By Adam Ruthenbeck
On Friday morning, Officer Antonio Landi gave testimony in a preliminary hearing for a defendant who allegedly stole a bicycle from him during an undercover operation.
According to Officer Landi’s testimony, he and other officers were performing an “anti-theft operation” back in January on the intersection of Judah and 46th Ave. He rode up to the intersection on a bicycle that was previously unclaimed, but had been claimed by the property division of the Police Department.
As Landi was passing through the intersection on the bicycle, he noticed the defendant looking at him. He waited a couple minutes before going back to the intersection. This time, he parked the bicycle by leaning it against a trash can outside of a corner store. He went inside the corner store for a few minutes before going back outside. At this point, he made a phone call to his partner, Officer Mahmud, who was watching from afar.
In an attempt to deceive the defendant, who was still looking in Landi’s direction, the officers loudly discussed the hours of a restaurant on the same intersection. Landi was watching the defendant through the reflection in the restaurant window. Then, the officers agreed to go meet up at a friend’s house. Landi proceeded to leave the vicinity, but testified that he could still see the bicycle from where he was.
Officer Landi stated that a few minutes after he left, he saw the defendant walk up to the bicycle to examine it, grab the handle bars to make sure it was still functional. He then took it by the handlebars and walked away. Although Landi had stated that he still had a view of the bicycle, he testified that Officer Mahmud was the one who notified the rest of the officers, who then showed up and detained the defendant.
Because the police department estimated that the bicycle was worth $1300, the defendant is facing a felony theft charge.
The defense began by questioning why the police were at the intersection in the first place. Officer Landi replied that they were doing an “anti-theft operation” that was ordered by his supervisor. The intersection of Judah St. and 46th Ave. was chosen because of recent trends.
Landi added that he drove through the intersection a few minutes prior to getting on the bicycle. He saw the defendant standing on the corner, then decided to execute the operation. During these operations, it seems that the police are attempting to deter theft by luring people into it.
The defense then argued that the bicycle was left leaning against a trash can with no lock or any indication that it had not simply been abandoned. The public defender asserted that theft requires intent to deprive somebody of their property, and the defendant thought the bicycle was abandoned. Therefore, he did not mean to steal it.
Judge Rita Lin found that the People had presented satisfactory evidence to suggest that the defendant stole the bicycle, adding that bike theft is a “rampant” problem in the city.
Judge Lin addressed the defense’s argument regarding the lack of intent to steal, saying that it could be viable in a trial, but not in a preliminary hearing due to the lower standard of probable cause, not beyond a reasonable doubt.
Before the court adjourned, the defense also filed a motion to reduce the charge down to a misdemeanor, citing that none of them know the real value of the bicycle. Judge Lin agreed that they do not know the value, but chose to review the motion at a later date.
The trial will begin on October 18 in Department 22.