By Kelsey Stewart
What started out as an ordinary Monday night in 2018 ended with Larry Darnell Ross spitting out 15 baggies of cocaine during a strip search at the Yolo County Monroe Detention Center.
The preliminary hearing of the People v. Larry Ross began on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. The defendant is facing four separate counts: one count of possession of cocaine, one count of possession of a firearm with a prior felony, onw count of possession of ammunition while being prohibited from using firearms, and one count of possessing misdemeanor paraphernalia.
Two witnesses were heard in Department 14 at the Yolo County Superior Court, both called by the prosecution, represented by Deputy District Attorney Matthew De Moura. The first was Sergeant Brian Prehoda, a sworn peace officer with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department for 24 years. In February of 2015, he was a detective in the gang unit and a case agent on a multi-level investigation at multiple locations, under the authority of a search warrant. Sergeant Prehoda located a room linked to Ross and a finder’s report detailed various paraphernalia found – including narcotics and packaging, over $1,100 dollars in US currency and other indicia implicating Larry Ross. The sergeant and other officers found a firearm in the air vent in the hallway, and a holster in Ross’ bedroom. The sergeant remembered speaking to Ross, who denied that the items belonged to him but admitted to using cocaine – and also suspected his fingerprints would be on the holster because he noticed it in the apartment and considered it “cool.”
The defense, represented by Deputy Public Defender Dave Muller, questioned the validity of these charges against Ross, citing how many individuals were in the apartment and how it is possible this paraphernalia belonged to a roommate and not Ross himself. The defense also brought up how the gun was not even registered to Ross.
Deputy Gary Richter, a sworn officer with the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office in the Narcotics Department, was next called to the stand. Designated an expert witness in crack cocaine, Deputy Richter recalled that night of October 29 in 2018 when, on duty, he noticed a car pulling into Velocity Island Park, a water park north of Woodland. What seemed to be a normal activity seemed odd to the deputy, who knew the water park to be closed on weekdays. From his experience, he knew that individuals gathered at this water park when closed for questionable activities such as committing crimes and engaging in sexual activity.
Deputy Richter made contact with the individual in the vehicle, whom he identified in court to be Larry Ross. Asking for a license, he was told that Ross’ license was suspended and he did not have any identification with him. A woman in the passenger seat also did not have a license. When asked if he was on probation, Ross admitted to this fact. The deputy carried out a probation search of the vehicle, and located in the rear passenger seat a jacket with a methamphetamine glass pipe which was evidently used, due to burn marks and meth residue. He also found a shaving kit with another used glass meth pipe. On the floorboard, he located a scale that, from his experience, he believed was for selling the narcotics. In the trunk, the deputy located tools, clothing, and a black backpack. Inside the black backpack, was a Ruger P95 pistol, a semi-automatic, with seven 9mm live rounds.
When asked if he owned the vehicle, Ross denied it. The car was registered to another individual, who was not able to be contacted by the sheriff’s department. Ross was arrested at the scene. En route to the jail, Ross denied having any other paraphernalia on him. Yet, when undergoing a strip search upon arrival, he spat out a bag with 15 small baggies inside containing cocaine. The baggies ranged in size from .08 to .23 grams of cocaine, hovering around the amount normally used in the selling of the narcotics.
Mr. Muller brought up the possibility that the female passenger passed the cocaine to Ross while on the way to the jail. The female was found with 3.5 grams of meth on her, which he used to supplement this theory. The deputy admitted that this was possible, since the back of the police car was dark and the windows were tinted. If he was not watching, an exchange could have occurred.
However, the prosecution brought up the results of a cell phone search conducted by Deputy Richter. SMS text messages detailing meet ups for the sale of heroin and methamphetamine were recovered. None were found detailing the intent to sell crack cocaine.
The court ruled that the prosecution brought up enough valid points for the case against the defendant to proceed, yet stated that it was a weak case based on circumstance.
Larry Ross’ arraignment will be on May 3 at 10 AM in Department 14.