Meth Trial Wraps Up

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methby Haroutun Bejanyan

The trial of Bryan Keith Silva, a homeless man charged with possession of methamphetamine and intent to sell, concluded on October 29 with the defense’s final witness and closing arguments from both sides.

Deputy Public Defender Paul Borruso invited his expert witness, Ms. Iglesias-Hughes, to the stand. She is a mental health worker, who works with mental patients suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, but is also a recovered methamphetamine user herself.

Given her personal history with using and selling methamphetamine, as well as her experience working with others addicted to methamphetamine, the judge declared her an expert witness in the use of methamphetamine.

With a total of 3.11 grams found on the defendant, Borruso attempted to demonstrate the high probability that the amount found on his client was intended only for personal use. Thus, Borruso asked Ms. Iglesias-Hughes to testify on what she believes to be the typical daily dose of methamphetamine for an addict, and to elaborate on the various factors that contribute to issues of dosage and usage.

Drawing from her history of personal use, Ms. Iglesias-Hughes stated that she would often use 3.5 grams, referred to as an “8 ball” because it is approximately 1/8 of an ounce, throughout the course of a day. However, if the meth is of bad quality then more would have to be used to achieve and maintain the same level of high.

There is no indication, in this case, as to the quality of the meth found on Silva.

According to Ms. Iglesias-Hughes, it is not very cost-effective to purchase anything less than an “8 ball” if you are an addict.

Regarding the issue of two bags having been found on Silva, one consisting of 2.25 grams and the other .85 grams, she explained that it is not uncommon for users to separate the amount they want to use at the moment from the amount they want to save for later.

The next topic addressed the possession of a scale, believed by the prosecution to be an indication of intent to sell. The defense’s expert presented an alternate reason for the use of a scale. Quite often, buyers also carry scales with them to ensure that they are getting the amount they paid for and are not cheated. Personal use of a scale cannot be ruled out just because someone has sold in the past.

Although pounds or ounces carried at one time by a person would not be indicative of personal use, carrying a few grams at a time could be. Users can sometimes sell a portion of their stash to support their habit, but more often than not, they end up using it all.

Asked by Borruso what she would think if she found 3.11 grams on a person, Ms. Iglesias-Hughes responded, “Someone with that amount could have bought an 8 ball, 3.5 grams, and used .39 with 3.11 left over.”

Borruso probed for an alternate motivation to explain why the defendant had exchanged text messages with “Scratch”, a known supplier, other than the intent to sell an acquired supply.

She replied that, in her experience, when someone asked a person to connect them to dealers or suppliers, that person would tend to help as a middleman because it was common for the buyer to kick some meth down in return for the effort.

During the prosecution’s cross-examination, it was established that an addict could possibly use up to .4 grams at one time, but it would be impossible to use a whole “8 ball” in one sitting.

Through further questioning, it was revealed that, although buyers do use scales to verify a larger amount being purchased, they usually do not use scales when buying any amount smaller than an “8 ball”.

The last issue the prosecution delved into was that of the two separate bags. The expert confirmed the prosecution’s assertion that it is not unheard of for a seller to separate a smaller bag, to take a “20 sack” out from their larger stash, which would be kept out of sight to avoid the possibility of theft.

Following the afternoon break, counsel prepared for their closing arguments.

The prosecution insisted that no one is arguing about Silva being a user, but while using he was also selling. Citing that Silva himself had previously stated he was providing meth, the prosecution urged the jury, “You can’t believe that he was just giving it away,” obviously suggesting he had to be selling.

The prosecution then referred back to what the expert testified to during cross-examination. Since the expert stated that buyers did not use scales to measure amounts under 3.5 grams, the defendant would not have used the scale to measure the 3.11 grams for the purpose of buying for himself.

Therefore, “…the defendant possessed those two baggies of meth on June 30, 2015, for the purpose of sale.”

Mr. Borruso began his closing argument by specifying that it was still not exactly clear what Silva intended to do with the rest of that meth. A maybe is not enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt his intent to sell. “Unless you can rule out that he was going to use the rest of the meth, you really can’t be certain he was going to sell.”

Further, the text message from “Scratch” indicated that it was indeed “Scratch” providing Silva, but overall the texts are just too ambiguous to be interpreted objectively, according to Borruso. Since meth users are not organized or rational, their behavior is unpredictable. Sometimes they use, other times they sell. In the end, “We just don’t know.”

