By Zac Keenan
Judge Puri denied both a motion to reduce the charges and to release on the condition of assertive case management, for Chester Rebolledo in a preliminary hearing on July 19, 2019. As of right now, Mr. Rebolledo is charged with one felony count of first-degree burglary, one misdemeanor count of receiving/buying stolen property, one misdemeanor count of possession of burglary tools, and a misdemeanor count of possession of illegal drug paraphernalia.
The preliminary hearing began with Assistant District Attorney Blair Pickus calling Sgt. George Tano, the responding officer to the incident in question, to the stand. Sgt. Tano testified that he and his partner, Officer Williams, responded to the area of Pierce Street and Pine Street following the report of an auto burglary in progress around 12:18 AM on July 3, 2019.
The 911 caller described the suspect as a black male, approximately 5’5” in height, wearing dark clothing and a backpack. Once police arrived on the scene, Sgt. Tano spotted a person matching that description, later identified as Chester Rebolledo, the defendant in the present case. Although Mr. Rebolledo is a Hispanic male, Sgt. Tano testified that Mr. Rebolledo’s clothing matched the description given by the 911 caller and his skin is dark enough to possibly be mistaken as black at night time.
As officers moved in and detained the suspect, Officer Williams observed a pipe allegedly used for smoking methamphetamine in the hands of the defendant, though no narcotics were found on or near him on the scene. Mr. Rebolledo was then placed under arrest, and a search revealed a flashlight and what Sgt. Tano described as a “make-shift window breaker,” which was a spark plug with tape wrapped around it. Sgt. Tano explained he determined the object was a burglary tool based on training he has completed and the fact that there is “no other reason to remove a spark plug and tape it up like this.”
Once the suspect was detained and arrested, police contacted the 911 caller, who reported hearing someone outside of their home and then seeing the defendant “casing” vehicles, which Sgt. Tano explained both he and the witness understood as looking into the vehicles with the intention of stealing something. The witness then began to record the suspect with their cell phone and that footage was retrieved by police as well as presented as evidence in the preliminary hearing today.
The video is filmed from the witness’s apartment, which is on the street level, and appears to show the suspect approach a black Mercedes and retrieve an item from inside. After speaking to the police and handing over a copy of the footage, the witness agreed to participate in a cold show. The witness identified the suspect and went as far as saying that they are doing so with 100% certainty.
Police then went to inspect the black Mercedes and discovered the rear passenger window was shattered. While investigating, the registered owner of the vehicle eventually arrived on the scene with their spouse and notified police that the car had been parked there since 6:30 p.m. the day before, and the car was locked with the windows rolled up. After an inspection of the scene, only a black USB charger appeared to be missing from the vehicle. Sgt. Tano then clarified that the arrest search of Mr. Rebolledo also revealed a black USB charger with a Mercedes logo on it, and he was transported to Northern Station for booking.
Deputy Public Defender Sliman Nawabi’s defense of Chester Rebelledo began by asking about the lighting in the area of the Mercedes, to which Sgt Tano responded it was “lit enough,” explaining there were streetlights. To clarify, Sgt. Tano was asked where the nearest streetlight was, but he could not recall. Sgt. Tano also testified that the 911 caller made no report of the suspect wielding either a flashlight or tool to break windows.
When asked if the glass pipe was being used, Sgt. Tano stated he and his partner could not tell because the suspect was standing in a doorway facing away from them, though he once again confirmed that no narcotics were found on or around the suspect. The defense asked one final question; if there is anything, other than the charger, that ties Mr. Rebolledo to the Mercedes. Sgt. Tano testified there was not.
Sgt. Tano was the first and only witness in the preliminary hearing to testify, and after his testimony the defense submitted a motion to reduce the charges based on insufficient evidence. There was not sufficient proof, Deputy Public Defender Nawabi argued, that Mr. Rebolledo broke the window due to the fact that the witness never saw the defendant using burglary tools, as well as the video footage not showing any particular motion by the suspect indicating they are breaking the window of the vehicle.
Further, the defense pointed out that Sgt. Tano referred to this area as having lots of burglaries, therefore Mr. Rebolledo could have stumbled upon the broken window and simply reached inside and took the charger. Mr. Nawabi asked that Mr. Rebolledo be released with supervision due to the fact that he has only one prior conviction that was a misdemeanor in San Mateo county, and has struggled with substance abuse recently which may have impacted his decisions on the night in question.
Mr. Pickus responded by first arguing that glass can be heard breaking on the video footage shown, as well as pointing out that the present case is Mr. Rebolledo’s second open case for the same conduct of auto burglary. Judge Puri ultimately agreed with the People, stating that Mr. Rebolledo is developing a course of conduct based on his actions in the present cases. Mr. Pickus added that the defendant has already been released on assertive case management in the other open case and shows no intention to curb his criminal behavior, to which Judge Puri agreed.