By Anika Khubchandani
SACRAMENTO – Defendant Vincent Edward Shaver appeared alongside his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Eliza Marie Hook, for his trial readiness conference hearing here in Sacramento County Superior Court last week. Hook asked the court to reduce her client’s felony charge to a misdemeanor.
The prosecution opposed this request, claiming Shaver is gang connected, although the prosecution couldn’t prove it. The judge “punted” for now, delaying a final decision.
Shaver is charged with carrying a concealed loaded firearm in his vehicle. The offer on the table from Deputy District Attorney Danny Lee is to plead to a felony and serve anywhere between 30 to 45 days.
PD Hook insisted that Shaver is a responsible and good member of his community, a high school graduate, and is currently attending Sacramento City College part-time to become an accountant. Since he “has his goals set on being educated and a professional young man,…he conducts himself in his community in this way.”
To support her argument, Hook provided the court with numerous letters from the community which emphasized that Shaver was “respectful” and “a man of integrity.”
In addition to the support from his community, Shaver also possesses the loyalty and protection of his mother, Hook added, noting Shaver’s mother is “very disappointed about this case, but stands behind him and wants nothing more than for Vincent to continue on his path to college” and on becoming a professional accountant.
Ultimately, Vincent was 19 years old when “he made this mistake,” declared Hook. “He deserves a second chance.”
Hook claimed that “Shaver understands the impact that a felony would have on the rest of his life, and quite frankly, a misdemeanor conviction would have an impact on his life” as well. It would be something that he would have to disclose if he wanted any higher-level job that required security clearance.
“A misdemeanor conviction is a consequence and not a small one. It is a consequence and a punishment for his poor decision,” said Hook. Given Shaver’s young age and lack of criminal record, Hook believes that a misdemeanor is an appropriate resolution in this case.
However, DDA Lee disagreed. He brought to Judge Michael Sweet’s attention that the firearm was stolen out of Shasta County. Law enforcement first approached Shaver because his car had not been registered since 2016. As a result, they searched the vehicle and found a “45 caliber with five rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber.”
In addition, Shaver has a prior case. Even though it was ultimately dismissed, there is an outstanding “restraining order and one of the terms of that order is that he not possess any firearms,” said Lee.
While Lee “appreciated and thoroughly reviewed all the letters” of community support distributed to the court, he still came to the conclusion that Shaver’s charge should not be reduced to a misdemeanor because of concerns of gang involvement, adding law enforcement learned that Shaver is “validated and that he is considered active” with the Oak Park Bloods.
Officers found “social media evidence of Shaver throwing up gang signs” in addition to “certain videos on YouTube where Shaver associated himself with other violent and convicted gang members of the OPB.” They also found a music video of Shaver with the gang members in the defendant’s own backyard, shared Lee.
Since Hook had not received any reports of police contact that Shaver has had with law enforcement and was unaware of the music videos and social media images, she felt her “hands are tied with being able to respond to this.”
She admitted that Shaver sometimes “hangs out” in a park where active gang members congregate because that is where his house is located. He lives in “a community of contradiction” because there are a lot of people in the community that are negative influences; however, Shaver’s mother “works very hard to help Vincent steer clear of these people and those influences,” stressed Hook.
Given the lack of evidence of police contacts where Shaver is alleged to have been engaged in gang activity, Hook said she finds the defendant’s involvement hard to believe. She reiterated that she “doesn’t see reports to support” his validation as a gang member.
Judge Sweet asked DDA Lee on what grounds Shaver was validated, but Lee was “not sure how the police validated him.” He indicated that these were conversations he “had with the police for background” to see if he “wanted to reduce this to a misdemeanor.” Nevertheless, Lee continued to point out that Shaver is “both active and on the radar” of law enforcement.
Due to the serious charge of “possessing a pretty large caliber firearm that was stolen and being validated as a gang member,” Judge Sweet disclosed that he would not grant release nor the request to reduce based on the information presented. These factors are “a pretty big deal,” maintained the judge.
Judge Sweet did acknowledge that Shaver “has no criminal record, which is a very positive thing.” It is also obvious that the defendant “is trying to do something good with his life through school.” He agreed to reconsider the motion to reduce in the future.
He decided to grant Hook more time to obtain and review documents that she could potentially use in dispute. He ordered Lee to provide some discovery to Hook on what led the police to gang validation, since some points of validation can be pretty minor, such as singing a certain song or wearing a certain color.
Shaver politely and sincerely thanked Judge Sweet for considering the motion. The defendant’s next trial readiness conference is set for Jan. 22, 2021, with jury trial beginning on Jan. 25.
Anika Khubchandani is a 4th year student at UC Davis majoring in both political science and economics. She is from San Jose, CA.
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