Witnesses Take the Stand in Lovett Trial

YoloCourt-26By Monica Velez

After the lunch break on March 16, 2016, Ernie Sotelo took the witness stand for the prosecution in the trial of Eric Lovett, who is currently being charged with being an accessory to attempted murder after the fact, associated gang charges and dissuading a witness, and is facing a potential life sentence.

Mr. Sotelo was talking about how he was shot by Michael Reyes. The night before Mr. Sotelo was shot he said he spent the night at a skate park in West Sacramento with his ex-wife. They were on their bikes on the way to check in with Mr. Sotelo’s probation officer when a white Ford Mustang approached them.

Sotelo’s ex-wife was ahead of him when Reyes got out of the car, with a gun in his hand, walking fast toward Sotelo.

Mr. Sotelo told the court that Reyes asked him if he had a problem, and Sotelo said he replied not while Reyes had that gun in his hand. He tried to tell Mr. Reyes to put the gun down, and when Sotelo saw that was not an option he tried to pedal away, not getting far before he was shot multiple times in the back.

Deputy DA Robin Johnson asked Mr. Sotelo about what happened to him in the hospital. Sotelo said he was there for a few weeks and still feels a little bit of pain from a bullet that is still currently in his body, right next to his heart.

Ms. Johnson then asked Mr. Sotelo about his testimony at a preliminary hearing, from where one of the charges Mr. Lovett is facing stems.

Mr. Lovett is charged with dissuading a witness for criminal street gang purposes, with officers present in the courtroom at the time claiming to have seen him making gestures toward Sotelo, like Lovett was going to “slit his throat” if he continued to testify.

Mr. Sotelo told the court that he never saw Lovett making gestures toward him, and if he did he would have most likely flipped him off, said something, made a face at him or made the gesture right back at him.

After Ms. Johnson had no further questions, Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira began her cross-examination asking Mr. Sotelo about a former time they had talked. Mr. Sotelo was reminded of something that he had called Ms. Sequeira, with Ms. Sequeira saying that it made her sad.

Mr. Sotelo called her a “public pretender,” because in his opinion it feels like some of his past public defenders haven’t cared about him but just cared about winning the case and trading wins with the district attorneys.

Ms. Sequeira stated that it made her sad that he felt that way and had that impression because she always works very hard for the people she is defending. Mr. Sotelo said that less than half of the public defenders he has had fought for him like Ms. Sequeira is fighting for Mr. Lovett.

The defense went into his past criminal and gang history as well, asking him about “snitching,” another word for a tattler, and what happened to a “snitch.” Mr. Sotelo said that they could get beaten up, stabbed or killed.

Mr. Sotelo has been “snitched” on by his cousin and ex-wife, but none of that had anything to do with gang activity. Ms. Sequeira got to the point that “snitching” is not a gang concept, it is something that happens when people are trying to get someone in trouble or to get out of a crime they have committed.

Sequeira also made a point to the court saying that Mr. Reyes has not been an active gang member for 13 years, and just because he is wearing the color red does not mean he is in a gang, explaining that coming into court he would wear a lot of red SF 49er gear.

Ms. Sequeira asked Mr. Sotelo to explain to the jury what it is like to be accused of something one did not do. Mr. Sotelo explained instances where he took plea deals rather than going to trial, because he knew he had a chance of being wrongfully convicted because of his past criminal charges.

Sotelo also explained to Sequeira that he never sold any drugs to Mr. Reyes’ mother or stepfather, and the money that they owed him was for a bill they had to pay. This was the dispute that brewed the tension between Sotelo and the stepfather, especially because Sotelo said it seemed like the stepfather had no intention of paying him back.

Reyes then got involved in the dispute, because it was a personal matter involving his mother, reinforcing that the shooting was not a gang incident. Mr. Sotelo also said he did not see the driver.

Ms. Johnson challenged the idea that respect is held in high regard by gang members, and Sotelo described respect as going a long way and being very important to gang members. When asked, Sotelo said that retaliation is part of being in a gang, especially when someone “snitches,” or commits an unarguable crime like child molestation.

Of course, Ms. Sequeria took a different approach on the meaning of respect and “snitching.” Sotelo said that he currently holds the same standards for respect that he did as a gang member. Sequeira also got to the point that snitching is not just gang-related, but something that happens in the street and is just “bad for business,” especially when in the business of dealing drugs.

Mr. Sotelo was dismissed for the day but subject to recall.

The second witness who took the stand for the last portion of the day was Liberty Landowski, who was charged with accessory to attempted murder with a gang enhancement in the prior trial involving Michael Reyes, Eric Lovett and Lisa Humble.

Ms. Landowski said she met Mr. Reyes only a few days before the incident occurred on November 18, 2014. She described Mr. Reyes as an acquaintance she had met through Mr. Lovett, her best friend of 13 years and boyfriend to Lisa Humble.

Ms. Landowski confirmed that the she owned and drove a white Mustang during November 2014, which had a soft black top. She said the night before the incident she stayed at a hotel with Mr. Reyes and Ms. Humble, with Mr. Lovett visiting the hotel at some point.

Landowski said she had dropped off Mr. Reyes in her car but does not remember where. She then said she talked to Humble on the phone and Humble had told her to drop off her car somewhere because the police were looking for it.

Landowski said Humble had heard on a police scanner that the police were looking for a white Mustang in West Sacramento that potentially had Mr. Reyes in the car. She said she got a ride home and then took a shower, walked around the corner to her father’s house and took his car.

Ms. Humble met up with Ms. Landowski at her house and, after they got Ms. Landowski’s father’s car, they drove around to a bank and convenience store.

When asked by Ms. Johnson, Ms. Landowski said she thought the police were looking for her car because of the shooting that occurred involving Mr. Reyes, and she was the one who gave him a ride.

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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1 Comment

  1. The Pugilist

    “Mr. Sotelo told the court that he never saw Lovett making gestures toward him, and if he did he would have most likely flipped him off, said something, made a face at him or made the gesture right back at him.”

    So this confirms this is just a phantom case with trumped up charges – or at least this portion of it.

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