VANGUARD COURT WATCH: Snyder Arraigned on Explosive Charges

explosivesDavid Snyder, UCD Man Suspected of Possessing Explosives, Arraigned Thursday

by Antoinnette Borbon

Just outside the courtroom of Department 9 this afternoon, the streets were lined with vans from all of the local news stations, eagerly waiting to report on the arraignment of David Scott Snyder. Snyder is accused of making explosives in his apartment with stolen chemicals from the University of California at Davis, where he worked. He was living at the Russell Park Apartments and worked as a research assistant at the university.

The courtroom was filled with video cameras to witness the arraingment. Judge Janet Beronino explained the charges to the defendant in detail. He sat in his seat with a pretty calm demeanor, his left arm wrapped from the injury sustained in the explosion inside his apartment. Deputy Public Defender Jessica Graves requested bail be set at the pre-conference hearing February 8th, in Judge Reed’s courtroom. Bail was suggested to be set at 2 million dollars but will more than likely be denied due to the defendant being a “flight risk,” prosecution stated.

It was a rather brief hearing for the defendant today. Judge Beronino asked Defendant David Snyder if he understood everything that was being said today.  His reply was, “Yes, I do, your honor.” David’s voice was strong and clear.  He did not appear to be worried about anything. He smiled and looked confidently at the news cameras more than a few times.

As I was leaving the courthouse later in the day, I was fortunate enough to speak with Derek, a news correspondent from CBS, and he told me the DA’s office has enough evidence to prove intent and found several bomb detonators along with plenty of chemicals to make more than one bomb. He explained, “The defense is making this out to be some little thing, but it is much more than that, this was no little science project, I believe he knew what he was doing.”

However, people who know David Snyder have told the Vanguard that he was unlikely to have been making explosives with the intent to do anything other than experiment.

Mr. Snyder faces ten felony charges.  Prosecutors told the media that he had liquid and solid explosive materials along with the material to detonate them.

They also allege that there was someone who helped him.  The prosecutor alleges that that individual is connected with the university, but not a faculty member.

Defense Attorney Jessica Graves told reporters on Thursday that this was “a very unfortunate accident” and “we look forward to the process to clear his name.”

“The safety of the entire university community – students, staff, faculty and visitors – is our top priority,” said Ralph J. Hexter, UC Davis provost and executive vice chancellor, in a release from the University. “While the police investigation is ongoing, if it becomes apparent that there is more that should be done to help ensure safety on our campus, we are committed to taking all necessary and appropriate steps.”

As immediate interim measures, the administration has “asked the UC Davis Police Department to evaluate how we might strengthen our communication with members of the campus community about the state law that prohibits firearms on campus, with particular focus on possession of firearms in student housing.”

They have also: “Initiated a focused administrative review of current practices within the Department of Chemistry, regulating the storage, security and disposal of hazardous materials. Obviously, theft of university property for personal use is against university policy and is a crime.”

Finally, they have: “Conducted meetings with both concerned residents and neighbors of the Russell Park housing complex as well as students, faculty and staff in the chemistry department.”

Additionally, as part of the ongoing investigation, “UC Davis police today coordinated an on-site inspection of the laboratory in which Snyder was a junior researcher. Some chemicals were removed during the inspection and will be disposed of properly.”

According to the city of Davis on Thursday night, “Between 6pm and 8pm (Thursday) evening, UC Davis (was) detonating additional materials discovered as part of an investigation into an on-campus explosion last week.  Detonations (were to) take place on university property, away from populated areas.  The sounds of the explosions may (have) once again (been) heard by Davis residents.”

Murder Case Ends in a 12-Year Plea

By Vanguard Court Watch Interns

Susan Sheppard on Wednesday pled no contest to Voluntary Manslaughter without malice, use of a deadly weapon in commission of the manslaughter, and willfully committing an assault with a deadly weapon.

She was given a 12-year stipulated sentence for the 2010 strangling death of Aretha Goldine McDonald, a Davis resident, who was found dead inside Ms. Sheppard’s room at the Dunton Motel in Woodland.

Fillemon Aragon Jr., of Woodland, would walk into the Woodland Police Department in January of 2010 to report the death.  He pled no contest to a misdemeanor accessory, and received a sentence of three years’ probation.

Ms. Sheppard will serve the full 12-year term with no credit for nearly three years of time in custody at the Yolo County Jail.

She was found to be in violation of previous probation terms, with the sentence added to the 12-year term to be served concurrently.  The 3 strikes enhancements were dropped in exchange for the plea.

Alleged Gang Member Faces Trial for Possession of Brass Knuckles in Winters

By Vanguard Court Watch Interns

In 2012, Juan Avalos was arrested at the parking lot of his apartment complex in Winters, CA. Officer Joshua Hern arrested Avalos after discovering metal fighting knuckles in his short pocket during a search. When asked why Avalos was in possession of metal knuckles, he replied that he had them for “protection in case he got jumped.”

After the arrest, Avalos was read his Miranda rights and allowed Officer Hern to search his vehicle where Hern found evidence that may suggest Avalos to be affiliated with the Sureño Street Gang.

During Avalos’ preliminary hearing on Wednesday January 23, 2013 in Department 6, Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens tied Avalos’s possession of metal knuckles to gang-related activities, with the gang enhancement charge placed on him in addition to the possession charge.

Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira argued that there is no evidence that the metal knuckles Avalos were found with were tied to any kind of gang affiliation.

Ms. Sequeira became very argumentative with Mr. Couzens and the witnesses, specifically gang expert Officer Bautista, emphasizing that possessing metal knuckles does not tie Avalos to gang relations and said “lots of criminals carry weapons not gang related” and continues with “there’s no evidence to promote nor evidence to assist a gang” with the metal knuckles.

