By Gloria Ho
On March 21, 2017, the preliminary hearing of the People v. Trevor James Wright resumed in Department 9, Judge Janene Beronio presiding. Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke represents defendant Trevor Wright, 18, and Deputy District Attorney Larry Eichele represents the People.
The defendant currently faces multiple charges. They include Penal Code section 187(a), murder; Penal Code section 186.22(b)(1), criminal street gang activity; Penal Code section 29815(a), person prohibited to possess a firearm; Vehicle Code section 2800.3(b), evading a peace officer that causes death to a person; and Vehicle Code section 20001(a)(b)(2), felony hit and run involving injury or death. Passenger Matthew Gonzales, 16, was killed in the crash as the driver, Trevor Wright, led police in a high-speed chase through the streets of Woodland earlier this month.
Deputy DA Eichele began by referencing the petition he had filed to gain access to the defendant’s juvenile incarceration documents and other inquiries about his probation status. The judge asked if they could proceed with the People’s witnesses’ testimonies first, seeing that there was a long list for the day. Both attorneys and the judge agreed to move forward and get back to the petition later in the day.
The People called for the first witness of the morning, Detective Pablo Gonzales of the Woodland Police Department, to take the stand. Deputy DA Eichele questioned Det. Gonzales about a traffic stop on September 2, 2016, at 105 Wisconsin Ave. and how he came to be involved in the situation. Det. Gonzales testified that he was dispatched to the area after an officer from the Davis Police Department was initially there when the traffic stop happened. The witness testified that the defendant was at the traffic stop at the time.
After some words about the rollover with probation, Det. Gonzales said that he did a probation search of the home of Matthew Gonzales. In his bedroom, Det. Gonzales found a loaded Glock 17 under the mattress, a black semi-automatic .9mm handgun and a .38 caliber one under the bed, an empty Glock 17 magazine in the drawer, and cocaine and a scale.
Deputy PD Gocke proceeded to cross-examine the witness and pointed out that there were two traffic stops total in the two months of September and October in 2016. The first happened on September 2, 2016. Det. Gonzales then testified that the possible second traffic stop occurred on October 20, 2016. Matthew Gonzales had told the officer that he was trying to distance himself from the people he was detained with from the first traffic stop, and was trying to get his life back on track. The People’s witness testified that there was apparently no more probation search, up until March 2, 2017.
The witness was then excused after no further questions were asked, but is subject to recall.
The next witness was Woodland Police Officer Hannah Gray. She recalled some details about her first contact with the defendant, but not the date. Officer Gray testified that somebody from Woodland High School contacted her because they found writings in an 8×10 spiral notebook, found on a student, that concerned them. They suspected that it was gang-related and there were markings that Officer Gray saw that she couldn’t recall. She identified that the student she was getting into contact with was Trevor Wright.
When asked about more details of that incident, the witness suddenly responded, “To be… – I don’t have a full recollection of this contact.” She said she works with many cases but the case that involved defendant Trevor Wright did not stand out to her, so she couldn’t recall much of it.
In the cross-examination, Mr. Gocke asked if the People’s witness could clarify if the notepad was a standard student notebook and Officer Gray confirmed that it was. The defense then inquired if she knew of the relationship between Matthew Gonzales and Trevor Wright.
“Did you notice they were close or were friends?” Deputy PD Gocke asked.
“Yes, I [occasionally] saw them together,” she answered.
In the beginning of redirect examination, Deputy DA Eichele asked to approach the witness to give her a report that he said he wanted her to differentiate from another incident, because she wasn’t able to recall the date he was asking about in direct examination. Mr. Gocke objected and called it leading, because he said that the witness would be testifying based off the report. Judge Beronio asked why Mr. Eichele could not question the witness first to differentiate the two reports he had, and then ask if he could refresh her memory with the report.
“She did say she didn’t recall,” Mr. Eichele responded. Judge Beronio then allowed the People’s witness to read the report after hearing this explanation from the People.
Officer Gray read the report but said that the police report was not about the defendant. She was given a second report and testified that both reports were not about the incident she had testified about. The judge looked on with confusion at the People, and silence ensued for several seconds. The People then said they had no further questions and Mr. Gocke did not wish to cross-examine the witness again.
“Is this witness excused?” Judge Beronio asked when no one said anything.
“Subject to recall,” Mr. Eichele responded in turn, and Officer Gray stepped off the stand.
