By Elizabeth Cho
FRESNO – A questionable vehicle stop by Fresno County Sheriff deputies may wind up freeing a man who threatened PG&E workers with an AR-15 rifle back on Oct. 22, 2018.
James Medina allegedly threatened three PG&E workers with an AR-15 style rifle in 2018, telling them repeatedly to “get the f**k out of [his] backyard” and that he would shoot them if they refused to do so.
But a little more information was presented in Fresno County Superior Court this week.
In 2018, the PG&E workers entered Medina’s backyard after setting an appointment, they said, to conduct a regular checkup. Medina alleges that he had no prior knowledge of the appointment and that they did not inform him of their arrival. Upon seeing the workers, Medina went out with his AR-15 style rifle, pointed it at them, and made verbal threats to get the three to leave.
The workers called the Fresno County’s Sheriff’s Office to inform them that they felt that the defendant had threatened their lives. Deputy Silva, Sergeant Dunn, and Sergeant Shipman answered the call and went to Medina’s home.
Once they discovered that the defendant was not home, they said contacted Medina over the phone, where he was uncooperative and refused to follow their orders. But, Sgt. Dunn was able to get him to come back to his home. Upon Medina’s arrival, the deputy and sergeants conducted a felony vehicle stop.
During the stop, the deputy found a .25 caliber Colt in the driver’s seat pocket of the car. Court records show Medina was then arrested and charged on two counts: concealed firearm in a vehicle and carrying a loaded firearm in public.
However, Medina’s attorney, Samuel Luton, argued that the deputies conducted an illegal search of Medina’s car.
According to picture evidence, the .25 caliber Colt was not in plain sight, and someone would have had to physically uncover the pile of trash that was placed on it. Medina alleges that he forgot that the gun was even in the car, leading to Luton accusing the officers of manipulating the scene of the crime in order for the charges to stick.
In court, Luton made a motion to suppress evidence because the weapon was not in plain sight and there was no warrant.
Lauren Meegan, with the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, said that deputies were following up on a call where three people were verbally and physically threatened. The primary and only suspect was Medina, she said, claiming the vehicle stop that the deputies conducted was routine and by the book.
But, Luton compared Medina’s car to his home, in which a warrant would be needed to search it. Since the deputies did not have a warrant, Luton claims that they searched Medina’s car illegally and obtained the evidence illegally.
Meegan maintained that the Supreme Court has decided that a warrantless car search is constitutional, within bounds.
Fresno County Superior Court Judge de Alba said she would take the matter under consideration and announce her decision on July 16 at 8:30 a.m.
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