The facts show that Avalos did possess metal knuckles but there is no evidence suggesting that the weapon was related to gang activities. According to gang expert witness Officer Bautista, Avalos admitted to being affiliated with the Sureño street gang and was reported to be dressed in attire and possesses paraphernalia that may suggest he is gang-affiliated.

Although that is the case, there is nothing that ties the possession of the knuckles for Avalos to protect himself from and attack, or rather, “from being jumped” by the rival gang Norteños. Avalos made a general statement that he had the knuckles for “protection from being jumped,” not protection from being jumped by the Norteños gang.

But, Mr. Couzens was very adamant about the gang enhancement charge on Avalos and gave hypotheticals where violence between Sureño and Norteño gangs would erupt. Naturally, Ms. Sequeira angrily objected to every hypothetical, as to its relevance.

Quinteros Trial Gets Underway

By Vanguard Court Watch Interns

On August 8, 2011, two adults and one child died in a multi-vehicle crash on I-5 in Woodland. The highway was under construction at the time. A large commercial box truck, driven by the defendant, Gubani Rodericao Rosales Quinteros, rear-ended an SUV. This set off a chain reaction of collisions and fire. He is charged with multiple counts of vehicular manslaughter, gross negligence, gross bodily injury, false identity and misrepresenting alien status.

The People began the presentation of their case in dramatic fashion. Deputy District Attorney Susz, with no warning, played a “911” call recorded after the accident. A female can be heard pleading for the rescue of a child from a burning car.

The D.A. stopped the recording and then gave her opening statement, explaining what evidence will be presented to prove Mr. Quinteros is guilty. They claim there was plenty of warning and sufficient time to stop. The defendant was using a false identity for both his driver’s license and immigration status.

The defense asserts this was a horrible accident, but only an accident. There are other drivers who will testify they didn’t have enough warning before the construction zone and had to brake hard to avoid a collision.

The interesting twist in this case is the use of a false identity. Mr. Rosales had been driving with a commercial license for at least 2 years, but not using his own name. The D.A. claimed that the investigation was hampered by the need to find the true identity of Mr. Rosales.

There is an ongoing debate in this country about giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. It will be interesting to watch the development of this case and how it relates to that issue.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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13 Comments

  1. JustSaying

    “However, people who know David Snyder have told the Vanguard that he was unlikely to have been making explosives with the intent to do anything other than experiment.”

    And, who might this have been?

  2. Ryan Kelly

    The Avelos case appears trivial and a waste of taxpayer money. The Snyder (bomb making) case is not. This is not a kid fooling around with his chemistry set in the garage. This is someone with a PhD in Chemistry making a bomb in a family housing complex apartment. I have to believe that his education provided him with sufficient knowledge to know that he was making a bomb and that this was wrong. I’ll be curious to see what defense he offers.

  3. David M. Greenwald

    Ryan: That is actually all we know for certain here. But he’s being charged with enough to put him away for life – and unless I know more than what we know now, I am questioning it.

  4. JustSaying

    [quote][i]Enterprise[/i]: “…according to Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Cabral, there were ‘finished components of bombs,’ as well as detonation devices….”[/quote]Guess we’ll soon see what we know for certain whether he was “making a bomb.”

  5. SouthofDavis

    The article says:

    > Avalos admitted to being affiliated with the Sureño street gang

    Then Ryan wrote:

    > The Avelos case appears trivial and a waste of taxpayer money.

    The Wikipedia says:

    “Sureño groups are involved in every aspect of criminal activity from homicides, drug trafficking, kidnapping, and even violent cases of domestic violence against their own girlfriends and family.”

    I had a friend that moved to the Mission in SF since it was a “hip neighborhood” and soon moved since the Latin American street gangs are not nice people (they messed in a big way after robbing him)…

    I would feel safer living next to a UCD student making bombs than a home full of gang mambers…

  6. jimt

    Both explosive chemicals and detonators were found in Mr. Snyders apartment.

    Large amounts of chemicals that can be used to make explosives were also found in Mr. Snyders apartment.
    Many of these chemicals were taken from campus chemistry labs.

    Hazardous chemicals were found in 4 dumpsters, linked to Mr. Snyder.
    Are these chemicals toxic in liquid form or are the fumes toxic, or are these chemicals highly flammable? Did they pose a safety risk to sanitation workers (garbage men) who empty these dumpsters?
    Or a safety risk to someone who is emptying their trash into the dumpster and breathes in toxic fumes (e.g. were the disposed-of chemicals in breakable bottles or bottles not well-sealed?)

    Several firearms were found in Mr. Snyders apartment, against university housing regulations.

    An accomplice has been found who assisted Mr. Snyder in getting rid of some of the chemicals (in the dumpsters) before the bomb squad came over.

    This is very serious stuff. Hopefully they will do a thoroughly exhaustive investigation, also involving the FBI, before they would even consider reducing bail from $2 million. I would not feel safe with him around my neighborhood, given the facts above. Hopefully there was no malicious intent; but it seems they need to do an exhaustive investigations including all of his contacts (go thru all his paper and electronic records and question all of his contacts) before this can be ruled out.

  7. Mind_hunter53

    Tinkering with large quantities of stolen explosive precursor chemicals, illegal possessed firearms … come on — it is obvious we are dealing with an individual planning a terrorist act.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    Mind_Hunter:

    “it is obvious we are dealing with an individual planning a terrorist act” – That may well be the case, but we cannot assume it, it must be proven in a court of law.

    “Not giving Ms Sheppard a three strike conviction/sentence is a travesty of justice.” – There must have been a reason the DA was willing to cut that deal. Perhaps they were not clear that they had the evidence needed to convict her at all.

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