By Julie Maruskin
WOODLAND – A man testified for over an hour explaining the sequence of events that led up to his allegedly being threatened and almost robbed at knife point at a recycling center.
In a preliminary hearing, the defendants, Benjamin Lee Howe and Mousa Mohammed Abuelhawa, were charged with two felony charges. The first charge was a criminal threat and the second charge was attempted second-degree robbery. These both allegedly occurred on August 16, 2019, at the Sinclair gas station in Davis, California.
The prosecution began with the questioning of the first witness. The witness was asked whether or not he had ever had prior interaction with either of the defendants. He claimed that he had interacted with Mr. Mohammed and that Mr. Mohammed had come up to him at the gas station before, and told the witness to “go back to Mexico.” The witness had ignored him and gotten away from him.
In the next portion of the prosecution’s questioning, he asked the witness what had happened on August 16. The witness began explaining that he was at the Sinclair gas station in order to sell his recycling. He claimed that he saw the defendants sitting on the right side of the lot as he was putting his recycling in the bins that the gas station provided. As he was putting his recycling in the bins, the witness claimed that the defendants were calling out to him across the lot, allegedly saying, “Hey, you… I’m going to f*** you up.”
The witness explained that they got closer to him and said, “Hey you hear me? I’m going to f*** you up.” The witness had been scared and took the interaction as a threat.
Once the defendants were in his face, the witness claimed that he reached for his cell phone. He claimed that one of the defendants, Mohammed, tried to take away his phone as the alleged victim backed up to get away. He then claimed that he ran away from both of them because, as they were both reaching for his phone, Mohammed had pulled out a “mini pencil-like knife.”
The witness demonstrated how the two men approached him. He explained that Mr. Mohammed attempted to grab his phone and showed him the knife as Mr. Howe showed the witness his fists and tried to also grab the phone away. He then explained that they both appeared angry and demanded the phone.
The witness was able to complete his transaction and claimed that they had approached and threatened him as he was leaving. Mr. Howe’s defense attorney also questioned why he drove all the way home and let the police call him back, rather than calling the police again when he was in a safe location. He claimed that he wanted to tell his wife what had just occurred. He responded that he would have called the police if they did not call him back.
When questioned by Mr. Mohammed’s defense attorney, the sequence of events was made clearer. He claimed that he was driving a big black truck and parked next to Mohammed’s car. She asked him whether or not he knew that the defendants were angry with the way that he parked next to the defendant’s car. The witness claimed he did not know that or have any understanding of that being that case.
The defense attorney representing Mr. Mohammed had the witness draw out the events that occurred and label where he was approached. In this sketch, he had parked and left his vehicle to go grab the bin for his recycling. He was called out to and then he grabbed his recycling as he put it into the bin. He took a picture of the defendants’ license plate in order to report the men to the police. As he did so, he claimed that was when the men approached him due to his trying to ignore them.
The witness then went in and handled his transaction, where he told the cashier to call the police. He then returned outside, after getting his money, to the men threatening him for the second time. He attempted to call the police, however, he did not get to because they tried to take his phone and threatened him with a knife. He then ran to his truck and drove off before the police called him back, which happened when he was in his residence. He claimed that the incident lasted no more than about five minutes in total.
When the second witness was called to the stand, her testimony had a lack of details. She was the cashier that was working at the center where she had helped the alleged victim complete his transaction. She explained that she was about 30 feet away from the first interaction and did not see much of it because she was trying not to get involved. She claimed that the men sounded as if they were arguing, however their voices were not raised. In the second incident, she claimed she did not see any gestures made that could be perceived as a threat.
The second witness claimed that she could not understand the men because she did not understand English very well. She was asked if she could understand English swear words and she responded that she was familiar with them, however, the men were speaking “fast.” Near the end of the testimony, she explained that the alleged victim had asked her to call the police, and she responded that she did not feel the need to call the police because she did not perceive a threat.
The arraignment for this hearing is scheduled to occur on November 1, 2019, at 10 a.m. in Department 14.