Alleged Thief Hides Burger in Underwear; Case Goes to Closing Arguments

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By Pedro Maturana and Manpreet Cheema

Officer Pulls Burger from ampm Thief’s Underwear

By Pedro Maturana

The trial for Terence Michael Bates reconvened Wednesday with the prosecution calling West Sacramento Police Officer Ken Fellows back to the stand. Bates faces second degree robbery charges for attempting to steal various food items from an ampm convenience store in West Sacramento.

Deputy District Attorney David Robbins asked Fellows to recall the morning he arrived at the ampm on November 16, 2018. He was the second officer to arrive after West Sacramento Officer Matthew Montez, who was escorting Bates from the store in handcuffs. Bates looked anxious.

Fellows then recalled looking at the surveillance video that captured Bates stealing merchandise from the store. According to Fellows, Bates walked around the store pulling items from the shelves and putting them in his waistband. As he walked past the registers, a clerk stopped Bates and prevented him from leaving. An argument ensued and Bates punched the clerk.

Robbins called Officer Montez to the stand. When Montez arrived at the scene, the clerk who had been assaulted was holding the left side of his face and neck. Bates was wearing a long tan trench coat. When Montez searched Bates, he found a burrito folded over his waistband and Mentos mints in the right pocket of his coat.

Robbins asked Montez to identify the items he found on Bates in the prosecution’s photo evidence. People’s Exhibit 2 showed the burrito and Mentos that were found on Bates at the scene. People’s Exhibit 3 showed a burger that was also found on Bates. Montez explained that when Bates was taken into custody, he confessed that he had a burger in his underwear close to his groin.

Peoples Exhibit 9, 10, and 11 show pictures of Montez reaching into Bates’ underwear and pulling out the stolen burger. “Was the burger warm?” Deputy Public Defender Peter Borruso asked. Montez replied that he didn’t remember. After pulling it from the defendant’s pants, all he wanted to do, he said, was discard it.

The prosecution’s next witness was a loss prevention officer (LPO) from the Macy’s in Sacramento. As an LPO, she monitors closed circuit TV footage for theft in the store. The witness testified that in February of 2016 she observed a man exhibiting suspicious behavior.  He was indiscriminately selecting items from the racks— shirts, ties, and pants— without regard to size or style. Another LPO was sent to investigate.

The man entered the dressing room and came out empty handed. When he tried to leave, he was confronted and detained by the LPO. He had a tie in his pocket and had layered the clothing, valued at $160-170, on his body. He took the clothing off and gave it to the officer. He claimed that he was not intending to steal the clothing. He was going to return the items and then get the money to buy them.

The witness then identified the man who was detained that day as Mr. Bates.

Closing Statements for Theft in West Sacramento ampm

By Manpreet Cheema

The closing statements for the case of Terence Michael Bates were delivered on February 6, 2019, in Department 13 of Yolo County Superior Court, with Judge Paul K. Richardson presiding.

Mr. Bates has been on trial for robbery charges after he was caught stuffing different food items into his clothing in an ampm in West Sacramento. Upon being apprehended by the store manager, he grew violent and struck the employee in the neck in an apparent attempt to flee.

Judge Richardson opened up the afternoon session by delivering jury instructions and repeating the elements of the crime. Mr. Bates is charged with violating Penal Code section 211 by committing robbery, as well as Penal Code section 484(a) for petty theft.

Video surveillance footage from an officer’s body camera shows store monitors that caught the altercation on camera in its entirety. The footage shows everything from Mr. Bates attempting to conceal the items in his large coat to punching the worker after being caught in the act. According to the store employee, Mr. Bates stole about $40-$50 worth of items.

Deputy District Attorney David Robbins offered a relatively short first closing statement in which he discussed why this crime should be deemed a robbery rather than a petty theft and robbery. He emphasized that Mr. Bates will attempt to “admit what he must, deny what he can.” He would try to get away with a petty theft charge, given that he did not take anything of great value and was merely shoplifting, but his purpose was still to steal the property of another against his will. He demonstrated this by getting physical with the manager and striking him near his head.

Representing Mr. Bates, Deputy Public Defender Peter Borruso then began his closing statements by talking about Mr. Bates’ cooperation upon being apprehended. He talked about a prior situation from 2005 when Mr. Bates was caught shoplifting in Macy’s, but was cooperative when the police arrived. He was commended for his behavior in that situation. He also discussed how the surveillance video from the ampm shows the defendant acting out of fear. He went on to say that Bates was unaware of the items that were still in his clothing and was unable to give them back to the manager because he was afraid and confused by what was going on.

Mr. Robbins gave a strong rebuttal and stated that the defense’s argument was full of inappropriate assumptions. He did not see the relevance of Mr. Bates’ cooperation during his previous theft, as the defendant had violently attacked the employee during this incident and was not cooperative in any way. He refuted the claim that the defendant was unaware of the items in his clothing by saying that it is not possible for a man to not feel a cheeseburger in his underwear. He asked the jury to think clearly and not be swayed by the false assumptions presented by the defense.

Mr. Robbins asked that they find Mr. Bates guilty of robbery and not feel sympathetic toward him, as he did not feel sympathy for the employee, who was only doing his job, when he punched him in the face and attempted to steal from his store.

The closing statements came to an end, and the jury was led from the courtroom to begin deliberations.


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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

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