By Hannah Grayson
San Francisco – A preliminary hearing was held Friday morning in Department 12, presided over by Judge Rene Navarro. The judge did not dismiss any charges despite the lack of evidence on the count of stealing one of the cars.
The defendant was charged in two separate incidents. One incident was a burglary on January 22 of this year at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, in which one car was stolen and one car was almost stolen. The other burglary was at a business called Joey the Cat, committed on Christmas day of last year.
The People, represented by Assistant District Attorney Jack Shannon, brought a San Francisco Police Department sergeant to the stand as its first witness. The sergeant, Alex Rodados, had been assigned the Enterprise Rent-A-Car case a few days after the incident.
After he was assigned to this burglary case, he met with one of the parking attendants of the garage from which the cars were taken. The parking attendant had recalled to Rodados that, on the day of the incident, he noticed the lockbox where the car keys were placed had been tampered with. He then noticed a car driving off and exiting the parking garage soon after.
The parking attendant and his colleague began to chase after the stolen vehicle, which was a 2020 red Nissan Armada, and a Honda belonging to the suspects. He caught up to the vehicle on foot and confronted the driver before the driver fled the Nissan and into the Honda.
The other car, a Mercedes, had been stolen about 20 minutes prior, but no one had seen this car being stolen.
The parking attendant later was presented a photo lineup of suspects in which Rodados recorded the results. He had identified the defendant as the driver of the Nissan Armada. The defendant was also in surveillance footage in front of the parking garage on the day of the burglary.
In cross-examination by Deputy Public Defender William Helvestine, Sergeant Rodados admitted that the parking attendant was not 100 percent sure in identifying the driver of the vehicle, despite getting physically close during the confrontation. Sergeant Rodatos also revealed that the surveillance video did not capture the lockbox and its tampering.
ADA Shannon then called his next witness, Sergeant Raymond Kane of the SFPD. Sergeant Kane was assigned the case of the burglary at Joey the Cat. Using surveillance footage, he sent out a photo for identification. Sergeant Wren then reached out to him, identifying the man as the defendant. He had apparently been able to identify the defendant based on his distinct mannerisms in the video. Upon further questioning by the defense, Sergeant Kane was not able to remember what those mannerisms were.
The People then brought out its next witness, Officer Corey Brooks, who is an SFPD patrol officer in the Mission District. Officer Brooks was the officer who responded to the burglary at Joey the Cat.
Upon arrival, he had talked to an employee at the business. The employee showed him surveillance video of the break-in and told him that a door panel had been broken. He then told the officer the various items that had been stolen, including one thousand dollars in cash and different pieces of equipment.
In cross-examination, it was revealed that the door panel had been fixed by the time police arrived, as the burglary happened a couple days prior. The officer had also not found any other signs of forced entry. The surveillance video did not show the defendant taking anything, despite showing him breaking in.
After this witness, the People rested their case. The defense also rested, as they had no witnesses.
In Assistant District Attorney Shannon’s argument, he said that, despite the fact that the video did not show the defendant taking anything, one can infer that he was the one to steal the items, as he was shown breaking in. He also argued that the defendant’s actions were that of someone conscious of their guilt because of how he ducked out of sight of the camera once he noticed it.
In the charges of car theft, Shannon argued the evidence is sufficient to show the defendant stole the Nissan Armada because of the parking attendant’s statement. In the charge of the Mercedes, he said it made sense that the same person stole both cars as they were taken close in time.
In Deputy Public Defender Helvestine’s argument, he focused on dropping the charge of stealing the Mercedes. He argued that no one witnessed the defendant behind the wheel of the Mercedes and it could have been someone else in association.
After these arguments, Judge Navarro then decided that there was sufficient evidence to continue with all counts against the defendant. As for the Mercedes charge, he believed this was to be decided later in trial.