by Silvia Ramos Medina
Nearing the end of day on July 31, 2014, defendant David Cordero sat in custody awaiting his preliminary hearing.
Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson represents Mr. Cordero.
The defendant is charged with four counts: Count 1–transportation of a controlled substance (specifically methamphetamine), Count 2–selling of a controlled substance, Count 3–possession of a controlled substance (meth), and Count 4–evading police officer with enhancement of resisting or obstructing the officer.
The first witness, Officer Tim Keeney, walked up to the stand to testify.
Mr. Keeney, a Woodland police officer, related he was in the SET. The SET, or the Special Enforcement Team, supervises individuals on AB 109.
AB 109, also called “prison realignment,” transfers the responsibility for incarcerating low-risk inmates from state prisons to county jails. Under the county, low-level offenders are also rehabilitated and supervised. The state will, however, continue to incarcerate offenders who commit serious, violent, or sexual crimes.
Now, according to Officer Keeney, he had prior contacts with David Cordero and recognized him as a parolee at large.
Officer Keeney stated that on April 8, 2014, he and Officer Juan Barrera parked behind a vehicle in a driveway. He initially had no idea he was approaching Mr. Cordero; he merely walked up to the vehicle because the driver’s music sounded very loud. However, as he looked at the driver he recognized him.
“He was a wanted parolee at large,” Officer Keeney stated.
Officer Keeney then testified that, as he prepared to make contact with the defendant, Mr. Cordero drove out through the grass, over the sidewalk, and exited the property.
Officer Keeney then got into the patrol car on the passenger side, and Officer Barrera started to chase after Mr. Cordero.
Allegedly, the defendant at first drove southbound on Walker Street. Officer Keeney estimated the vehicle pursuit lasted approximately five minutes.
“What traffic violations did you observe?” Deputy District Attorney Larry Eichele asked.
Officer Keeney said the defendant drove 65-70 mph and proceeded over railroad tracks. “No stopping…wrong side of the road…speeding.”
To Officer Keeney’s recollection, the defendant stopped at 916 4th Street and ran to a backyard. At that moment, Officer Keeney lost sight of the defendant and called a unit to set a perimeter.
When Officer Keeney walked up to the backyard, he noticed broken boards. He quickly notified other units that the defendant had traveled southbound across backyards.
The defendant was found just a couple backyards away, hiding in a garage.
When DDA Eichele asked Officer Keeney what he found at the scene in the vehicle, he stated he found a baggie on the floorboard.
“The baggie appeared to have been ripped open.”
Officer Keeney then found shards of methamphetamine inside the vehicle.
“What did you do with the substance?” DDA Eichele asked.
“I collected it, weighed it, and tested it. I collected 4.1 grams from the vehicle.”
Officer Keeney also claimed that another officer found .21 grams of meth in the direct area where they had initially lost sight of the defendant.
“The meth was loose on the sidewalk,” Officer Keeney stated.
“At any point did you take statements,” DDA Eichele asked.
During cross-examination, Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson asked Officer Keeney if he saw the defendant dispose of anything from the vehicle during the pursuit. Officer Keeney stated he did not.
“Did you find items that would be indicative of sales?” asked Mr. Johansson.
After the court dismissed Officer Keeney, Officer Barrera testified.
Officer Barrera has been a sworn police officer for eight years and is also assigned to SET (Special Enforcement Team).
“Did you recognize Mr. Cordero?” asked DDA Eichele.
“I knew he was wanted by the office of corrections.”
Officer Barrera stated that when he and Officer Keeney approached the defendant in the driveway, the defendant drove over the grass and into Walker Street.
“Did Mr. Cordero yield to you?”
“No…kept driving 75 mph on city streets…he did not honor traffic signals…several vehicles had to move to the shoulder to avoid being hit.”
Officer Barrera also added that the defendant went over the railroad tracks at approximately 55 mph. He estimated that the pursuit took about five minutes.
Like Officer Keeney, Officer Barrera did not observe Mr. Cordero throw anything out the vehicle’s window.
Officer Barrera testified that he searched the defendant and found nothing of interest. He also Mirandized the defendant, but the defendant didn’t want to speak.
During cross-examination, Mr. Johansson asked, “Was Mr. Cordero compliant once he was in the garage?”
“Did you find any shard of meth on him?”
“Not on him, no.”
Next, Officer Cristobal Lara walked up to testify. Officer Lara was called to testify as an expert witness.
According to Officer Lara, he has been assigned to YONET (Yolo County Narcotics Enforcement Team) for the past 6 months and has been a Woodland police officer for eight years.
Officer Lara stated that he had encountered methamphetamine previously and that his training consisted of two weeks in narcotics school. Officer Lara also contacts individuals for purchases and has previously bought narcotics as an undercover officer.
Judge Rosenberg prepared to deem Officer Lara an expert in the sales of narcotics.
During the voir dire of Officer Lara, Mr. Johansson asked a few questions.
“How many times have you participated in the purchase of methamphetamine?”
Judge Rosenberg then said before the court that, for the purposes of this hearing, Officer Lara would be deemed an expert in the sales of methamphetamine.
While DDA Eichele asked Officer Lara more questions about his expertise in the sales of methamphetamine, Officer Lara spoke of his training and experience. He stated that he went to narcotics school for two weeks, spent one day selling and one day purchasing methamphetamine. He covered prices, amounts and dosage units, and said he went to a three-day conference where he took classes related to methamphetamine and narcotics. Officer Lara also testified that he spoke to street level users and discussed how much they used “on a volume basis.”
Mr. Johansson then prepared to question Officer Lara.
“How many times have you talked to people about methamphetamine?”
“Uh…over a hundred…every person I come in contact or arrest, I would ask…when I was on patrol I made seventy five arrests on meth.”
“A lot of them wouldn’t talk, correct?”
Judge Rosenberg then qualified Officer Lara, the expert witness, on the possession of methamphetamine.
“Are you able to render an opinion whether this methamphetamine was for sale on the amount of methamphetamine found alone? If methamphetamine amount were 4.1 grams and nothing more, that would still be your opinion?” Judge Rosenberg inquired.
Officer Lara then explained that .1 grams is an average dose unit—meaning that would be enough methamphetamine for an individual to remain high for six hours.
When referring to the 4.1 grams of methamphetamine, Officer Lara stated, “In my opinion users don’t carry that amount of meth on their person.”
DDA Eichele asked Officer Lara if someone’s criminal background changes his opinion, and he replied, “Yes.”
During Mr. Johansson’s further cross-examining of Officer Lara, he asked if Officer Lara knew the defendant to be a user of methamphetamine.
“I don’t know…Yes, I believe he is a user.”
“You’ve never heard of someone using more than .1 grams?”
“Yes. In my experience, I haven’t seen someone carry 4.1 grams.”
Judge Rosenberg then asked, “Among the heaviest users, how much would heaviest users use in a day?
“.1 to .2…maybe .3.”
Officer Lara was then dismissed from the courtroom.
As the preliminary hearing approached the end, Judge Rosenberg claimed there was enough evidence that the methamphetamine was for sale.
Judge Rosenberg asked the defendant if he could arraign him on August 18 instead of the 15 and the defendant responded with a question.
“Did I not have a right to cross-examine the witness?”
“Your attorney did cross-examine,” Judge Rosenberg responded.
“That was it?” the defendant asked.
Judge Rosenberg then explained to the defendant the purpose of a preliminary hearing and told him only some evidence was presented.
David Cordero’s arraignment is set for August 18.