By Tressa Bryant and Haroutun Bejanyan
The trial of Michael Reyes, Liberty Landowski and Lisa Humble reconvened on Thursday, July 23, with the jury returning after being absent the previous day for private discussions concerning what social media material would be utilized as evidence.
The prosecution began the day with witness Sergeant Jason Winger. Sgt. Winger is with the West Sacramento Police Department and is a special investigator of criminal street gang activity and drug dealing. Although Sgt. Winger was away on vacation during the incident, he was asked, because of his knowledge about gangs, to help go through the defendants’ phones and to investigate their Facebook accounts, specifically searching for evidence that would link to the shooting or any gang affiliations.
Due to the fact that Ms. Landowski and Ms. Humble had password-protected iPhones, Winger was unable to collect any data off their phones.
However, Sgt. Winger had more luck with Mr. Reyes’ and Mr. Lovett’s phones. Mr. Lovett, although no longer a defendant in this case, having had the charges against him dismissed, had several pictures on his phone connecting him to the Broderick Boys street gang. These included pictures of guns, gang signs, the number 14, and the color red – which all are symbols the Broderick Boys use. Winger looked at Mr. Reyes’s calendar, phone log, contacts and emails.
Next, Sgt. Winger looked at Facebook messages from Mr. Reyes to several different friends. In one conversation Mr. Reyes was explaining to his friend, “Look I can’t do that cause it’s Lisa’s friend’s car.” In a different conversation, Mr. Reyes and another friend were discussing the selling of ammunition and drugs. Another message reported Mr. Reyes explaining to Mr. Lovett that he needed ammunition for a hunt. The Broderick Boys, in the month of November, had indicated previous targets.
The afternoon session also consisted of only this witness, Sgt. Winger.
Winger stated that defendant Reyes had a considerably larger amount of Facebook data to sort through than either of the other defendants – about 10,000 pages of material had been examined from Reyes alone, as opposed to about 1,000 pages for either Landowski or Humble.
After two months of extensively perusing countless messages associated with Reyes’ Facebook account, Winger compiled a list of the most relevant portions that he believed would provide evidence of alleged gang-related activity and association.
From the relevant Facebook messages compiled and presented as evidence, all of the recipients with whom Reyes had conversed with are known Norteño gang members, according to Winger. Several of the messages contained street slang and terminology related to the sale of drugs.
When an outside party, known to be a Norteño member, messaged the account of defendant Reyes, asking, “Where you at? What would you give me for a dub?”, the defendant allegedly sent the reply, “I got you a half teener.”
Winger explained that the term “teener” is used to refer to a 16th of an ounce of drugs, however, it does not indicate what type of drug.
Another term that indicated a measure of drugs was “zip,” which is used to refer to an ounce, included in the following message allegedly sent from Reyes to a known Norteño member: “7 to 8 bills or a zip in 400 cash.”
In addition to detecting drug terminology within the Facebook messages, Winger also had come across talk about “removals,” which, in gang culture, means to put a hit on somebody.
One of the conversations about “removals” was initiated when the defendant allegedly sent a message to a known associate, saying, “We might have to remove me does ok” then a few lines down corrected “me does” to “Meadows,” referring to another known gang member.
Finally, a third aspect that particularly caught Winger’s attention while searching through the messages was an exchange between Reyes and a known Norteño member discussing the price of a .22 caliber weapon, asking whether it’s “clean,” meaning it hasn’t been used before and can’t be traced.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Richard Staff asked Sgt. Winger about what he means by “known gang member.”
Winger replied that there is a certain set of criteria to determine if someone is a validated gang member. The process demands that, for an individual to be considered as a validated gang member, he or she has to meet at least 2 of the 11 criteria and, in addition, display a consistent pattern of gang-related behavior.
When Mr. Granucci’s (attorney for defendant Reyes) turn came to cross-examine, he probed Sgt. Winger to specify whether he saw, in Reyes’ messages, any mention of the victim’s name or about hurting a dropout member of a gang.
Winger answered that he did not see any mention of the victim or anything that could relate to him and, although he did notice talk about “dropout members,” there was no discussion of causing any harm to them.