Upon being apprehended, arresting officer Deputy Quy Ha asked Silva to be an informant, but when he refused to snitch, Deputy Ha took Silva into custody.

Silva had a scale on him at the time because he was homeless. He carried all of his belongings with him all of the time, whether he needed it at the moment or not.

Borruso brought his closing to an end, “If you can’t answer what he was going to do with the remaining portion of the meth then you can’t convict him.”

In the prosecution’s rebuttal, it was emphasized that reasonable doubt is not an insurmountable burden. Circumstantial evidence is just as reliable as direct evident in the decision of intent.

In an attempt to clarify the defense’s version of the arrest, the prosecution claimed that Deputy Ha asked Silva to be an informant after he was already in custody. Silva was not arrested after refusing to be an informant.

Given the circumstantial evidence, “the text messages, the scale, the separate bags, and his statement to Ha,” all combined clearly display his intent, according to the prosecution.

Leaving on a final note, the prosecution declared that Bryan Keith Silva was in fact selling a portion of his meth so he could feed himself for survival.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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10 thoughts on “Meth Trial Wraps Up”

  1. Tia Will

    I think that there are a few points that we could all probably agree on regardless of our political philosophy.

    1. The accused is addicted to meth.

    2. The accused is homeless.

    3. Given numbers 1 and 2, it is most likely that the accused is not a major drug king pin

    4. Whether for personal use, or for sale, the ultimate goal here for the individual is likely his individual survival, not building a meth business for profit.

    5. Given the addictive power of meth, it is highly unlikely that using this individual as an example is unlikely to deter other addicts from selling to support their own personal habit.

    So what exactly are we gaining as a society by prosecuting this individual for possession with intent to sell instead of direct diversion into some kind of treatment program ?

  2. theotherside

    Excellent question and the answer is simple.  Thanks to prop 47 there is no incentive for defendants to go into drug diversion for simple possession cases anymore.  Defendants no longer are diverted to drug court (prop 36/1000) to receive the addiction services they desperately need.  They do a few days in custody and are released on unsupervised probation, so nothing is gained by the addict or society as a whole for the now misdemeanor dangerous drug convictions.  Perhaps a sales case will give this poor soul the incentive to sober up and realize selling drugs is not the answer.  There is no drug diversion anymore Tia, these people are not being helped.  We as a society are failing addicts with prison reform.

    Sounds like you are arguing that Mr Silva is selling narcotics for his own survival to feed his addiction.  What a horrible outlook.  I wonder if you would feel differently if he sold your family member or loved one their first 8 ball.

    I do not think that anyone is arguing that Mr Silva is selling/distributing in an effort to build a meth empire.  He is likely selling to feed his habit.  Most meth dealers are not living in McMansions and driving Range Rovers, they are transient to semi-transient motel dwellers or couch surfing with friends.  Does it make a difference what his intention?  The statutes are pretty clear that possession for sale is a crime whether it’s a $20 sack or an ounce.

    1. Davis Progressive

      first, i would argue that we were failing meth addicts long before prison reform.  the programs weren’t log enough and there was insufficient funding.  what prop 47 is supposed to do is divert money into treatment programs and that money is coming, but it’s not there yet.  so we are in between the solution here.

      1. theotherside

        Diverting funding to treatment programs is fine, but given there is no incentive to seek treatment it is a lost cause.  This segment of society will not seek treatment on their own and there is no longer a diversion process through the courts thanks to 47.  It was a poorly scripted idea to empty out the jails and prisons .. the addict was not taken into consideration.

        1. David Greenwald

          Kind of a mixed bag as I understand it. This is from a February Orange County Register article:

          IS INCARCERATION A THREAT?

          Orange County already has seen signs that interest in drug court is slowing.

          While drug court typically averages 40 to 50 evaluations a month, the number has dropped drastically since Prop. 47 took effect. Just 16 people were evaluated in November, followed by 12 in December. But the decline isn’t steady; 18 people were evaluated in January, leaving Paul Shapiro, Orange County’s collaborative courts coordinator, somewhat optimistic.

          “Hopefully, it will keep rising,” Shapiro said.

          But supporters of reform say the threat of incarceration has long shown itself to be ineffective at promoting self-help and treatment.

          While those who graduate drug court have higher rates of success than those who don’t, only about half the people who enter drug court – sometimes fewer – graduate. In Orange County, 60 graduated last year, but 71 were terminated. In 2013, 83 graduated; 75 dropped out. In 2012, 53 graduated; 82 were terminated. And in 2011, 111 graduated; 75 were dropped.

