By Esmeralda Mendoza
The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office is charging Sok Cheat Pin with illegal possession of a firearm and its improper use. The trial of Mr. Pin began today, the 5th of March, with opening statements and three witnesses being called to the stand to testify.
The prosecutor began by explaining that on November 29, 2018, the West Sacramento Police Department received a call that shots had been fired in the intersection of Michigan Blvd. and Maple St. The caller reported that the shots came from the same apartment that Mr. Pin was residing in.
As the police arrived, Mr. Pin was sitting in his vehicle, smoking marijuana, and watching YouTube videos. His girlfriend, who will be referred to as “Ms. M,” told police at the scene that she and her boyfriend had been in a verbal argument, then Mr. Pin took the handgun and fired a few rounds toward the street.
Surveillance video from the apartment complex showed an individual firing about six shots, the police believed that person was Mr. Pin, and they arrested him. The police at the scene were unable to find the gun, any ammunition, bullet holes, or victims.
What’s more, the prosecution explained that during a jail call between Mr. Pin and his girlfriend, Mr. Pin ask her if the police found the gun, while speaking Cambodian. When confronted with the call, Ms. M told the cops that she gave the gun to a friend and that she no longer knew where it was.
Next, the defense attorney, representing Mr. Pin, explained to the jury that the prosecution has to prove three things before a jury can find Mr. Pin guilty of the charges.
First, the prosecutor needs to prove identity – who was the person in the surveillance video? There were several other people in the apartment who were not interviewed, but also fit the description of the individual in the clip.
Second, the prosecutor must prove whether there was an actual firearm in the video, because it could have been a toy gun. Third, it must be proved that the individual fired the gun in an aggressive manner. According to the defense, the area the alleged shots were directed toward is not a place where somebody could have been hurt.
Hironaka. When Officer Hironaka arrived at the scene he called the person who knew most of what had occurred, but that person’s identity is unclear.
Police approached the apartment from where they believed the shots had been fired and used a K9 to look for evidence. However, nothing incriminating was found.
Officer Hironaka also explained there is a church, a park trail, and a residential area in the location toward where the shots had been fired. Also, a child’s toy could not have been what was used in the surveillance video because it does not expel as much energy as a real gun.
During cross-examination, the defense illustrated that if a gun had been fired from the second floor where Mr. Pin lived and if the individual shot parallel to the ground, as Officer Hironaka stated, then the shots had to be at least 20 feet high. The altitude of the alleged bullets would have been too high to put a person in harm’s way.
The defense also pointed out flaws in the police report that could have been important for the case. For example, the officers who searched Mr. Pin’s car did not write a police report and the children in the home were not interviewed.
Furthermore, the prosecution questioned Investigator Aaron Moe, from the DA’s office, who polled the jail calls of Mr. Pin. Investigator Moe explained that he has access to the calls and can uses an inmate’s ID number, D.O.B, and name to find their call in the system.
The third witness was Mr. Pin’s girlfriend, and the prosecution used a subpoena to force her to testify in court. Ms. M explained that she had been drinking lots of alcohol, per usual, and does not remember much of what happened the night of the incident.
She stated that she does not remember if they had gotten into a fight, whether Mr. Pin had a gun that night, or that she told an officer that Mr. Pin had shot the gun. All she remembered is that she was drinking, her children were playing video games, and she went into her room to sleep.
Ms. M admitted that she heard a noise coming from outside her room, which she believed could have been a gun, but she continued sleeping.
During a jail call with Mr. Pin, he asked Ms. M to look under the Xbox for something. Ms. M explained that he was referring to her jewelry, not a gun.
Then, the defendant’s attorney asked Ms. M more about the night with the police – more specifically, regarding the threats by CPS to take the children if she did not confess where the gun was.
Ms. M explained to the courtroom that she lied to police when she described a gun and told them that she gave it to a neighbor, because she feared her children would be taken away if she seemed uncooperative.
The trial will reconvene the morning of March 6.