By William McCurry
SACRAMENTO – Three defendants here in Sacramento Superior Court Department 14 late last week will stand trial after they were arrested for allegedly carrying concealed weapons into a funeral for a friend who had been murdered.
Judge Tami Bogert determined defendants Kenaz Lang, Thyreese Webster, and Derick Blake were guilty in terms of the preliminary hearing. The bar for being found guilty in a preliminary hearing is very low. A trial follows the preliminary hearing.
On July 7, 2020, the three defendants attended a funeral at Saint Mary’s Cemetery for a friend who had been murdered. The Sacramento Police Department had this cemetery under surveillance because the murdered person was a known gang member in the Sacramento area.
Deputy District Attorney Emilee Divinagracia called a sworn police officer of the Sacramento Police Department, who was at the cemetery while it was under surveillance, with both marked and unmarked officers on the site that day.
The detective said that another detective observed defendant Webster exit the silver Cadillac that they arrived in and approach another car in the parking lot. The detective saw him reaching in his waistband and when he turned toward the detective, he could see the handle of a firearm clearly.
The witness saw all three defendants arrive and depart in the same vehicle. After the vehicle left the cemetery, they were followed by police and eventually stopped. The officers never lost sight of their vehicle.
Defendant Lang was then directed out of the vehicle and had a satchel over this chest. After he was directed out of the vehicle, he was searched and the officers found a 45-caliber handgun in the satchel. The detective stated that the gun was loaded with one in the chamber.
After Lang was directed out of the vehicle, Webster was then directed out next. The officers conducted a pat search of the defendant and found a 40-caliber handgun sliding down his pants. This gun that the officers found was also loaded and had one in the chamber.
Defendant Blake was the last one directed out of the vehicle. Blake had a NASA satchel near his feet in the car. After the officers conducted a search of the vehicle and searched the satchel, they found a Glock 19 in it.
None of these firearms were registered to the defendants and each of them was identified by a records check that was conducted by the officers on site.
Blake then stated to the officer that the gun was his and that he stole it.
Defense attorney Rod Mayorga, representing Lang, asked about the facility itself. It was determined that the service was conducted indoors.
Defense attorney Jose Valdez represents Webster, and asked about the validity of whether there were live rounds in his client’s firearm.
Valdez asked the witness if he knows that a bullet has multiple components to it. The primer, the propellant, and the projectile. This witness, a detective who handles a firearm, was able to answer these questions with ease, testifying he knew exactly what was being asked.
The witness didn’t do anything to indicate that this was a live round and did not speak to other officers to determine if it was.
Private defense counsel Claire White, representing Blake, asked officers if they ever saw a firearm on him. They said they were never able to see a firearm on his person nor did they find the firearm on his person.
Each defense attorney argued to Judge Bogert that this case be reduced to a misdemeanor in light of Penal Code section 17(b). Each defendant was very young, ages 21 or 22, and had a very limited record. This was the first gun charge for all three defendants.
Both Valdez and White argued that the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence that the firearms were loaded with a round in the chamber.
Each defendant entered not guilty pleas and denials.
Judge Bogert denied the 17(b) motion because the court does not have enough evidence to determine if that would be an appropriate disposition. This determination, in her perspective, would be better suited at the time of sentencing if there is any conviction.
Bogert found both Webster and Lang guilty, at the level of proof required for the purposes of a preliminary hearing, of Penal Code section 25400(a) subsection 2, concealing a firearm on their person. She found Blake guilty of Penal Code section 25400(a) subsection 1, concealing a firearm in their vehicle.
Trial is set for a later date.
William McCurry is a fourth year at Sacramento State, majoring in Criminal Justice. He is from Brentwood, California.
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