          A 2007 study funded by a federal grant through a Maricopa County, Ariz., probation department reported that such failures are common and noted that some drug courts have failure rates as high as 90 percent.

          “If these things were working, how come the prisons and jails were overflowing?” asked Barry Krisberg, a senior fellow at Berkeley University Law School.

          But George Eskin, a retired Santa Barbara Superior Court judge who created and oversaw a veteran’s court, said veterans in his court didn’t face charges, and they still sought treatment.

          “They were self-motivated,” he said. “They just needed some help.”

          And, of course, the threat of incarceration still is there. While no longer facing prison time, drug addicts still can be jailed up to a year for misdemeanor convictions or jailed briefly for program violations.

          “I don’t think a year in jail’s a slap on the wrist; I don’t think six months in jail’s a slap on the wrist,” Eskin said.

          Krisberg expects more addicts will seek treatment as money from Prop. 47 helps expand local options.

          “Until the savings money from 47 gets translated back into the counties, and that’ll take a couple years, we probably have a period where things are no better than they were,” he said. “The single most important thing we can do is get the dollars into community organizations and groups who are prepared to and can run accredited drug-treatment programs.”

          Lenore Anderson suggests changing drug-court criteria so more people qualify. Orange County officials say they’re considering doing just that.

          The Drug Court Oversight Committee comprises court and law enforcement officials who meet monthly. They are reviewing how to have more people qualify for drug court. Right now, people with a history of violence, weapons and gang involvement are excluded, Shapiro said.

          Most who qualify for drug court have extensive arrest histories that include felonies and multiple drug-related crimes. Drug dealers have traditionally been excluded, but Shapiro said more addicts may be allowed if they have sold only to support their own habits.

          http://www.ocregister.com/articles/drug-651997-court-people.html

    2. Tia Will

      theotherside

       I wonder if you would feel differently if he sold your family member or loved one their first 8 ball.”

      I consider addiction an illness. If he sold my family member or loved one their “first 8 ball”, I would place the blame squarely where it belongs, on the non addicted family member of loved one who has the ability to not make that purchase in the first place. When not addicted, you have choices. When addicted you have affectively abdicated your choices until you hit bottom.

      This is know to be true from years of experience with patients who are addicted to various substances.

      1. theotherside

        “I would place the blame squarely where it belongs, on the non addicted family member of [sic] loved one who has the ability to not make that purchase in the first place.” That is counter-intuitive to your assertion that addiction is an illness.  Then every addict has had that choice, but chose to be ill?

        I do not completely disagree with you that addiction is an illness .. but I completely assert that selling dangerous drugs is a crime .. even to feed said illness.  And should be punished accordingly.

        1. Miwok

          Well said, theotherside. I think what appalls me, as do many posts in the Vanguard about the “innocence” of the criminal, is that the person who commits the crimes are not guilty, because…why? And the rest of us suffer, even other family members.

          It seems that the commenters on here sometimes think an addict can be reasoned with. They all agree the addicts are worthy of services yet fail to get them to the services. If this guy was being used as an informant, then bad for the Police. If the guy is Homeless, then why not get him to Yolo Services? Bad for them too. Until they put an office in the Jail, to help these types of cases, I don’t believe they really do much except sit at their desks. $200 Mil a year blown to hell

  3. Tia Will

    And should be punished accordingly.”

    And how do you think that “punishment” helps in the case of addiction. Who is served ? What is prevented ? And at what cost ?

  4. Napoleon Pig IV

    Meth is cheap and easy to make. The reason it is profitable is because our useless drug laws make it profitable in the same way governments make all black markets profitable. Drug prohibition is unlikely to have ever prevented an addiction or blocked a sale, but it has certainly created a huge composite profit opportunity for the bold or desperate, and it has certainly created corruption and distrust of politicians and their minions.

    I feel sorry for the addicts and would like to see them get effective treatment. I’m even willing to be taxed for such services, although I generally don’t trust government to be honest about its intentions for the taxes they take under a loathsome and unfair tax code.

    As for people willing to sell anything to anyone no matter the harm, its a shame there isn’t really a place of eternal roasting for them to while away their eternity, but that doesn’t mean I support worthless and harmful intrusion by government agents into the private decisions of my fellow citizens.

    I’ll probably never serve on the jury for a drug trial because I already know I would vote “not guilty,” whatever the law says be damned (as is the right of a juror no matter how despised said right is by judges and politicians). Oink!

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