A judge found sufficient evidence to hold a Nevada City man to answer on drug, weapon and stolen property charges after a preliminary hearing Thursday morning — but did dismiss one charge against him, that of being a felon in possession of ammunition.
Members of the Nevada County sheriff’s narcotics task force had served a search warrant on a property in the 11000 block of Scotts Valley Road on May 13 that named property owner Robert Johnson, as well as Sandra Nickens.
Sheriff’s Deputy Nate Hutson testified in Nevada County Superior Court that during the search he found a safe that contained ammunition for a pistol, as well as an Isleton police badge and a tactical vest with handcuffs, a high-capacity magazine for a Glock, a pepper-spray container and a leg holster for a Glock.
Hutson said that he had not been able to verify if the police badge or equipment had been reported missing. Hutson said he also located a water pipe that was identified by another deputy as being a smoking device for methamphetamine.
Johnson appeared “sweaty and fidgety,” Hutson said, adding that he showed multiple signs of being under the influence of a controlled substance, such as pupil dilation and a rapid pulse rate.
According to Hutson, he found a homemade weapon during the search and was talking to himself when he asked, “What is this?” Johnson reportedly volunteered the information that it was a lock in a sock. His attorney, David Alkire, argued during the hearing that Johnson had not been Mirandized and that constituted an incriminating statement that should be stricken from the record.
Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Kyra Patterson told Judge Linda Sloven the question was not directed at Johnson, since Hutson testified he was approximately 22 feet away at the time.
“It was not an interrogation,” Patterson said. “It could have been directed at any number of people” searching the room at the time.
Sloven agreed, overruling Alkire’s objection.
According to Hutson, Johnson told him, “I used to knock motherf---ers out with that.”
Hutson described the DIY weapon as a padlock with a bungee cord attached to it, wrapped in some type of surgical tape. He called the 18-inch long weapon a “weighted-end sap” and said it appeared old; he added that Johnson told him he made it when he was 18.
According to Hutson, after Johnson was informed of his initial charges, he threatened to attack Hutson if he saw him or his family, adding there was no reason for Johnson to bring Hutson’s family into it. Hutson testified later that Johnson also threatened to kill him.
Hutson testified that there were six other people on the property at the time of the warrant search, five of whom were arrested.
Nickens, who was arrested that day on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance, testified that the bullets found in the safe belonged to her, adding that anyone could have had access to the safe. Patterson argued that Nickens, who is Johnson’s girlfriend, had ample reason to not be truthful. She added that ownership by another person didn’t preclude the possibility of possession by Johnson.
But Alkire said there was no evidence whatsoever that his client was aware the bullets were in the safe. Sloven evidently agreed, dismissing that charge against Johnson.
She did hold Johnson to answer on charges of possessing an illegal weapon, being in possession of stolen property, making a threat against a peace officer, being under the influence of a controlled substance and possessing drug paraphernalia. He is set to be arraigned June 24.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.