By: Dominique Kato
SACRAMENTO – A history of robbery offenses trumped the threat of COVID-19 here in the Sacramento County Superior Court last Thursday just before the holiday break.
Nineteen-year-old Jelani Steward, who has a history of robberies and a juvenile record, was before Judge Michael W. Sweet, who set his bail at $300,000, which had previously been $150,000.
All parties except Steward appeared by Zoom.
Apparently, Steward failed to appear in court on Jan. 12 on this year, because he was incarcerated in San Joaquin County for a robbery. When he committed the crime in San Joaquin, he was out on $150,000 bail on his current Sacramento case that involved three separate instances on the same day.
The court was told that Steward and four other co-defendants allegedly committed a 1st degree burglary while the victims were not home, and later they were seen at another residence but were unsuccessful. An hour later, in a different area of Sacramento, Steward was seen trying to manipulate the cameras of a home, and cameras catch him and co-defendants rob the residents at knife and gun point.
Private defense attorney Keith Staten first addressed the hold on the record, noting that Steward was in custody in San Joaquin County serving his one-year sentence, which is why he could not appear in Sacramento. Steward has served his time and resolved that matter, the lawyer said.
Staten asked the judge for a bail review, arguing that there are four co-defendants in the case and a trial will be set after the preliminary hearing date. Since this case involves many people, the trial may not occur for the next year or later, he said.
Staten noted the Coronavirus pandemic that is affecting jails, prisons, and the community. He argued that it would be safer and easier for Steward to be out on bond. While arguing for the lower bail amount, he admitted that while on bail Steward did commit another crime in another jurisdiction, but noted that he did make all court appearances while out on bond.
Steward’s defense counsel asked the court for the same bail amount of $150,000—or even slightly higher in the interest of justice.
Deputy District Attorney Andrea Morris responded, asking the court that bail be set much higher due to the risk to public safety.
Steward, she explained, is 19 years old and has a juvenile record that goes back to August 2016, when he was arrested for a robbery with a weapon enhancement. She added that in December of that same year, he admitted to a robbery with a weapon enhancement and was 15 at the time, so it did not count as a strike.
Morris argued that these show the defendant has been committing robberies for a long time. She said, “The People are concerned for public safety given what we believe Mr. Steward did in this case. In the current case at hand, Mr. Steward and four other co-defendants robbed a man at his home at knife and gun point. The victim suffered a laceration.”
Morris noted that he committed a robbery out of juvenile court, one in San Joaquin County, and he is now facing three strikes. She asked the court to set bail at $300,000, which is above the court schedule of $175,000.
Judge Sweet asked Morris if she will pursue a 12022.1, which allows that if a defendant commits a crime while released pending another criminal matter they may be subject to a penalty enhancement of two years to be served consecutively. Morris noted she intends to pursue this enhancement, but needs to verify the facts first.
Before the judge issued the bail, Staten again mentioned that the previous bail amount of $150,000 did consider Steward’s juvenile record and the current incident. He further mentioned that the crime committed in San Joaquin County involved no weapons.
Judge Sweet mentioned his concern that while out on bail Steward committed a serious felony robbery. He said that this exemplifies an individual not likely to follow court orders. Judge Sweet followed the DDA’s request and set bail at $300,000.
Jelani Steward will join the other co-defendants on August 16 for a preliminary hearing.
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