By Pedro Maturana and Kristen Tuntland
Woodland Man Charged with Possession and Intent to Sell Meth
By Pedro Maturana
A case of methamphetamine possession with the intent to sell progressed on Wednesday as the jury selection was finalized, opening statements were made, and the prosecution called its first witness. Mr. Ricky Emmanuel Pierson was arrested on October 6, 2018, and charged with the possession and intent to sell meth at Freeman Park in Woodland.
Deputy District Attorney Daniele Schlehofer began her opening statement by describing the events of October 6. Around 8pm, Officer Juan Barrera from the Woodland Police Department responded to a call regarding a man with a gun. The man was described as a black male wearing a white shirt and jeans. Barrera identified the man as Mr. Pierson, who was on a bike at Freeman Park across the street from Yolo County Superior Court.
Barrera followed Pierson and flashed his emergency lights. Pierson rode toward the edge of a fenced pump station and appeared to have thrown something toward it. Barrera later found small plastic baggies, containing meth, within a larger plastic bag near the fence. Barrera arrested Pierson for meth sales.
Ms. Schlehofer explained to the jury that she intended to show that Mr. Pierson was indeed selling meth at Freeman Park.
The testimony of Officer Barrera shows Mr. Pierson had a bundle of cash in his backpack. An expert witness will explain why the packaging of meth in small baggies indicates an intent to sell. Additionally, the weight of the drugs in the baggies correlates with the amount of cash found on Mr. Pierson. It was estimated that around 14 baggies had already been sold.
Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher walked toward the jury for her opening statements.
At best, she explained, this is a case of possession of about 2.5 grams. Officer Barrera answers a call about a man with a gun near the 7-Eleven. Barrera spots Pierson, turns on his lights, and Pierson stops. Barrera sees something fly from his hand. Pierson is detained.
Officer Barrera searches him because of his current probation and does not find a gun. Barrera then finds the baggies with small amounts of meth, $137 in cash, and a pack of cigarettes in his backpack.
Ms. Fisher explained to the jury that they will have evidence for past arrests. They will also know that Pierson is known as a “transient” by the police. But they will have no direct evidence of intent to sell – no scales, no phone calls, and no witnesses that came to buy from Pierson. She explained that the jury may think that prosecution’s theory isn’t unreasonable. Yet, they must consider other theories that Mr. Pierson did not possess meth with intent to sell.
Ms. Schlehofer called Officer Juan Barrera to the stand.
Officer Barrera explained his training with meth at the police academy. He learned about the different types of meth, how it is packaged, and how it is shipped. During his field training Barrera, encountered large and small quantities of meth “weekly, if not daily.
“It’s everywhere,” he said. Barrera encountered meth from street users to high sales. He’s found it in vehicles and apartments. He knew how people looked and behaved under the influence and during withdrawal. He also knew how people used it— smoking it, injecting it, snorting it, or eating it. Barrera testified that he’s arrested no less than 200 people for meth.
Barrera then explained the events of October 6, 2018.
He was working a 5pm-3am K-9 shift. He received a call for service around 8pm about an individual who possibly had a gun.
Barrera stopped at the center of the park close to the tables. He saw Ricky Pierson sitting at the tables with another person. No one else matched the description. Pierson looked toward Barrera and ran. Barrera explained that he drove his vehicle through the park because he wanted to remain inside the car for safety in case there was a gun. He also didn’t want to lose Pierson.
When Barrera turned his lights on, Pierson rolled on his bike for a few feet and stopped at the pump station. As he came to a stop, he threw something from his right hand. Barrera searched him and did not find a gun. He sat him on the curb and began to look around the area where his bike was.
Barrera spotted a sandwich bag with four small see-through zip lock bags inside of it. He found them right at the corner of the fence where Pierson had stopped. Barrera also went back to the patrol car and reviewed his camera. The footage confirmed the bag being flung through the air and landing where he found it. The baggies contained meth.