The next People’s witness was Traffic Sergeant David Krause of the Woodland PD. The People asked him about his contact with Matthew Gonzales on April 3, 2013. Sgt. Krause said that he received a radio call of six juveniles on West Street, which was about stolen candies and suspects leaving on foot. Sgt. Krause testified that Mr. Gonzales was with a group of eight people, and one of them was a female. He said that Mr. Gonzales had ended up with Officer Lau dealing with his case, because Krause knew that Mr. Gonzales was on probation for another incident. Sgt. Krause said that it was the end of his contact with Matthew Gonzales when Officer Lau took him away.
Mr. Gocke then cross-examined Sgt. Krause and asked him what his experience was at Woodland PD. Sgt. Krause said he’s been with Woodland PD for over 20 years. Mr. Gocke asked if it’s in his experience that it’s common for kids to be caught for petty theft. Sgt. Krause agreed that it was common. When both attorneys put no further questions forward, the witness was excused and is subject to recall.
Next, Deputy Jeremy Hembree of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office was called to testify. Mr. Eichele questioned him about a traffic stop on September 18, 2014, when Dep. Hembree observed a vehicle without a license plate. He stopped the car, a black Honda, and found four people inside. One of them was Matthew Gonzales, but he had used a false identity, and identified himself as “Jesse Vasquez” to the deputy.
“Two of these people were adults – ” Mr. Eichele began, but was intercepted with an objection from the defense for leading. The judge asked the People to rephrase their question.
Deputy Hembree had subsequently discovered that the car was a stolen vehicle and he got into contact with the school, where they identified “Jesse Vasquez” as Matthew Gonzales. Deputy Hembree discovered that Mr. Gonzales was on searchable probation and Mr. Gonzales consented to a search of his backpack on school grounds. In the backpack, Deputy Hembree found a small container holding marijuana and a billy club made of wood, about 18-19 inches long. Mr. Gonzales at the time had a no weapons clause to his probation conditions. Deputy Hembree also located a red bandana in Mr. Gonzales’ pocket when he searched his person.
Mr. Gocke did not wish to cross-examine the witness, so Deputy Hembree was excused and is also subject to recall by the court.
Officer Hannah Gray was recalled and took the witness stand once again in the same day.
Deputy DA Eichele asked the officer about her contact with Matthew Gonzales and another person, “SG,” on January 15, 2014. She confirmed that she did made contact with the two students of Woodland High School. A staff member of the school had contacted Officer Gray because they were suspicious of a possibility of marijuana on the campus. At some point in her investigation, Officer Gray came across a video.
The People showed Exhibit 11, which was a minute and a half music video of a Norteño gang rapping and throwing up gang signs in Woodland, using VBN or “Varrio Bosque Norte.” The People’s witness said that she found the video on YouTube and recognized Trevor Wright in the video multiple times. The People showed the clip and paused at two different times that Mr. Wright was in the video. After showing the video, both attorneys had no questions to ask the witness and she was excused and is still subject to recall.
After the morning recess, Detective Ryan Bellamy was recalled and took the witness stand. The People questioned the detective about a probation search that he verified the status of on November 18, 2016. Det. Bellamy said that he was targeting a Mr. Robertson but was not aware that a minor referred to as “IM” would be present as well. He ran IM for a searchable status and searched him, but did not find anything.
The defense asked if Det. Bellamy took any photos of the quick search and the witness said that he did not. The witness was then excused and is still subject to recall.
The next People’s witness was Detective Dana Simpson of the Yolo County Gang Task Force, recalled from previous testimony.
“Is there any gang that occupies Woodland?” Mr. Eichele asked.
“There’s several different gangs,” she responded, and mentioned in passing that there were two Hispanic gangs in Woodland. Det. Simpson testified that she documents gang members by keeping track of what they’re doing, who they’re with, and what clothes they wear. These instances are usually documented in police reports whenever there are any criminal street gang activities. Det. Simpson also testified that she still communicates with gang members and detailed that, as a gang detective, her job was to investigate specific gang crimes.
Det. Simpson went over how members are initiated into gangs, why they carry weapons, how they earn respect by fear and intimidation, and how loyalty was important when they’re committing crimes together.
When asked by Mr. Eichele what, for gangs, earned the biggest respect, she responded, “Speaking to law enforcement.”
The People asked to verify that the witness was qualified to be an expert by her knowledge, skill experience, training, and education. Judge Beronio accepted Det. Simpson as an expert.
“Do they sell drugs?” Mr. Eichele questioned.
“They do…to make money. To send it up the chain. [It gives] them the money to buy more guns… Gives them the money to [do what they need] financially,” Det. Simpson testified.