Codefendants Detained in Past Police Encounters Due to Parole

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By Danielle Eden C. Silva

In Department 9, the pretrial hearing for codefendants Stephon Jerome Ramirez and Jason Michael Lopez continued to explore previous police encounters.

Prior to calling witnesses, Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes wished to clarify an issue with a previous witness but withheld his comment for later.

Sacramento County Deputy Jose Villanueva, formerly a West Sacramento police officer, returned to the stand. In his prior testimony on January 10, he testified to seeing Mr. Lopez enter a social event at a West Sacramento church with an alleged gang member, violating his parole terms. This area had been described as a location where Norteños gather. Mr. Lopez was stopped, searched, and released on August 23, 2003. During his testimony, the deputy had drawn a diagram of the parking lot, the general festival area, the church and the streets, all of which was admitted into evidence.

Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira started the questioning. Deputy Villanueva had reviewed another officer’s report, about which he had testified before. Some portion pertained to contact in 2001 with no specific relation to the reports. He did look at the accuracy of West Sacramento Officer Anthony Herrera’s report. In addition, Deputy Villanueva had made contact with Mr. Lopez’s companion prior to the incident.

After his testimony yesterday, Villanueva also recalled working with the CYA (California Youth Authority) and knew of Mr. Lopez’s tattoos prior to contact. Deputy Villanueva, however, denied that Mr. Lopez and his companion flashed gang signs or shouted their gang name.

Defense Attorney James Granucci questioned next, asking for proof that Mr. Lopez’s companion had been on parole at the time of the incident.

Ms. Sequeira asked for clarification on the location. Both the addresses of Holy Cross Church and Mr. Lopez’s home were located fairly close to each other. She also asked for clarification on the report which stated that Mr. Lopez’s companion had been taken in for a parole violation and Mr. Lopez had been detained for a switchblade gravity knife.

Deputy Villanueva clarified that the parole conditions were not up to the officer. He was then excused.

Between witnesses, an issue about a previous witness was revisited. On January 10, a private investigator had no independent recollection of the events in this case and referred to his report often. The prosecution argued that this was a case of past recollection and supported that with a court case. The defense asked the matter be deferred until they too had a copy of the court case the prosecution was referring to.

Officer Anthony Herrera, now a detective, came to the stand. Detective Herrera had been part of a special investigation unit on drugs and narcotics at the West Sacramento Police Department. On February 26, 2017, he noticed a car making a U-turn. The car, having run a stoplight, was pulled over by the officer who noticed the large group within the vehicle. Both defendants were among them.

Detective Herrera stated Mr. Ramirez had a red hat, black t-shirt, two dots tattooed on his left hand, and one dot on his right hand. Photos taken of the other individuals, and in the vehicle, were marked for the exhibit.

The defense asked what Detective Herrera was attempting to do after pulling the car over. He stated he needed to document everything that was seen and show the gang members that were already documented. Det. Herrera shared that he was not trying to get information on Mr. Ramirez in particular. Here, the defense again brought up the missing pictures of Mr. Ramirez. The officer responded he had no control of where they went, but pictures had been taken. He could not recollect who took the pictures.

The defense then received a picture from the prosecution and asked if West Sacramento Detective Raymond Barrantes may have taken the pictures, but the witness was unsure about that. Detective Herrera was excused but may be subject to recall.

Officer Andrey Kinda of West Sacramento was sworn in. On March 20, 2016, he had pulled over a silver Jeep without a license plate. He waited until the stoplight turned before flashing his sirens for them to turn over. He took pictures and noted one of the defendants wearing a black hoodie, jeans, but not yelling “Norte.” He also noted that the license was suspended.

Officer Kinda was excused from the stand.

West Sacramento Officer Cody Coulter testified next. He had been on patrol on September 11, 2011, and came across a vehicle with broken brake lights. Officer Coulter pulled them over and noticed a large group of people within the vehicle.

Mr. Lopez had shared he was in prison with the Broderick Boys. On that day, he was wearing a red shirt and shoes and a 49ers hat. His tattoos included “BRC” and four dots near his left eye. Several of the others in the car with him were wearing red and had four-dot tattoos.

Officer Coulter found that Mr. Lopez was part of the Broderick Boys and had violated a gang injunction. Because of his parole status, Mr. Lopez was searchable and was interviewed in front of the patrol vehicle. Officer Coulter did not present a weapon, put him in handcuffs, or force him to speak with him. After the interview, he released Mr. Lopez.

The decision to serve the gang injunction, the officer clarified, was not the officer’s decision. In addition, whether his field investigation card and report were filed together was not known.

Attorney Granucci brought up that Mr. Lopez was no longer a gang member and asked the result of the broken lights. The officer had delivered a verbal warning and called for another officer due to the numerous people in the vehicle. Officer Coulter had become aware of this parole by asking the occupants of the car, but otherwise did not catch them in illegal activities.

All of the occupants of the car had been interviewed and were released in the end and the defense requested audio tapes of the interview.

Attorney Granucci asked if the officer questioned Mr. Lopez on gang involvement. The officer questioned him due to the gang injunction but did not advise any of them of their Miranda rights. Officer Coulter was then excused.

Officer Ken Fellows of the West Sacramento Police Department appeared next.

On November 10, 2003, he had been dispatched to an apartment dispute. Officer Fellows saw two individuals, one being Mr. Ramirez, outside the apartment he had been requested to check, and spoke with them. The purpose of this conversation was to see if they were involved in the dispute within the apartment.

Officer Fellows stated he did not force the two into the conversation and this was his first time seeing them. He asked for their identity and where they lived. Mr. Lopez, wearing a red t-shirt with a black leather jacket and red sleeves, replied he was a Broderick Northerner. Officer Fellows also noted a tattoo of four dots, a tattoo of “BK,” and a bird tattoo on Lopez’s person. “Selena” was on his chest. Both individuals were allowed to leave.

The apartment number that had been provided to Officer Fellows was quiet and the door was closed. Both Mr. Lopez and his companion appeared uninvolved with the dispute. Once Officer Fellows learned through dispatch they were on CYA parole, he detained them. The defense asked if he had advised them of their Miranda rights, which he denied.

The court closed for lunch and eventually, due to the unavailability of a witness for the day, set the evidenciary hearing for the trial to resume Friday 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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