When Barrera asked Pierson about the meth, he denied it was his. Barrera explained that Freeman Park is a drug park and that he had stopped Pierson to look for a gun, not drugs.
Barrera explained that after he took Pierson into custody, he found $137 in cash wrapped around a cigarette box in his backpack. Additionally, his wallet had no cash inside, only his ID. No paraphernalia was found.
Barrera followed the procedure of sampling the drugs at the station to verify they were meth. Additionally, he had to send a sample in an envelope to the Department of Justice for further testing and verification.
Ms. Schlehofer asked Mr. Barrera to walk the jurors through the People’s evidence, which included the envelopes of the meth samples sent to the Department of Justice, the money cash slip for the $137, and the four 2×2 inch baggies found at the scene.
Mr. Barrera identified the defendant, Ricky Pierson, as the man he apprehended that night.
Man Goes to Trial after Golf Ball Size of Meth Found Previously
By Kristen Tuntland
In a previous case, Mr. Pierson had thrown a golf-ball sized amount of methamphetamine to hide it from the arresting officer. In the current case, patrol car footage showed him also throwing an object that led to his arrest for possession and sale of a controlled substance. This afternoon, the trial of Ricky Pierson reconvened in Department 13 with the Honorable Paul K. Richardson presiding. Officer Juan Barrera of the Woodland Police Department continued his testimony from the morning session.
Ms. Schlehofer, for the prosecution, showed footage from Officer Barrera’s patrol car on October 6, 2018, at 8:06pm at Freeman Park in Woodland. This footage showed Officer Barrera locating the defendant on his bike and stopping him. Officer Barrera described the footage frame by frame and pointed to an object being thrown from the defendant’s hand. He also testified he did not originally notice the defendant throwing an object, but checked his patrol car footage after finding a bag of meth in the immediate area.
Next, Ms. Daniele Schlehofer played footage from Officer Barrera’s body camera on the same date and time. This footage showed Officer Barrera telling the defendant that he received a call about an argument and a handgun involving a man who fit his description, to which the defendant replied there was no argument and he did not have any weapons.
After searching the immediate area, Officer Barrera found the bag of meth and confronted the defendant, and Pierson repeatedly denied it belonged to him. This footage also showed Officer Barrera going back into his patrol car after finding the bag of meth to review the footage of the patrol car before arresting the defendant.
Officer Barrera continued that he arrested the defendant for possession with intent to sell based on observations that the meth was individually packaged into four smaller bags and money was easily accessible. Additionally, Freeman Park is known as a popular place to use drugs.
Upon cross-examination by Ms. Emily Fisher for the defense, Officer Barrera testified that the defendant had no guns or weapons, he did not fight the police, and he mostly cooperated. Most drug dealers carry scales and empty packaging, but neither were found on the defendant. Officer Barrera also did not see the defendant exchange anything and no person claimed that they bought drugs from the defendant.
Next, Ms. Schlehofer called Officer Gina Bell of the Woodland Police Department. Officer Bell is a first responder and assigned to the Homeless Outreach Street Program. She spends 6-15 hours a week at Freeman Park and described it as a “hub” for the homeless and drug users. She was specifically asked about a previous arrest of the defendant from June 28, 2017, where she responded to a call at 2nd and Oak Streets and the defendant appeared nearby.
After making contact with him, she asked about his probation status. She then saw the defendant throw an object. Upon searching the immediate area, she found 18.4 grams, or meth the size of a golf ball, and arrested him for possession with intent to sell based on the large amount. She was also suspicious that his cell phone kept ringing at 7am.
However, upon cross-examination by Ms. Fisher, Officer Bell testified that Pierson did not have individual bags or packaging or a large of amount of money, which is commonly found on drug dealers.
The last witness called was Kevin Skaife, an investigator and police officer from the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office. He was assigned to follow up on the previous case to determine the phone numbers on the defendant’s cell phone that kept ringing. His investigation yielded no results.
This trial will resume on January 24 at 9 am.