Two men who participated in a kidnapping and assault pleaded to reduced charges and were released from jail Monday in exchange for their testimony against another defendant.
Derek S. Birge of North San Juan and Justin P. Lombardo of Camptonville, both 22, were released on their promise to appear in court in August, where they are expected to testify against co-defendant Gerry Eugene Drake, 51, of Nevada City.
“I think he is the ringleader,” Prosecutor Mike Byrne said of Drake.
The three are accused of luring Arnold Brinker out of his Camptonville home in the early morning of Feb. 24. Brinker was assaulted by Birge and Drake, and after he lost consciousness he was tied up and driven to Nevada County by the three men, authorities said.
At some point, they reportedly threatened to kill him if he did not pay money that was owed to Drake.
“The theory is the victim owed them money,” Byrne said.
Eventually, Brinker was released.
Initially, detectives only had a nickname of “Hawkeye” for the first suspect, Nevada County Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Tripp said at the time.
The man was eventually identified during the investigation as Christopher Lee Williamson, 51, a resident of the 14000 block of Boquest Drive on the San Juan Ridge. But Yuba County deputies eventually discovered that Williamson was an assumed identity. The man living as Williamson was actually Gerry Eugene Drake, a fugitive wanted in Missouri since at least 1999, Tripp said.
Drake had been convicted on a drug charge and was given a five-year suspended prison sentence with probation; he subsequently violated probation and dropped out of sight.
Birge pleaded to assault likely to produce great bodily injury and inflicting great bodily injury in the commission of a felony.
Lombardo pleaded to first-degree burglary with an enhancement that raised the charge to a violent felony.
The two were given probation and ordered to return to court to testify in a contract with the Yuba County District Attorney’s Office.
If they violate probation orders, they will be sentenced to multiple years in prison.
Drake is charged with two counts of kidnapping, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and first-degree burglary.
He has retained defense attorney David Vasquez and will appear in court again on Monday.
Monica Vaughan is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.