By Misha Berman and Tiffany Yeh
“Did you identify any fingerprints on the metal knife?” asked Deputy District Attorney Robin Johnson of the witness, Officer Anthony Herrera, a detective who works for the West Sacramento Police Department. Officer Herrera was testifying in court today in Department 10 for the trial of Defendant Eric Lovett.
Officer Herrera stated that he “identified” Mr. Lovett’s “P” (for pinky, or little, finger) and “M” (for middle finger) fingerprints on the knife. Ms. Johnson then asked Officer Herrera if he had been present when Mr. Lovett was pulled over on July 10, 2010, due to a traffic violation.
“I was with Detectives Duggins and Wilson,” replied Officer Herrera
Ms. Johnson then asked Officer Herrera if he ever communicated with Mr. Lovett during this pull over and, if so, what he talked to him about.
“I asked if he was on parole,” said Officer Herrera.
“Did Mr. Lovett have a cellphone?” asked Ms. Johnson.
Officer Herrera answered that Lovett did, and that he searched it, finding photos of Lovett.
“He was holding up a “1” with one hand and a “4” with the other,” stated Officer Herrera.
Officer Herrera stated that this picture was suspicious, as he pointed out that this hand sign Lovett displayed in the photo was a hand gesture used by a certain gang.
Officer Herrera stated that on April 30, 2013, he saw “surveillance” video on a cellphone.
“I saw photographs of Lovett and ‘V’ with tattoos at the back of their heads,” stated Officer Herrera.
Officer Herrera added that the letter “V” is affiliated with a gang. Officer Herrera also stated that he testified at both of the preliminary hearings for Lovett in early 2015 and December of 2015.
Officer Herrera then pointed out that, for the early 2015 preliminary hearing, he did not have to review all the communication he had with Mr. Lovett but he now does not know if he was required to that for the December 2015 testimony.
Officer Herrera then stated that he went over the “synopsis” in the December 2015 hearing during his testimony.
“I reviewed my contacts that day, statements I took, places I went with Officer Cameron,” said Officer Herrera.
Ms. Johnson then said that his report and synopsis said different things. Officer Herrera said that this is true. Ms. Johnson asked in what way were they different. Officer Herrera then said one form said that he arrested both Mr. Lovett and “V” when he only arrested Mr. Lovett.
Ms. Johnson then asked Officer Herrera if, back in December of 2015, he had said that “A” was arrested. Herrera said yes, despite the fact that he said now that he only arrested Mr. Lovett. He also testified earlier during this trial that his synopsis and report were inconsistent. Herrera said that one form said both Mr. Lovett and “V,” not “A,” were arrested, when he only arrested Mr. Lovett.
Ms. Johnson asked Officer Herrera why he said at the hearing that “A” was arrested if it was “V.”
“I needed pictures to remember it was “V,” said Officer Herrera.
Ms. Johnson asked Herrera whether “A” was familiar to him, and why is “A” important in regard to Mr. Lovett. Officer Johnson responded that “A” is a part of a gang and that Mr. Lovett would go to his home often.
Officer Herrera then went on to explain how the evidence that was presented to him included a “kite,” an ID bracelet from Sacramento County, and Saran Wrap. Judge Maguire then told the jury that a kite in this context is “a form of communication.”
“The kite had directions and instructions that explained the directions,” explained Officer Herrera.
Ms. Johnson then asked Officer Herrera why this is important in regard to Mr. Lovett. Herrera explained that the kite had a gang symbol and there were things that mentioned a particular gang in the kite.
“On November 28, 2014, ‘R’ had a kite in his possession and he wanted to roll it up and he gave this kite to officers,” said Herrera.
According to Officer Herrera, the kite stated, “Eric Lovett is to be placed on ‘freeze’ or that you are to be assaulted and removed.”
Officer Herrera then stated that Mr. Lovett said something that “disrespected” the gang.
“ ‘M’ stated that he disrespected the gang by saying he has ‘keys to the yard,’ which means he has controls to the yard,” explained Herrera.
Officer Herrera then stated that a gang member physically attacked Mr. Lovett in the yard to which Lovett claimed he possessed the keys.
Ms. Johnson then asked why Herrera thinks this is important in regard to Mr. Lovett. Herrera said that if anyone else stated that “he has keys to the yard” and wasn’t “sponsored,” gang members would stab that person.
Judge Maguire then said that the trial will resume tomorrow at 9:15am.
Officer Herrera Testifies about Criminal Street Gang Member Criteria
By Tiffany Yeh
In the ongoing Lovett trial, today Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira questioned Officer Anthony Herrera regarding how he categorizes people as criminal street gang members.
Officer Herrera has testified as a gang expert in at least 22 cases, with six of them in jury trials – including in the Michael Reyes and Liberty Landowski case (in which Eric Lovett was originally a co-defendant), and the Red Sash case.
DPD Sequeira described the distinctions between jury trials, preliminary hearings and grand juries, and other parts of general police and legal procedures, and the law. In particular, she described California’s Proposition 115, which allows law enforcement officer(s) to testify in place of the witness in preliminary hearings. This means that, in this scenario, under Prop. 115, the live witness(es) do not need to come in to testify in preliminary hearings.
