By Ganga Nair
SACRAMENTO, CA – In a preliminary hearing this week in Sacramento County Superior Court, it appeared the alleged accomplice of defendant David Covarrubias-Car, a Ms. Lozano, is the biggest problem he faces because of her statements to police.
At least the judge saw it that way in deciding to hold Covarrubias-Car for trial.
Covarrubias-Car faces multiple charges of auto theft, possession of ammunition, and personal property theft after being pulled over for missing license plates in late April.
Jackson Hadden, legal intern to ADA Molly Steber of the District Attorney’s office, called California Highway Patrol Officers Reynaldo Garcia-Barron and his partner, Officer Bradley Ryder, to recall the events of April 28.
Officer Garcia-Barron said they saw a beige 2004 Chevy Tahoe approach them. The vehicle was missing its front license plate, prompting the officers to follow the vehicle. Garcia-Barron explained that the car was also missing its rear license plates. The vehicle subsequently pulled over in a parking lot.
When asked about the vehicle, the defendant initially stated that he got it from a Copart dealer. Garcia-Barron recalled that the defendant later changed his statement, stating that he borrowed it from someone who got the vehicle from a Copart.
Eventually, the defendant was detained and Garcia-Barron asked him if he had any possessions on his person. Covarrubias-Car mentioned that he had bullets, which were later identified to be 9 mm ammunition, found within the vehicle.
The officer noticed a gold bracelet on the defendant’s wrist, and asked Covarrubias-Car about it. He responded saying that he purchased the bracelet recently for $2,000. However, he failed to show proof of this purchase.
Officer Ryder was on the outside of the driver’s side of the vehicle, where he could see the public records of the vehicle. When he conducted a registration check of the vehicle, Ryder found that the Chevy was reported stolen roughly a day prior.
Garcia-Barron then recalled interviewing Lozano roughly three to four times. In the first interview, Lozano explained that she traded her vehicle with a friend for the Chevy, “maybe two months ago.”
She explained that the license plates were taken by her roommate, so that they could falsify the registration of another vehicle.
Lozano was subsequently arrested and interviewed 15 minutes later, where she provided a drastically different statement. Lozano explained that she had been arrested earlier, and her mom came to pick her up, bringing her to her house where the stolen vehicle was parked.
Lozano then said they were both arrested. Upon their release, Covarrubias-Car and Lozano went to get their car in the tow yard. On their way there, they found a vehicle parked in an alleyway with the keys in the ignition. Lozano said Covarrubias-Car got in the car and drove away.
Defense attorney Richard James Hogan questioned Officer Garcia-Barron about his analysis, where he concluded that Covarrubias-Car was the one who stole the vehicle. He asked how Garcia-Barron was able to come to that conclusion, to which the officer replied that it was mainly based on the testimonies of Lozano and the owner of the Chevy.
Hogan noted the owner of the vehicle was never asked to identify Covarrubias-Car at any point.
Officer Bradley Ryder, Garcia-Barron’s partner, recalled speaking to the owner of the stolen vehicle, who reported parking his car in an alleyway behind his home with the keys still in the ignition. When he returned, he saw a female pedestrian walking away from the vehicle.
Ryder noted that he described the female as “having an off-white t-shirt with hair past her shoulder length with a purse with a long shoulder strap.” This bag was later found within the vehicle by the seats.
According to Officer Ryder, the owner also reported having a few pieces of jewelry. The first was a “gold ring with a unique colored stone setting,” valued at $2,000. It was located on the left rear floorboard of the Chevy.
The second piece of jewelry was a “gold men’s style link bracelet.” The $10,000 bracelet was found on Covarrubias-Carr’s wrist. Both of these jewelry items were identified by the owner of the car through photographs, which Officer Ryder sent to him for confirmation.
The prosecution submitted Covarrubias-Car’s certified rap sheet as evidence on behalf of the prosecution. This rap sheet showed that in April 2019, Covarrubias-Car faced felony charges for auto theft, thus preventing him from lawfully owning ammunition of any kind.
The defense concluded that there was a lack of sufficient evidence to support the charges against the defendant for auto theft.
Defense counsel Hogan questioned Lozano’s statement, pointing out that “after she was arrested, she began to change her statement. I don’t think she’s trustworthy, especially when it comes to implicating someone else for her own interests.”
Hogan also questioned the credibility of identifying the jewelry as the vehicle owner’s possessions, especially since they were identified through photographs. He noted that “no serial numbers were run, no receipts were provided.”
The prosecution, on the other hand, said that although the testimony of Covarrubias-Car’s accomplice is inconsistent, the testimony, paired with the evidence of jewelry found, was enough to identify the defendant as the one who stole the vehicle.
Judge David De Alba agreed with the prosecution, reasoning that although Lozano’s statement was questionable, “I haven’t seen her, so I can’t make a personal assessment of her credibility, and she implicates you.”
Covarrubias-car is set to enter a plea and have further proceedings on July 30, including setting of a trial date.