By Kelsey Landon
Wednesday morning’s jury trial for defendants Jason Michael Lopez and Stephon Jerome Ramirez, facing charges of an alleged gang-related shooting, reconvened with the People’s first witness, Officer Kenneth Fellows of the West Sacramento Police Department.
Officer Fellows was one of the first peace officers to respond to the call made on the day of the incident.
Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes, representing the People, asked the witness if he could identify one of the people he made lawful contact with after responding to the call, and Fellows identified Jason Lopez as one of them.
Officer Fellows described what Lopez had been wearing the day of the incident, a red t-shirt and a jacket with red sleeves. Fellows noticed four dots tattooed under Lopez’s left eye, a “BRK” tattoo on the rear of Lopez’s left arm, and a “XIV” tattoo on his hand, all of which have been associated with the Broderick Boys and the Norteños street gangs.
Fellows stated that Lopez claimed he had been a part of a northern California gang for the past three years. Fellows included this statement in the report he made of the incident.
The first witness was then excused but is still subject to recall.
The People’s second witness, Yolo County District Attorney’s Office Investigator Matt Villarreal, was then called to testify.
Mr. Villarreal was asked to investigate a route from the Lighthouse Market & Deli to an apartment complex in the Broderick neighborhood of West Sacramento.
The investigator drove this route several times, stating that the route he drove might have been different from that of the offenders because construction was going on in that part of town.
Villarreal confirmed that the photo evidence Mr. Hasapes presented was an accurate representation of the area between the Lighthouse Market and the particular apartment complex.
The district attorney’s office also asked Villarreal to search a nearby field in which the suspect had been located. The investigator did so on two occasions, once with other police officers conducting a grid search, and a second time with crime scene investigator (CSI) and a metal detector.
Both times, Villarreal spent 1-1.5 hours searching and found nothing.
Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira, representing defendant Stephon Ramirez, then began her cross-examination.
Ms. Sequeira confirmed with the witness that it was his first time testifying in this trial, and that, when it was requested that he search the field, he was explicitly told he was looking for a weapon.
The witness stated that he had never talked to any complaining witnesses and Mr. Hasapes had directed everything that he had reviewed about the case.
Mr. Villarreal stated that he had never conducted an independent investigation outside of the district attorney’s office.
Ms. Sequeira asked the witness whether or not the man who owned the field Villarreal searched had found a weapon in it before, and the witness replied that he had not.
Villarreal claimed the only reason he went back to the field a second time was because a CSI was available that day, when there had not been one the time before.
Attorney James Granucci, representing defendant Jason Lopez, then took over cross-examining Mr. Villarreal.
In Granucci’s cross-examination he confirmed, once again, with Villarreal that he had not read any police reports or transcripts prior to investigating this case. He also confirmed that Villarreal did not interview anyone in the alleged apartment complex nor throughout the adjacent neighborhood.
Mr. Hasapes followed up with his redirect by confirming with Villarreal that his job mainly consists of follow up requests on behalf of the district attorney’s office. Villarreal testified that he was not asked to be dishonest in his testimony.
In Ms. Sequeira’s second cross-examination, she confirmed with Villarreal that he was not asked to do plain fact-finding, but rather he was asked to look for evidence to collect for Mr. Hasapes’ case.
Mr. Villarreal was then excused, subject to recall.
The third witness called on by the People was an employee for the Crime Scene Investigation Unit in West Sacramento.
She explained that her role in the investigation consisted of looking over the document that was to be submitted to the Department of Justice.
Her job was to look at the document that contained the history of the items submitted into evidence and their chain of custody. She identified the cell phones presented to her from Mr. Hasapes as the ones described in the document.
She testified that she contributed to the chain of custody for the evidence she reviewed in front of the jury.
She signed both phones submitted to her out to the same officer.
In Ms. Sequeira’s cross-examination she clarified with the witness that when she said “signed” she meant scanned the item and moved it on to the next person. The computer would tell her the date that the officer booked in that piece of evidence.
The witness testified that August 25, 2016, was the first time any officer did something with the piece of evidence.
The phones were sent to the Department of Justice on July 14, 2016. The witness did not know what the contents of the phone were because she didn’t book them. Her job is not to do anything with the phones.
In the People’s redirect, Mr. Hasapes showed another piece of evidence, that the witness confirmed was a printout generated by her computer program.
The witness was then excused, subject to recall.
The fourth witness of the day called to testify by the People was Yolo County District Attorney Investigator John Sadlowski.
John Sadlowski explained that he is assigned to the high-tech crime unit for the Yolo County DA’s office.
Sadlowski is trained and experienced in using Cellebrite, the most commonly used tool to perform data extraction for devices. The data is extracted using Cellebrite and then converted to a DVD or thumb drive that is given to the investigator.
On July 21, 2016, Sadlowski received a Samsung Galaxy phone, which he confirmed was the same as the piece of evidence presented to him in court.
He then performed a physical extraction that involved removing everything from the phone, after which he generated a report, one that was then given to the West Sacramento Police Department.
Sadlowski then identified the other phone presented to him and said he did not perform the Cellebrite extraction with the second one.
Instead, Sadlowski said he was able to extract the data to an SD card that was then released to the West Sacramento Police Department. They have both the hard copy and an electronic one.
Ms. Sequeira began her cross-examination after this testimony.
In reply to Ms. Sequeira’s questions, Sadlowski confirmed that his job is just to gather the data and give it back to the police department.
In Mr. Hasapes’s redirect, the witness confirmed that he gives back all of the data he extracts, not just the data the investigators are looking for.
In re-cross, Ms. Sequeira asked if Sadlowski had to override the internal protections the phone has, to extract the data.
Sadlowski confirmed that a normal person would either have to have the password to the phone, be a high-tech professional, or otherwise use a device like Cellebrite to perform the kind of extraction he did.
Sadlowski went on to testify that Cellebrite can sometimes pull back files that have been deleted from a phone. Sadlowski confirmed that the search warrant for the phone was to look for “gang stuff.”
Sadlowski testified that he did not know who owned the phones and had no way to tell the chain of custody from the data he extracted.
The witness was then excused, subject to recall.