By Allison Hodge
SACRAMENTO, CA – In a multiple defendant burglary case, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Helena Gweon found sufficient cause to send one defendant to trial, following testimony from an officer last Friday.
Joseph Bustos is going to trial on two counts of receiving a known stolen vehicle and possession of a firearm by a felon, while his two co-defendants face charges of second-degree burglary.
During the preliminary hearing, the prosecution attempted to prove there was sufficient evidence to believe Bustos was involved in harboring a stolen dirt bike.
Deputy District Attorney Saron Tesfai called Officer Jonathan Houston to testify – he worked as a detective on the case between Nov. 2020 and Jan. 2021.
According to the prosecution’s witness, on Nov. 29, 2020 law enforcement was contacted regarding the attempted theft of two dirt bikes in the parking lot of an apartment complex. The victim claimed that he woke up to loud noises, and saw individuals removing the dirt bikes from his van.
One adult-sized dirt bike was discarded at the scene, while a child’s dirt bike worth approximately $5,000 was taken.
Officer Houston later took statements from the victim, who claimed that he found advertisements for the stolen motorcycle on various sale platforms, including the “Offer Up” app.
The advertisement included photos of the stolen dirt bike as well as images of the two co-defendants, Zaytrell Hubbard and Trenay Woods, and the suspected vehicle they used to flee the scene.
Houston testified that he spoke to Woods on Jan. 6 and 7 about the motorcycle theft. She stated that the motorcycle was being held at an acquaintance’s house, whom she called “Joe.”
Officer Houston then identified the defendant as a known person and owner of the house. When shown a picture of Bustos, Woods immediately identified him as the person she referred to as “Joe.” Houston also verbally identified the defendant through zoom as the person to who Woods referred.
Sacramento police searched the defendant’s home on Jan. 8, during which Bustos was detained. Officers located a semi-automatic handgun, a stolen U-Haul trailer, and shell casings from the gun, but did not locate the motorcycle on the property.
Bustos told Officer Houston that neither he nor his partner that lived with him had any knowledge of the firearm. The couple also had two children present in the house, but both were determined to be far too young to have owned or obtained such a firearm.
Judge Gweon then interrupted the testimony momentarily to ask about the whereabouts of the stolen dirt bike, and how the victim came to reacquire it.
Officer Houston clarified that the victim had been posting reward ads on “Offer Up,” and notified officers on Feb. 3 that he had located and obtained it after an anonymous tip.
The victim allegedly confronted individuals who had possession of the motorcycle, and rather than call the police they decided to give it back to the victim. Houston stated that they did not yet know who these individuals were.
Following Officer Houston’s testimony, private defense counsel Byron Roope denied cross-examining the witness but asked to be heard briefly on the nature of the charges
Roope argued that there was no evidence to suggest the motorcycle was ever in Bustos’s possession, aside from testimony from a woman who was trying to sell it. He stated that Houston’s “vague testimony” did not indicate that Bustos was involved in the theft.
In other words, there was no physical evidence that linked the defendant to the crime, other than statements from a charged criminal.
Despite these arguments, however, Judge Gweon ruled that there was sufficient cause to believe that the charged offenses had been committed.
Though Judge Gweon maintained that no evidence of second-degree burglary was presented, the defendant should still be held to answer for possession of a firearm and known stolen vehicles.
The defense entered a not guilty plea on all charges and agreed to set trial for Nov. 15. The case is set to return for a trial readiness conference on Nov. 10.