Cross-Examination Gets Testy; 2 Defendants Head to Trial, Comrade Heads to Jail When He’s Found


By Jess Taylor

SACRAMENTO – After a lengthy preliminary hearing here Monday in Sacramento County Superior Court, two suspects in a burglary were bound over for trial—their comrade didn’t show up, and now there’s a warrant for his arrest.

Defendants Marcus Smith and Eric Wingate are headed to trial Aug. 24, while Jaishon Tolbert, who failed to show,  forfeited his bail, and law enforcement is searching for him.

The defendants are accused  of breaking into the victim’s home, robbing her, and threatening her son if she did not give them what they demanded.

There was a long line of questioning in the morning session, and before it was over there were sharp words between Wingate’s attorney Richard Berson and Judge Ernest Sawtelle.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Moore examined Deputy Aaron Muradyan, who testified that the victim woke up to banging on a door in the home and came into the kitchen to find a stranger standing there. She tried to run to her room to lock the door, but the man forced the door open.

The man then asked the victim where the money was. Her son was asleep, and she feared them injuring him, so she remembered there was $200 in a wallet that she had. Another individual was in the house at this point and met the two in the victim’s room.

The victim did not get a good look at the faces of the burglars because they held her face down as they took her iPhone, check book, and an $800 check.

After doing this, one of the men woke the son up, covered his eyes, made him look down, and took him to his mother’s room. Threats were made toward the son if the mother did not give them the money they wanted.

This event lasted for roughly 20 minutes according to the son.

Officer Muradyan suggested the men had broken in through a window in the garage, and then broken the garage door that goes into the house.

Wingate’s defense counsel Berson then began to question Muradyan, but the officer could not remember the incidents or specifics that Berson requested. Muradyan stated multiple times that he did not remember what was not in his  report.

After Berson asked more than five questions in a row to which officer Muradyan responded, “I don’t know,” it was clear Judge Sawtelle was annoyed with how questioning was going, and intervened to tell DDA Moore he would be more than happy for him to raise an objection since the relevancy of these questions was unclear.

After Moore raised the objection, the “I don’t remember” responses from Muradyan continued, and the judge, appearing irritated, once more challenged the relevancy of Berson’s questions

The defense attorney looked to the judge, and said,  “Why don’t you tell me what I can ask?”

Sparking with even more agitation, the judge advised, “Why don’t you ask something relevant and we can actually get through this? Clearly this was not good police work; now can we move on?”

The questioning of Officer Muradyan ended after this.

Detective David Treat, discussing the recording from the neighbor’s house, said three individuals observed the home, and then then came back to it a few hours later.

In the recordings, Wingate and Smith can be seen climbing through the garage window then a third intruder (perceived to be the lookout) followed after.

Berson questioned Det. Treat about descriptions of the intruders, attempting to find discrepancies in the identifications. He asked if Treat was able to identify any characterizing marks, such as tattoos, to which the detective said he could not see any of the sort. He was only able to see their skin tone and hands.

Lastly, a Det. Kitely, in an unmarked car, followed the suspects’ Volkswagen Jetta in the drive-thru of a Krispy Kreme.  He said they spotted him, reversed through the drive-thru then parked up the street at Wingstop before they were arrested.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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