By Minerva Melendrez and Linhchi Nguyen
RIVERSIDE, CA – In a jury trial here in Riverside County Superior Court Thursday, defendant Andrea Jean Drake is accused of stealing a Sky Blue vodka bottle from a liquor store.
She’s also facing other charges stemming from allegedly yanking the store cashier’s hair and dragging her outside the store when the cashier tried to stop Drake from leaving. Drake yelled at the clerk to “shut up b****.”
Deputy District Attorney Monica Dobson called two witnesses to testify about the incident on June 26, 2020. One of them was the cashier at the liquor store, called Club Liquor, who helped to expand on the details of the event.
A second witness was the police officer, Detective Javier Clift, who testified to seeing Drake sitting 60-70 feet away from Club Liquor, while drinking from the stolen vodka bottle. He also confirmed talking to the cashier, who provided him a statement about what happened during the incident.
Despite Drake being charged with robbery, Assistant Public Defender Daniel Yu insisted that the jury “pay attention to all the details and evidence” to see that the two distinct crimes in focus are actually shoplifting and physical assault against the victim.
Although both offenses of shoplifting and robbery fall into the domain of theft, robbery involves the use of threat, actual force, or violence during the act of taking property away from the owner, while shoplifting is a lesser crime which only consists of the intent to satisfy one’s own needs or desires without the element of violence.
Yu contended that Drake’s actions that day should be viewed as mere shoplifting, since the victim’s role as a cashier does not include to “physically apprehend people to stop shoplifting at the store,” nor did she have the intent to do so.
During Dobson’s opening statement, she indicated that this wasn’t the first time the defendant attempted to steal from Club Liquor. In fact, a year and a half prior to the incident, Drake stole a bottle of rosé wine, and, after, she attempted to steal several more times, said the DDA.
As a result, when the cashier saw Drake entering the store on June 26, 2020, she recognized her as someone “who is not welcome on the property.”
During the victim’s direct testimony, she testified to telling the defendant to leave, or else she would call the police. However, Drake did not respond and proceeded to enter and grab a Sky Blue vodka at one of the stands.
When Drake made her way out, the cashier told her, “You need to pay for that, or I am going to call the cops.” At that moment, Drake turned around to grab the cashier’s hair and pulled her outside the door.
When asked how hard the defendant pulled her hair, the cashier replied, “Not hard at all, she just had a good grip, but I didn’t have any hair loss.” She also mentioned, “I was shocked. My main concern was getting my hair out of her grip.”
After the cashier pulled her hair out of the defendant’s grip, Drake fell back on the pavement. The cashier then locked the door and dialed 911. She claimed that she locked the door because she did not want another altercation, although she also admitted to “not really” being fearful.
As for the cross-examination, Yu sought to deliver his point that it was never the cashier’s job nor her intention to physically apprehend the defendant, which therefore gave the defendant no reason to retaliate or cause any violence while she shoplifted.
In fact, it was only when the victim called out to Drake to pay for the vodka that the defendant turned around and pulled her hair. By that time, Drake was already “at the doorway,” as confirmed by the cashier.
Yu further asked the witness questions, such as, “Did she try to strike you in any way?” and “When she pulled your hair, did that stop you from calling the police?” To both of those the witness replied “no.”
The cashier also confirmed that during the three to four times that the defendant attempted to steal from the store prior to the incident, the cashier didn’t physically restrain nor apprehend her.
Throughout the cross-examination, the victim had difficulties recalling some of the specific details, such as whether Drake said “shut up b****” and whether she was first facing the door before turning around to face the victim.
However, Yu referred the victim to the police report, where she stated those exact details.
Officer Javier Clift noted conversations with defendant Drake and the victim that took place after arriving at the robbery scene. He said he found Drake on the lawn “intoxicated, her face red and mumbling on unintelligible comments.” Clift stated the Sky Blue vodka bottle was beside Drake, nearly a quarter empty.
Clift then described how he proceeded by speaking with the victim, who did not appear upset but rather “flustered, still tending to multiple customers inside the store, so she seemed concerned with what had happened and also busy and concerned with her workplace.” He mentioned that she did not indicate needing any medical attention.
In contrast to the victim who was unable to recall certain memories during her testimony, Clift remembered her stating that Drake told her “shut up b****” before pulling her hair. And when Yu questioned the officer whether “she told [him] that Ms. Drake was actually halfway through the exit door when the victim confronted her,” Clift replied, “Yes.”
However, Clift informed Yu that he could not obtain any footage from the liquor store, and neither had anyone else from the department.
Judge Dean Benjamini instructed the jury to return to court in Department 2G Monday to be sent out to deliberate.
Linhchi Nguyen is a fourth year at UC Davis, double majoring in Political Science and English. She currently lives in Sacramento, California.
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