Key Witness Testifies in Long-Running Burglary Trial

By Nicholas Winarto

The trial by jury of Joseph Kaleimanu Hernandez, Rakhem Romel Bradford, and Joshua Anthony Givens resumed on Tuesday, with the unfinished testimony of a key witness from Monday’s session.

Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin kicked off today’s testimony by asking the witness about a plastic bin that Mr. Hernandez, often referred to as “Manu” by the witness, burgled from a victim’s house one early morning. The witness clearly remembered the plastic bin because she had not encountered a bin of a similar shape before.

When asked about the color of the plastic bin, she described it as “non-femme,” explaining that it is not feminine in color, but rather blue or green. The witness was standing outside, moving to and from the targeted house to avoid suspicion, when Mr. Hernandez came running out with the plastic bin in hand.

Mr. Hernandez and the witness ran back to the car, placing the plastic bin in the trunk, and were joined by Mr. Givens in the back seat. According to the witness, she has a memory gap of the event due to her past history of marijuana use, but assumes that Mr. Givens must have also come out from the victim’s house and into the car.

The witness drove Mr. Hernandez, Mr. Givens, and the plastic bin back to 1801 Drexel Drive and recalled Mr. Hernandez saying, “We’re back, baby!”, but did not explain what he meant by his statement. At the beginning the witness did not know what was burgled from the house, but back at 1801 Drexel Drive the contents of the plastic bin, filled with marijuana, was made apparent to the witness. The marijuana needed to be “trimmed” or prepared before use.

She remembered celebrating the success with Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Givens. The witness did not remember if a video was taken, but recalled two to three phones being held out so that the celebrations could be put on Snapchat or Instagram. The prosecution played a phone video taken by a person who was partaking in the celebration, showing off the marijuana, with the witness describing the marijuana as “loose-leaf tea.”

According to the witness, the marijuana did not stay at 1801 Drexel for long.

Then, the prosecution moved matters on to the 65” smart TV.

The witness recalled the approximate location of the house from which the smart TV was taken. She remembered the house being in northwest Davis, somewhere near Sutter Davis Hospital at the end of a cul-de-sac. Mr. Givens and the witness were driving around in the hours of 3-4 a.m. when Mr. Givens remembered the 65” TV at the house where they had both previously attended a house party.

Before approaching the end of the cul-de-sac, the witness parked her car and Mr. Givens went ahead to the house. According to her, Mr. Givens came out of the house a few minutes later with the TV and she came to help him with the TV. Because of its size, Mr. Givens and the witness had to break the legs off the TV before putting it in the trunk.

Even then, the witness recalled that it would not fit in properly and she and Mr. Givens had to take it back to 1801 Drexel with the trunk partially open, and the TV sticking out. When they arrived at the house, the witness and Mr. Givens brought in the TV and placed it in the room closest to the living room before celebrating. The prosecution played a video of the witness propping up the TV on the bed while Mr. Givens videotaped the occasion.

When asked if the witness drove around with Mr. Hernandez at night, the witness confirmed and said that they did not burglarize a house every night. She then said that, when sleeping over at the Drexel Drive residence, she would sometimes see Mr. Hernandez come in with property.

She recalled being a designated driver and driving Mr. Hernandez, a girl, and a man she described as a “tall scrawny black guy” to a party hosted by an Asian fraternity in what she referred to as a “satellite house,” wherein most of the residents belong to a single fraternity/sorority. They went to the party after the witness received a text regarding the party with an address included. When questioned by the prosecution about the nature of the party, the witness stated that the party was not being held for a special occasion.

Later that morning, the witness left the house where the party was being held, without Mr. Hernandez, and returned to 1801 Drexel. Later that morning, between 7-8 a.m., she recalled seeing Mr. Hernandez come into the house with a backpack that he did not bring to the party. Mr. Hernandez bragged to her about the contents of the backpack which included a MacBook, iPod, and several other small items.

Shortly after Mr. Hernandez showed the witness the contents of the bag, she remembered being brought into his room wherein he bragged about other items he had stolen, such as clothes and a watch that the witness remembered as being gold in color.

According to the witness, Mr. Hernandez often brags about the property he steals and he has pointed out houses on numerous occasions which he had previously burgled. She recalled Mr. Hernandez pointing out the house right across the street from 1801 Drexel – that he burglarized in the past before moving into 1801 Drexel. Furthermore, Mr. Hernandez pointed out a house which he had previously burglarized, situated at an intersection on Anderson Drive, with the witness identifying it as a house where members of the university baseball team live.

She recollected the house as a place where members of the baseball team reside because she had visited the house during her freshman year at UC Davis.

