuana, but he knew that there was a Sacramento business relating to marijuana by that name.

Agent Richter also clarified other slang, such as a “brick,” which he understood to mean a pound of marijuana.  He also said that “trapping” refers to selling drugs, and a “trap house” was a place where drugs were sold and possibly used.

Ms. Serafin asked him his opinion on conversations and whether or not the conversations indicated that the parties were involved in the illegal sale of marijuana.

The questions were posed in the hypothetical, asking about hypothetical conversations between hypothetical people, however the dialogue used by Ms. Serafin was identical to conversations obtained from Mr. Hernandez’s cellphone.  She could not reference Mr. Hernandez as participating in these exchanges, as it was ruled hearsay.

Ms. Serafin went through many hypothetical conversations often referring to the slang terms and lingo she had questioned about earlier.  Most of the hypotheticals brought up indicated to Agent Richter that the participants were involved in the illegal sale of marijuana.

She also brought up hypothetical Instagram posts, one with a picture of marijuana buds on a digital scale with the hashtags “#cookies” and “#trappin.”  She also asked about another hypothetical Instagram post with the caption, “I don’t sell bags.  I sell P’s.”

Agent Richter claimed that both of those posts would lead him to believe that whoever posted them was selling marijuana.  He explained that “P’s” was slang for “pounds.”

Ms. Serafin asked about several quantities of marijuana that an individual could have in their possession, and whether such quantity would indicate planned sale of the substance.  Agent Richter stated that he believed quantities of 673, 125 or 388 grams all were enough to arrest someone for sale of marijuana.

However, in cross-examination from Mr. Bradford’s defense counsel, James Granucci, the witness stated that if the 677 grams had been mostly “shake,” meaning the part of the marijuana plant other than the flower, such as the stem and leaves, then the quantity could be considered enough just for personal use. “Shake” can be used for butane honey oil or edibles, by extracting the THC out of it, and larger quantities are needed for personal use.

Agent Richter also stated during cross-examination that users of marijuana typically tend to buy it in smaller quantities because it has a “shelf life” of about 30 days, at which point it begins losing its potency.  This is the reasoning behind connecting large quantities of marijuana with sale.

Agent Richter was dismissed and Officer Munoz was recalled.  He was asked to identify the significance of messages displayed using Cellebrite technology.  Defense counsel to Mr. Hernandez, Allison Zuvela, made a sustained hearsay objection to showing any of the records obtained from Mr. Hernandez’s phone, asserting they implied that her client actually said the things that were sent out from his phone.

Officer Munoz briefly reviewed a conversation in which Mr. Hernandez’s phone offers a “locked MacBook” for a “brick.”  Agent Richter had already established the conversation as one about the sale of marijuana.

With closing statements estimated two weeks ahead, Judge David Reed thanked the jury for their “perseverance.

“It’s extremely voluminous,” he said, “And we’re not as fast moving as we’d like to be at times.”

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

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