by Antoinnette Borbon
Three of the defense attorneys in this case made a motion to declare a mistrial. John Brennan, along with Dan Olson and other counsel asked the judge to declare the trial known as “Operation Red Sash” a mistrial because of evidence that was not given in discovery to defense.
Defense Attorneys John Brennan and Dan Olson addressed the issue of documents in regard to phone records of three cell phones taken into evidence that had been some of the defendants’ phones, but the records were not included in discovery for the defense’s case. But Judge Mock ruled that, until the court could hear the testimony of witness Paula Vaughn, who supposedly could tell where these documents were and what was on them, he would not rule this case a mistrial.
Taking the stand again this morning was YONET’s Alicia Slater. Slater, who was the lead agent in the operation of Red Sash, testified to doing undercover work for what she, along with fellow agents, thought was only going to involve drug possession and sales. But what would come later, she said, was the case turning into what agents believed to be gang-related activity.
Slater stated that she, along with Gary Richter and Ryan Bellamy, had contacted people who they believed were selling drugs. She said there were a lot of informants who gave the agents information which led them to seek out people who were known to others to be selling methamphetamines. She said on some occasions she herself set up a buy and, on others, Agents Richter or Bellamy would set up the meets and she would watch via surveillance.
Slater said, before any action on YONET’s part, they had a briefing to keep agents informed of what was going to happen. She talked about the transaction between Agent Richter and Lewis when Richter set up the buy. She said she saw what looked like a gold Lexus but had no recollection of wheels on the car. But she said it was dark out, with only near-dim lighting, so she could not be sure of the color.
She was asked by defense attorney Dan Olson, attorney for Ezekiel Butcher, if she were ever told about a birthmark being an identifying characteristic of the man inside the gold Lexus, or if it was thought to be a tattoo. Slater stated, “No, it was not told to me.” Slater said there was a lot to write in the reports and they were not written until a year later.
“So…let me get this straight, you take all this information down during the operation and then wait for a year to write about it?” defense attorney Brennan asked boldly. “Yes, that is correct, we had a lot of information to get down.”
“We didn’t know until the very end of the operation that it was going to tie into gang-related activity.”
Brennan asked, “So how did you tie it together…?” Slater replied, “We ran the names and found some to be validated gang members, some on parole and I actually spoke with the parole officer of one of the defendants.”
Defense attorney J. Toney asked Slater if she ever knew that his client, Lewis, was an addict or if she ever asked if any of the defendants had a meth addiction. She said, “Yes, we knew some of the drugs were for personal use.”
Dan Olson, attorney for Butcher, asked Slater about an incident that had happened while she was sitting in court during a previous hearing before trial. He asked, “Isn’t it true that you were texting the aunt of another defendant in this case while sitting in the courtroom before testifying?” Slater said, “Yes, it was the aunt of Jason S, who had actually helped us with this investigation, she was nodding her head back and forth and I asked why she was doing that.”
“Are you in contact with any other family member of the defendants in this case?” “No, I am not,” Slater answered.
Olson asked Slater to look around the room and see if she recognized any family member of defendants that she knew and had been in contact with via the phone. Slater looked around the room but stated she did not know anyone else but the defendants.
Olson asked Slater if she had knowledge of Agent Richter taking a small amount of the meth out of the bag of meth he purchased in transactions. She replied, “No, but we are allowed to do that if we need to.”
In re-direct, Deputy DA Robin Johnson asked Slater why she texted the aunt of defendant Jason S. She said, “I just wanted to know why she would shake her head back and forth when she had helped us in this investigation, that’s all.”
Defense attorney John Brennan began digging deeper into Slater’s testimony. His voice seeming more demanding as he asked, “So have you ever read Det. Herrera’s reports? “No,” Slater replied. “I did not.”
“You were the lead agent in this case, correct?” asked Brennan. “Yes, I was.”
“So when you first started this investigation, you had no idea it was going to tie into gang-related activity until the end?” “Yes, that is correct.” Slater replied.
“Then correct me if I am wrong, you had no idea these defendants were on parole when you first began buying drugs from them? Or if they were gang members, drop outs..etc..?”
“Yes, that is correct, until we ran the names and then I contacted parole agents.” Slater said they learned about some of the defendants being subject to the gang injunction, which did not allow them to be out between the hours of 10 pm to 6 am.
Brennan asked Slater about payee sheets and if they had found any in the searches. She states, “No, most of the transactions are done on the cell phone now. We know some of the information was dumped from the phones before we could get it.” “So then who has that information, and who retrieves it? You or the DA?” “We have someone in the DA’S office who is able to retrieve the information from the phones if they have not been reset.”
Det. Herrera took the stand in the afternoon. He began explaining his training to DDA Johnson and what would qualify him as a gang expert. He stated he has extensive training into the gangs in the Yolo County Area consisting of the Broderick Boys, Northern Riders, Nuesta Familia and the Mexican Mafia.