The prosecution then asked the witness about the fate of property being brought in by Mr. Hernandez and if she had ever been to the Bay Area with Mr. Hernandez. The witness recalled on several occasions being paid by Mr. Hernandez to drive him to the Bay Area, specifically Oakland, to collect money. And on each occasion, they met with the same man, but at different locations.

These trips occurred from mid-October to mid/late-November.

As for the meeting locations, the witness remembered meeting the man at a restaurant to collect money. She also stated that she and Mr. Hernandez met with the man at the parking lot between a liquor store and a dry cleaners, with the man donned in professional clothing. Other locations included an apartment complex either belonging to the man or his girlfriend, and a house in San Francisco.

Mr. Hernandez failed to disclose to the witness the exact amount of money received during these exchanges, and, according to her, she did not get a share from the exchange. However, Mr. Hernandez told her that each MacBook sells for approximately 500 U.S. dollars.

On a different matter, the witness remembered shopping in Woodland with Mr. Hernandez and two others when she received a disturbing phone call. The witness was informed by a friend that she gave the witness’ name and phone number to the police. Subsequently, Mr. Hernandez was informed of the situation.  After the phone call, the witness proceeded to see how one goes about deleting their Facebook and Instagram posts and accounts.

Confused, the prosecution asked the witness why she wanted to delete her Facebook and Instagram and if the witness has ever posted pictures of property, or the residents of 1801 Drexel Drive on her social media. In fear of judgment from people in her past, the witness did not upload pictures onto her Facebook or Instagram because a portion of her friends come from a private Christian high school she attended.

Irrespective of the phone call by the witness’ friend, the witness stated that she and Mr. Hernandez had talked about getting married. According to the witness, tuition rates for UC Davis are high for international students and her parents had talked about transferring her to a community college, as well as the chance that she would get deported, as her visa expired in 2012. However, talks about marriage were not solely regarding the convenience of the witness, and she shortly thereafter stated that she loved Mr. Hernandez.

Sometime after receiving the phone call, the witness recalled being stopped by a man as she was leaving on her bike after her organic chemistry lab. Unbeknownst to her, the man knew her name and handed her his business card, requesting a meeting to which she agreed. The witness was stopped by Matt O’Connor, a counselor working for Student Judicial Affairs (SJA) at UC Davis.

With the fear of getting kicked out, the witness called Mr. Hernandez after her brief meeting with Mr. O’Connor and later discussed the situation at 1801 Drexel Drive. At the second meeting with Mr. O’Connor of the SJA, the witness denied accusations of stealing property from the UC Davis dormitories. Without Mr. Hernandez, the witness formulated a plan for the second meeting with Mr. O’Connor – she planned to play the role of being a victim, saying that she was being used without her knowledge and was being taken advantage of by Mr. Hernandez.

The witness testified that, during the second meeting, nothing she told Mr. O’Connor was truthful.

Detective Kevin Skaife of the UC Davis Police Department contacted the witness via email after her first meeting with Mr. O’Connor and set up a time to meet. The witness informed Mr. Hernandez of the email and they discussed tactics, with Mr. Hernandez telling her to deny everything and to not mention his name under any circumstance. Furthermore, the witness said she intentionally lied during the first meeting with the detective under the assumption that “they can get away with it” according to Mr. Hernandez.

According to the witness, after the first meeting with Detective Scathe, Mr. Hernandez showed the witness his shotgun, saying “people who rat will get what’s coming to them.” A second meeting with Det. Scathe was set up, but this time out of fear by the witness. Frank Bauman, a resident of 1801 Drexel Drive, called the witness, because he saw the police with a binder filled with three years of evidence on Mr. Hernandez, and a small portion of the binder was dedicated to her.

Between the first and second meeting with Det. Scathe, Mr. Hernandez was arrested sometime in November.

By mid to late November, the witness was no longer close to Mr. Hernandez and rarely visited 1801 Drexel Drive. As a result, she was willing to talk truthfully with Detective Scathe. At the second meeting with the detective, the witness left out information to use as a bargaining chip, however, the detective did not bargain with her because she did not make her intentions clear at the beginning.  During the second meeting, the witness failed to mention the 65” smart TV and, for the first time, mentioned her involvement during the testimony.

A third meeting on December 23, 2013, with Detective Scathe occurred and Sergeant Mike Munoz of the Davis Police Department was present. The three of them drove around Davis and the witness pointed out the houses that the residents of 1801 Drexel Drive burglarized.

During the final moments of the session, the witness mentioned that burglaries are done based on opportunities. And if, when scoping out houses, the opportunity arises, the house being scoped out will be burglarized.

Judge Dave Reed then dismissed the jury for the day, with the case set to resume the following morning.

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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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