By Jose Medina
SACRAMENTO – Some incomplete stories were repeated here in Sacramento County Superior Court Tuesday—by both the defendant and the alleged victim.
In the end, a jury will decide who’s telling the truth in October.
James Overton appeared in court with his defense attorney, Anthony Crisostomo, who motioned a California Penal Code section 17(b), which asks the court to reduce a felony offense to a misdemeanor. This is only possible if the felony offense could have originally been charged as a misdemeanor.
The defendant is being charged with felony vehicle theft and receiving a known stolen vehicle. Overton pleaded not guilty and was being examined for probable cause.
On April 1, California Highway Patrol Officer Greg White stopped a silver Kia and confirmed vehicle’s identification number matched a stolen vehicle reported on March 24 by Vacaville PD.
According to Officer White, Overton presented him with paperwork that “appeared forged since some of the information was misleading and was not up to standard on how dealers provide paperwork.” Officer White described the paperwork as “something off a website, it also appears to be a photocopy on a piece of paper, you can see the outlines around the edges.”
The paperwork also contained vague and faulty information. Officer White noted that “under ‘dealer’s number’ it had a zip code and under ‘salesperson’ it said ‘owner’ where it would usually have an official dealer’s number and an owner’s name.” The paperwork’s legitimacy was also put into question by its font.
Officer White also recalled that “James Overton’s name is in there a little backwards and the font was more bold than the rest of the paperwork, it had no license plate number only the correct VIN for the vehicle.”
When Officer White asked Overton where he bought the vehicle and from whom, Overton told him that he bought it from a car dealership in Vacaville and that the person who sold him the silver Kia was named Dwight Lundi, but that was not the name of the victim.
Officer White contacted the victim—the owner of a Vacaville dealership—who reported the vehicle stolen. He said Overton came to his dealership and that he allowed the defendant to test drive the silver Kia and with a promise to return it promptly.
However, Overton did not return it. The victim reported the vehicle as stolen. A few months after the incident, Officer White stated that he contacted the victim again on September 21, when the victim admitted he actually had known Overton prior to the March 24 incident, but had omitted that important detail earlier.
According to Officer White, the victim told him that Overton came to his dealership on February 16 to sell the victim one of his vehicles. Overton then told the victim that he needed to borrow a car. The victim loaned Overton the silver Kia for two weeks without any fees or contracts to sign.
Once those two weeks were up, Overton told the victim that he would need the vehicle for another two weeks, to which the victim agreed. By the end of those two weeks, Overton negotiated with the victim to borrow the car until March 24.
Once March 24 came and Overton failed to return the car, the victim reported the silver Kia as stolen.
Although the victim provided two different stories from the time of the incident, Officer White mentioned that the victim told him that “he was untruthful because he wanted the vehicle to get recovered quickly.”
Defense attorney Anthony Crisostomo argued to reduce Overton’s charge from a felony to a misdemeanor on the basis of the victim’s inconsistent accounts and Overton’s lack of criminal history.
Crisostomo argued that “Overton’s overall criminal record is fairly mild, his last felony conviction was 1995 and, coupled with the fact that he’s been living a law abiding life for the past 18 years, I would say that plus the inconsistencies of these stories are valid arguments to reduce his charges to a misdemeanor.”
Prosecutor Rawan Abuelreich, a legal intern under the supervision of prosecutor Kari Reeve, argued against the motion to reduce Overton’s charge from a felony to a misdemeanor by addressing Overton’s past with forgery. Abuelreich mentioned Overton has “had two convictions for grand theft and receiving stolen property and has served three years of prison for forgery before.”
Abuelreich maintained that, despite the inconsistent stories that the victim provided, “under both stories it remains clear that the defendant did not have consent to drive this vehicle” and it would be sufficient enough to prove that Overton is guilty of the felony charge of vehicle theft.
Judge Stephen Acquisto denied Overton’s motion to reduce his felony charges to misdemeanors because there was sufficient cause to believe that he is guilty of the felony charges against him.
Overton’s case is set for a jury trial in October.
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