By Esha Kher and Koda Slingluff
WOODLAND – Stealing catalytic converters couldn’t be that serious, right?
Well, 60 or more of them might be serious, as Yolo County Superior Court defendants Shaneel Lal and Dao Xiong found out—they now face a whopping bail of $250,000. Each. For allegedly stealing the items.
Wearing the striped prison uniforms of the Monroe Detention Center in Yolo County, the defendants appeared via Zoom Thursday afternoon.
Judge Tom M. Dyer addressed the pair together, explaining they are charged with “numerous counts of felony violations” and that their conduct extended “all the way up to Feb. 2 … and related to a conspiracy to commit a felony as well as grand theft.”
Only days before appearing in front of Judge Dyer, the defendants allegedly were still trying to steal.
This was consistent with a press release from the Davis Police Department that reported the defendants had been apprehended for theft multiple times before.
“Each time after their release,” Davis PD says, “it is suspected that they immediately continued stealing catalytic converters in violation of their temporary release conditions.”
Catalytic converters are a pollutant filtering component of an internal combustion engine’s exhaust system that contain precious metals and are often targets of theft due to their short removal time and high value in the metal market.
Lal and Xiong allegedly stole more than 60 catalytic converters from areas spanning throughout Northern California. The Sacramento, El Dorado, Yolo, Napa, and San Francisco Bay area regions were all targeted by these thefts.
Both men were in need of court-appointed defenders. In general, the public defender’s office cannot represent more than one defendant in the same criminal case, so the court appointed one defendant to a public defender, and appointed the other to a private attorney from the “conflict panel.”
Yolo County’s Conflict Panel is a set of contracted local attorneys that “ensure adequate representation for persons whom the Public Defender had declined to service due to a conflict of interest.”
Judge Dyer appointed Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher to represent Shaneel Lal. For the other defendant, Dao Xiong, Judge Dyer appointed Jake Toney from Yolo’s Conflict Panel.
Dyer explained that, in total, the defendants faced “60 counts” of theft-related crime, “with associated enhancements related to that.”
He also told Lal and Xiong that the district attorney “filed a complaint alleging a felony violation—let’s see here—of receiving stolen property, on about Oct. 23 of 2020, as well as a misdemeanor violation of false representation to a police officer.”
Representing the People, Deputy District Attorney Robin Johnson reminded the judge that, during former arrests, both defendants had signed bail increases. With a bail hold, this caused the bail to total 250,000 dollars for each defendant.
However, Ms. Fisher contended that “$250,000 sounds a little excessive for theft charges, even if there are 60 counts of [them] or more.” Fisher asked the court to consider a lower bail.
Judge Dyer maintained the $250,000 bail until further changes, holding that “the underlying circumstances here are serial catalytic converter thefts that were very extensive in their time and frequency.”
Dyer also noted, based on what the court has seen in the past, “there’s quite a significant public safety threat vis-a-vis theft of these catalytic converters that were quite extensive at least as has been alleged at this point.”
Lal and Xiong will return to court for their preliminary hearing on March 22.
Esha Kher is an undergraduate student at UC Davis studying Political Science and Computer Science hoping to pursue a career in orporate law. She is passionate about legal journalism and political advocacy that provokes new perspectives and sparks conversation among the public. When she is not reporting for The Davis Vanguard, Esha is either trying out a new YouTube workout or reading a book on late modern philosophy.
Koda is a junior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Rhetoric. He is from Ventura, CA.
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