By Samantha Romero
The preliminary hearing for defendant Brian Nicholas Freeland began Tuesday afternoon in Department 10.
The first witness called by the People was Deputy Jose Vera of the Yolo County’s Sheriff’s Office. On February 15, 2018, around 9:30 a.m., Deputy Vera approached a black Honda Civic that was parked off the freeway.
The defendant claims that he pulled over allegedly to use his cell phone when Deputy Vera approached the vehicle.
Deputy Vera testified that he had recognized the defendant from prior contacts and shortly found out that the defendant was on probation. At that point, Deputy Vera searched the defendant’s person and vehicle.
According to his testimony, he mentioned that there was no one else present in the vehicle and that there was a key in the ignition. Deputy Vera also noted that the VIN number on the car did not match the license plate number.
Deputy Vera agreed with the People that, upon further investigation, the license plate number “matched a Honda Civic, but not this Honda Civic.” The vehicle was reported stolen on February 4 by the second witness, “AG.”
Yolo County Deputy Public Defender John J. Sage, representing Mr. Freeland, cross-examined Deputy Vera.
Mr. Sage approached the witness and demonstrated a form with Deputy Vera’s name on the bottom and signed by a senior officer. The signed form described the poor condition of the vehicle, a 216,005 odometer reading, and a checked-off box illustrating the value of the vehicle to be worth $0 – $300.
With no further questions, Deputy Vera is subject to recall.
Next, the People called, AG, the true owner of the black Honda Civic, to take the stand. Through the certified court interpreter, AG testified that the last time he saw his vehicle was in his driveway around 8:30 pm on February 2 or 3.
AG explained that he is the sole driver of the vehicle, as he uses it for work and did not give anyone permission to use the vehicle, including the defendant. AG testified that he had never met or seen the defendant before.
Cross-examined by Mr. Sage, AG stated that four years ago he paid only about $400 for the vehicle because there were some things that needed to be fixed.
The People finished by recalling Deputy Vera back to the stand.
Deputy Vera stated that it would take about 45 minutes to an hour to get from AG’s residential area to the location of the incident.
Judge Maguire called for closing arguments, starting with the People.
The People stated that the defendant devised a “clever scheme” to find another black Honda Civic to hide any suspicion from authorities. The People also suggested that the court can infer the defendant was in fact driving, since he testified to pulling over to use his mobile device.
In addition, the People listed the defendant’s criminal history, which includes:
- Conviction for felony regarding probation
- Possession for methamphetamine for sales
- Petty theft and serious theft
According to the People, the defendant is used to disregarding personal property.
After a quick afternoon break, Judge Maguire announced his conclusion. The main issue for the court was deciding whether or not to lower the charge to a misdemeanor, because the value of the vehicle was under $900.
Judge Maguire found the defendant to be a potential candidate for reduction in charges, but will not approve the request due to his criminal record. Secondly, Judge Maguire agreed with the People that the court could infer that the defendant drove the vehicle. Value of the vehicle is not necessary in this circumstance.
An arraignment is set for March 20 at 8:30 am in Department 10.