By Ramneet Singh
WOODLAND, CA – Benjamin Lee Howe is accused of stealing one expensive bicycle—one rich enough to change a misdemeanor bike theft into a full blown felony, according to a ruling last Friday by Judge Peter Williams in Yolo County Superior Court, Dept. 8.
Howe had one misdemeanor and two felonies listed as his charges. The first felony appeared to be the lead charge, grand theft. Of the bike. The case enhancement was deliberately not addressed.
Davis Police Detective Michael Moore confirmed that he was on active duty on Aug. 9, and he identified Howe as the alleged suspect because Moore knew him from prior experience.
Det. Moore relayed that the victim was at a burger eatery on Olive Drive, Aug. 6, at about 1 p.m. He had parked his vehicle on the same street. In the vehicle was his bicycle, noting “he valued that bicycle at approximately $2,000.”
Following an objection, the prosecution had to elaborate on aspects of the case. Moore responded he had also communicated with a beverage delivery driver, who said he noticed that someone was “looking” at the bicycle and later “removing” that bicycle.
The driver did not believe that it was that person’s bike and “confronted the subject.” The witness stated that the suspect was acting “aggressive,” and removed the bike and “…rode away eastbound on Olive Drive…he did not (come back).”
The questioning switched to Aug. 18 when Det. Moore arrested suspect Howe, and indicated that he showed him a picture taken by the witness.
There had been multiple objections up to this point, but this one concerned who had taken the pictures. The prosecution clarified that the victim and witness are two separate people, with the witness being the delivery driver.
Moore indicated that the photographs were taken at the time of the theft by the driver, who emailed him the photos.
After showing Howe the photographs, the detective said Howe “conceded that that was him in…and admitted or confessed to stealing that bicycle.”
Det. Moore confirmed the estimated value of the bike. and the public defender was trying to evaluate the value of the bicycle.
Moore could not assess the condition of the bike, “other than what the photograph depicts…”
After questioning, Moore affirmed that the defendant is a “narcotic abuser.”
Deputy Public Defender Erin Dacayanan asked “…in fact he told you, when you spoke with him about this incident, that he was under the influence at the time, right?” and “he told you that he doesn’t remember why he did what he did, right?”
Dacayanan also asked about Howe not knowing the location of the bike and his drug use. Moore confirmed these. And Det. Moore confirmed the public defender’s statement that he was “cooperative” and “honest.”
In the redirect, the prosecution asked about the condition of the bike in the photograph. Moore stated that “it appeared to be in working condition.”
There was an objection where the public defender noted that there was already an “estimation” given. The prosecution wanted an elaboration, and Moore stated “it didn’t appear to be missing any necessary parts.”
After an objection, Judge Williams stated that “I like evidence from the witnesses. If the witness thinks he can make some testimony as to the value of the bike by looking at the photo, I’m OK with that.”
PD Dacayanan asked the court to reduce the alleged bike theft from a felony to a misdemeanor, noting that there was no violence.
“But the core of the testimony of the officer is that the victim valued his own piece of property very highly at $2,000. Any other bicycle, in this similar situation, this case would be a misdemeanor,” the PD said, suggesting the “obvious addiction” of the defendant and that this should be mitigating.
The prosecution referred to the expensive nature of the bike, arguing “that due to the defense’s extensive criminal history in similar offenses, we would like for the purpose of the prelim to hold the defendant to answer for the crime.”
The judge ruled that “the bike appears to be in good condition,” and that it seemed to be of a “sophisticated” build. In the context of a preliminary hearing and a “…low threshold…it appears that it could quite easily be over $950.”
Judge Williams referred to Howe’s probation and the behavioral circumstances of the case, stating “that’s not the kind of behavior that lends itself to a reduction to a misdemeanor, at least not at this point.” He denied the request.
Concluding, the judge said “it appears to me that the offense within the complaint of Count 1, namely grand theft, has been committed. There is sufficient cause to believe that Mr. Howe committed that offense.”
Howe’s next court date in Sept. 17 for arraignment and trial setting.