By Danielle Eden C. Silva
The opening statements and testimony in the case of Apondo Latrail White began in Department 13. Mr. White is charged with seven felonies from an incident on June 16, 2016: the possession of a controlled substance, cocaine, while in possession of an armed and loaded ﬁrearm; transportation of a controlled substance, cocaine; possession of a controlled substance, heroin, while in possession of an armed and loaded ﬁrearm; transportation of a controlled substance, heroin; possession of controlled substances for sale; and possession of a ﬁrearm when previously convicted of a felony. Of the charges, four counts concerning the possession and transportation of the narcotics also have enhancements for possession of a ﬁrearm.
The Honorable Paul K. Richardson delivered his pre-instructions to the jury. The counts and date of the offense were then read by the clerk, in addition to Mr. White’s plea of not guilty to all counts.
Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays began her opening statement by claiming that Mr. White was in possession of heroin, cocaine, and a ﬁrearm. She clariﬁed the term “possession,” saying that the everyday usage falls under “actual possession,” whereas the term “constructive possession,” or not touching an item to have possession of it, would be more appropriate for this case. She stated the drugs were for sale and recounted the arrest.
On June 16, 2016, a West Sacramento security guard had called officers after seeing a large group of people by an alleged stolen vehicle. The officers arrived at the location. From there, the caller noticed Mr. White and a juvenile walking into another vehicle parked nearby and then driving off. The officers pulled a stop because they believed that car to be stolen. The driver, the former codefendant, pulled over. Mr. White was seated in the front passenger seat near the glove compartment which contained packaged heroin and cocaine. The heroin was already packaged to sell. Behind him, the juvenile sat. Testimony later would show that the juvenile had bent down during the arrest. The prosecution closed, noting she would be calling the driver, several officers, and a drug sales expert to the stand.
The opening statement for the defense was given by Attorney J. Toney. He noted the largest questions to ask were if Mr. White had that ﬁrearm and did Mr. White know about the drugs in the car? On June 16, 2016, two cars had been present.
The car the security guard had called in for had been parked in a handicap zone. He had called the police and the serial number was returned as a carjacked vehicle out of Stockton. Five or six individuals were near the vehicle but scattered when the police appeared. Mr. White and the juvenile had been walking by quietly to the driver’s car when the security guard requested they be checked out. Mr. White and the juvenile were not aware of the carjacked situation.
Following, officers found the drugs in the closed glove box and a handgun beneath the front passenger seat.
Attorney Toney shared that the driver had been a co-defendant with Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira but did not waive time for a speedy trial so charges were dismissed. Charges have not been reﬁled for the codefendant but the prosecution could do so. The juvenile is also being tried in juvenile court. Attorney Toney closed by saying a lot of evidence would bring in Mr. White’s past to keep him in the trial.
The driver was the ﬁrst witness to be sworn in. She identified Mr. White, stating they both lived in Stockton. They ﬁrst met when he had approached her during her break at work, and in the weeks following they contacted each other over the phone or through text. On June 16, 2016, she received a phone call from Mr. White to pick him up from Stockton and drive him somewhere. The driver agreed, and, when she went to pick him up, she shared that he brought along a friend that she didn’t recognize. She then described her car as a gray Honda Civic with 4 doors, a car that she alone used in her household. The three of them were the only ones in the car on that ride. Mr. White didn’t reveal the location until he got into the car, stating he was going to see his uncle.
After dropping White off in West Sacramento, the driver went to a bowling alley down the street to use the restroom before receiving a call about 15 minutes later to pick him up again. The stop happened soon after she picked them up, noting she concentrated on the police because she “could have lost [her] life.”
The driver noticed that the juvenile in the back was shuffling but Mr. White didn’t move. As they were taken out of the car, they were separated and she gave her statement to the officers at the holding center. The driver testified that she didn’t put the sandwich bags in the glove compartment and did not have anyone else in the passenger seat of her car that day. Additionally, she didn’t know there was a gun or drugs in her car until the police officer told her. After the arrest, she didn’t keep in contact with Mr. White, as advised by her attorney, but she had been angrily approached by him. The driver said the prosecution had made no promises to her prior to testifying.
During cross-examination, the driver revealed she didn’t know the last time she opened the glove box, and other people had been in her car before Mr. White was in it. Attorney Toney mentioned she had given a statement in a battery case before, but she was never charged in that case. The driver shared she wanted to speak but she didn’t recall what she told the officers that day. Attorney Toney mentioned the testimony listed two other individuals who the witness currently couldn’t identify. She could only recall Mr. White and the juvenile. The driver also couldn’t recall if Mr. White had the gun.
In a short redirect with Ms. Hays, the driver conﬁrmed she did not lie to the cops, there were only three people in the car, and, if she knew Mr. White’s names, she would have addressed him by those names.
The driver was released and subject to recall, then Detective Jerry Watson was sworn in.
Detective Watson worked with the West Sacramento and is trained as a patrol officer, an investigator, a SWAT team member, a bike officer, and has had field training. On June 16, 2016, at 9:37 pm, he had been dispatched to a location in full uniform. Running the license plate of a vehicle revealed it belonged to an armed and dangerous person out of Stockton. Detective Watson, along with the four to ﬁve officers also on call, performed a high-risk vehicle stop on another car driving by. The detective was then shown several photographs of the inside of the vehicle, conﬁrming that the handgun had been hidden by a piece of paper under the front passenger seat and plastic baggies of tar heroin and cocaine were in the glove compartment.
The court then went into recess for the break.