The fact finder in preliminary hearings, the judge, needs to find that there is probable cause that the defendant committed a crime; probable cause is met when “more likely than not, the person committed the crime.” A connected part is that preliminary hearings are only held for cases with felony charges.
Thus, DPD Sequeira seemed to be implicitly prodding at Officer Anthony Herrera’s qualifications to testify in place of the witness in one of Lovett’s preliminary hearings.
Ms. Sequeira stated that Prop. 115 is significant because an officer could be asking for a holding report.
This puts less pressure in some way on the witness, who does not need to testify in the preliminary hearing, because a police officer can testify in place of the witness.
She cited the California STEP Act, otherwise known as the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. It delineates California’s street gang enhancement laws.
Penal Code section 186.22 (regarding charging and sentencing criminal gang activity) was discussed at length.
Subsection (a) of Penal Code section 186.22) includes the more than 33 crimes that are included which can help law enforcement assert that a “pattern of criminal street gang activity occurred,” as described in subsection (b).
The “pattern of criminal street gang activity” is important because Officer Herrera stated that it is a criteria he uses in evaluating whether someone is a criminal street gang member, or not.
The 33-plus criminal offenses include: assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury, robbery, shooting in a home or mobile house, shooting from a motor vehicle, arson, transportation and sale, possession for sale, manufacture of drugs, and other crimes.
As a gang officer, Officer Herrera looks for probable cause in arresting defendants for criminal street gang enhancements.
Certain criteria are considered, such as: a pattern of criminal street gang activity; signs and/or symbols; subjects themselves knowing their gang name; and associating with other people in that gang and with people engaged in a pattern of criminal activity. These are all factors which Officer Herrera testified that he uses to categorize people as criminal street gang members.
DPD Sequeira pointed out that the notice requirement allows law enforcement officers to provide the alleged gang member with a piece of paper that states the criminal street gang’s name, which the gang member needs to sign. As stated above, knowing the name of a criminal street gang is one of the criteria that Officer Herrera, as a gang expert, uses.
She made clear the distinction between subsections (a) and (b) of Penal Code 186.22.
A police officer can arrest for Penal Code section 186.22(a) alone – subsection (a) punishes for the actual crime. On the other hand, to violate Penal Code section 186.22(b), you don’t need to be a gang member. Also, Penal Code section 186.22(b) is a gang sentencing enhancement that can be attached to another count.
A police officer cannot arrest someone for Penal Code section 186.22(b), the gang sentencing enhancement, alone.
She went on to describe predicate offenses (crimes that are a component of a more serious offense) of criminal activity which Officer Herrera was involved in investigating, with regard to the Broderick Boys gang. These offenses include robbery, carjacking, and firearms possessed by prohibited person, among others.
DPD Sequeira cited some cases in which Officer Herrera had testified as a gang expert, cases which involved criminal street gang enhancements. She pointedly questioned Herrera about motives that alleged gang members have for accepting plea offers (which include accepting gang enhancements.)
Particularly, in Alexander Valadez’s case from 2010, Valadez pled to an offer of four years; he was facing life. He had been charged with conspiracy, two assault with a deadly weapon charges, active substitudinal charge, witness intimidation, two terrorist threat charges, another witness intimidation, and nine gang enhancements. He ultimately pled to one count of assault and a gang enhancement, and a violation of probation in an unrelated drug case, for a total of nine years in prison.
In the Billy Wolfington, Kenneth Robinson, Castelle-Flores cases, and others, defendants have pled no contest. In three of the above cases mentioned by DPD Sequeira, Officer Herrera testified as a gang expert, with others having him testify at preliminary hearings.
DPD Sequeira asked Officer Herrera how he and other West Sacramento detectives found Liberty Landowski’s white Mustang in the November 2014 incident. He described how he found out about the shooting and how the events played out.
Around 8:30am, Officer Herrera was asked by Officer Alisha Slater about the identity of “Chubs,” for a confirmation. He confirmed that Chubs was Michael Reyes, but the name is not a gang moniker.
The ex-wife of the victim, Ernie Sotelo, was questioned in the interrogation room by Detective Bryan Schmidt. Other officers watched the interaction from the monitoring room of the West Sacramento Police Department.
The officers were trying to find Michael Reyes, and also the white Mustang with a blue or black top, which was involved in the shooting.
He described that police looked up the license plate number and current owner of the vehicle from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system and later used the license plate reader (LPR) system of Sacramento County.
The white Mustang was seen in Florida approximately nine months before the incident. LPR cameras had taken pictures of the white Mustang with a blue or black top and a black painted area at the back of the vehicle. Later, West Sacramento detectives, including Officer Schmidt and Officer Louis Cameron, looked at the Facebook pages of Liberty Landowski, Lisa Humble, Eric Lovett, and another person. A certain picture of the white Mustang was found on Liberty Landowski’s Facebook page.
After Officer Schmidt showed the victim’s ex-wife the picture of the car, she mentioned a “Lisa,” so that police officers were able to think of Lisa Humble and connect the name.