By Jackie Snyder, Tressa Bryant, and Madeleine Gallay
The trial of Kevin Slaton began on the morning of July 21, 2015. Slaton was arrested April 21, 2015, for alleged possession of methamphetamine as well as alleged transportation for sale of the drug. Before the evidence portion of the trial began, Judge Rosenberg allowed both Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes and Deputy Public Defender Peter Borruso (with an intern by his side) the opportunity to make opening statements.
In DDA Hasapes’ opening statement he claimed the trial was about two things. First, it was about a skilled drug dealer who knew the correct way to evade capture and second, about common sense.
Mr. Hasapes stated that at approximately 9pm on April 21, 2015, Gary Richter, a Yolo County Deputy Sheriff, was transporting an arrestee. While en route, Deputy Sheriff Richter noticed a vehicle swerving. He then made the decision to slow down and back off in an effort to avoid a collision with the swerving vehicle. Richter then observed the vehicle, which was driving at approximately 60 mph, slow down to approximately 50 mph, only to speed up to 60 mph once again.
At this point he got on his radio and requested a unit to check on the possible intoxicated driver. Deputy Sheriff Richter could not pull the vehicle over himself due to safety issues, as he was transporting an individual who was arrested prior. He did, however, for safety reasons, put on his lights to block all other traffic from coming into contact with the erratic driver.
Once another officer responded, the driver was pulled over and detained. After the detection of a white substance on the driver side seat, the scene was further processed. As a result, small zip lock baggies, as well as a total of 9.8 grams of methamphetamine and various other drug paraphernalia, were discovered. Due to this evidence, DDA Hasapes stated, it was clear the defendant should be found guilty on all counts brought against him.
In his opening statement, DPD Borruso claimed the case involving defendant Kevin Slaton was a simple one – personal use of drugs versus the sale of drugs. He stated that, while the facts of the case may show Slaton’s personal use of drugs, there was no evidence indicating the drugs in his possession were for sale. Mr. Borruso maintained that the case was not a “sales” case and, with evidence lacking to prove Slaton intended to sale the drugs, he should be found not guilty of possession of drugs for sale.
The first witness to take the stand was Deputy Sheriff Richter whose work with the local narcotics enforcement team puts him in contact with narcotics dealers. Richter was on his way to the Yolo County Jail with a man in custody, when a car he was trying to pass swerved into his lane and just barely missed the undercover deputy’s car. Richter fell back behind the car and proceeded to follow the car at a safe distance to observe the driver’s actions. The car’s speed fluctuated from 40 to 70 mph and continually swerved from lane to lane, even crossing the fog line. Mr. Slaton’s car for the most part straddled the two lanes.
After another near miss with a truck, Richter turned on his lights to make sure no cars would get into an accident with Slaton’s, and called for back up so other officers on duty could take control of the situation. The car traveled about another four miles before pulling to the side of the road and stopping. As Mr. Slaton pulled his car over, two more police cars showed up to the scene and Richter explained to the officers what he had noticed. Before leaving the scene, Richter noticed litter and a rock (which turned out to be cocaine) on the driver’s seat, as well as several cans of Budweiser beer cans. Richter also testified that he received a call later that night regarding methamphetamine located in the car. Richter, in his undercover work, had never heard of Mr. Slaton before and had no knowledge about the possibility of Slaton of being a drug dealer. Richter also noted that he saw no evidence of Slaton trying to get rid of evidence as he was pulling to the side of the road.
The next witness to testify was Highway Patrol Officer Mathew Planco, who also completed a class in DRE (Drug Recognition Expert). Officer Planco stated that the cocaine Mr. Slaton had been using affected the central nervous system, and the side effects could include pupil dilatation, blood and heart rate acceleration, lack of sleep, grinding teeth, and excess sweat. The car Mr. Slaton was driving was a black sedan. Once it was pulled over to the side of the road, Planco blocked it off so that Slaton could not leave. Officer Planco then asked the driver to get out of the car. “I asked the driver to get out of the car. He tried to get out of the car but it was still in drive.” Once other officers got Mr. Slaton to put the car into park, it was noticed that he did appear to be under the influence of either drugs or alcohol. Planco was then directed to take pictures of the car and its contents, which included a green lighter, rock (cocaine), several bags of methamphetamine, Budweiser beer cans, cigarettes, cell phones, garbage, and a backpack. The backpack was also full of substances and different clothing outfits. Officer Planco stated that Mr. Slaton also had his blood drawn, but he did not know the results.
In the afternoon, the first and second witnesses, both forensic toxicologists, covered the process of how they store blood and urine samples they receive. The first witness, Ms. Fong, reported on her findings of possible amphetamines in the blood she received on April 21 from the police. The second toxicologist reviewed a list of drugs that one would find in these samples, such as marijuana and cocaine.
The third witness was California Highway Patrol Officer Austin. He is also assigned to YONET, the Yolo Narcotics Enforcement Team, which mainly targets drug dealers in the area. On August 21, 2015, he was called to investigate a van that had been pulled over for swerving. In the van he found 7 plastic bags in the middle console of the car – possibly full of methamphetamine, 3 cell phones, cocaine scattered all over the seat, two pipes, a lighter and medicine bottles full of methamphetamine. Concluding this session of the trial, Officer Austin described the characteristics of a person who is high on drugs.