by Connor Kianpour
The preliminary hearing for the case of Michael Ray Berry was heard in Department 13 of the Superior Court of Yolo County on December 7, 2018, Judge Paul K. Richardson presiding. Mr. Berry has been charged with receiving stolen property in the form of a United States Military Academy class ring and a United States Air Force Academy class ring, both of which were made of gold that was appraised at slightly over 950 dollars.
There was only one witness in this case: Officer Richard Rayls of the Woodland Police Department. At the beginning of September of 2018, there was a string of residential burglaries that occurred on Baylor court in Woodland, California. On September 4, 2018, one of the victims of these burglaries reported missing identifiable items to Officer Rayls. One of these items was a United States Air Force Academy class ring that was engraved with the name of the victim, and the other was a United States Military Academy class ring that was engraved with the name of the victim’s father-in-law. Both were said to have significant sentimental value and the prosecution contended that the rings, as irreplaceable items, may appropriately be appraised at 1,450 dollars and 1,695 dollars, respectively.
Officer Rayls testified that an individual from the Department of Justice used the California Pawn & SecondHand Dealer System to search whether these items had been recently pawned in the state of California. The search engine found that two such rings were pawned at Baysavers Gold & Silver Coins in Fair Oaks, California by Michael Berry. Officer Rayls spoke with the manager of Baysavers and found that he believed one of the rings to be worth 560 dollars and the other to be worth 470 dollars. The rings were pawned, however, for 674 dollars by Mr. Berry and another woman that was caught on camera at Baysavers.
Though this other woman was the one who Officer Rayls testified received the cash from the pawn shop dealer, it was Mr. Berry’s identification card, his signature, and his thumbprint that were used to document the transfer of ownership of the rings. Mr. Berry even gave a statement to the police that said that he only received 40 dollars from this sales transaction. Despite this, the prosecution was able to argue that Mr. Berry is guilty of receiving stolen property because of his information being associated with ownership of the rings, although he was not charged for the burglaries that resulted in the theft of the items in question.
Stephen Betz represented Mr. Berry and requested that the court reduce the felony charge in this case to a misdemeanor charge. Mr. Betz contended that the worth of the rings was just barely over 950 dollars on the assessment of the appraiser at Baysavers and that it was ultimately the woman on camera who was responsible for this transaction. Furthermore, Mr. Betz has led a crime-free life for the past twenty years and has had his children taken away from him by Child Protective Services because of these proceedings, which Mr. Betz argued was reason enough to reduce these charges.
Regardless, Judge Richardson ruled that Mr. Berry will have to be held to answer for his felony charge on this count. His arraignment will be held on December 21, 2018 in Department 13.