Charges dismissed, re-filed in Grass Valley home invasion case
A four-defendant pot rip-off trial was deep into jury selection in Nevada County Superior Court last week when the prosecutor opted to dismiss all charges.
That’s doesn’t mean the four men — who were facing charges of home invasion robbery, first-degree residential burglary and assault with a semi-automatic firearm — received a get-out-of-jail-free card, however.
Deputy District Attorney Cambria Lisonbee has refiled all charges against Alton E. Edmondson, 38, of Grayson, Georgia; Christopher Brandon Mapp, 29, of Antelope; Giovannie S. Morrison, 37, of Roseville; and Lorne Leroy Scott, 31, of New York City. The four men were re-arraigned Friday. A new preliminary hearing into the evidence against them, and a new suppression motion hearing, is set for this coming Tuesday.
The four men remained Wednesday in the Nevada County Jail under $500,000 bond each.
Lisonbee’s move to dismiss the charges on Oct. 31 came after a hearing in which Judge Candace Heidelberger ruled in favor of suppressing evidence against two of the defendants.
At issue was one of two vehicle stops made in the wake of the home invasion robbery in Grass Valley on Nov. 27, 2018.
The four men allegedly arranged to buy marijuana from their victims at a Pleasant Street residence before robbing them of 97 pounds of suspected pot and then fleeing. The victim said someone held a gun to her head and tied her up. After the four men fled with the marijuana, authorities said the woman freed herself and contacted police, describing a silver Hyundai as the getaway vehicle.
According to court records, Placer County sheriff’s deputies received the vehicle description, stopping a silver Nissan at Highway 49 and Dry Creek Road and then stopping a second car, a brown Toyota. Mapp and Scott were in the Nissan, while Morrison and Edmondson were in the Toyota.
Morrison’s attorney. Deputy Public Defender Tamara Zuromskis, filed the suppression motion because her client and Edmondson were pulled over in a car that did not match the vehicle described. The deputy testified in an earlier hearing he believed the brown Toyota was “probably” associated with the silver Nissan, Zuromskis wrote. Several large duffel bags filled with marijuana were located in that vehicle, the motion acknowledged.
Zuromskis argued in her motion that the warrantless search of the vehicle was unlawful because the Toyota was pulled over without any legal justification. Therefore, she wrote, the discovery of items in the vehicle and on the two men, as well as their identification by the victim when she saw them at the arrest site, came from an illegal detention and should be tossed out.
Heidelberger agreed, ruling the detention of the two men was illegal and their identification by the victim should also be suppressed. She did not agree that evidence should be suppressed in the case against Mapp and Scott, however, said Scott’s defense attorney, Jennifer Granger.
According to Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh, at least one witness, a Placer County sheriff’s deputy, was unavailable for the suppression hearing Thursday. Walsh noted the hearing had been continued a number of times because of the planned power outages.
Lisonbee “believes that this witness could help further prove that the search was not illegal, as this witness made observations that provide a legal basis for the stop,” Walsh said, adding that if his office had proceeded to trial without the suppressed evidence, that would have “significantly” weakened the case against Morrison and Edmondson.
“A jury panel had to wait all morning and part of the afternoon — missing work or other personal obligations — only to be told that their service was not needed,” Zuromskis said. “Witnesses had to be called off. … (Now) we have to start over from the beginning — new suppression motion, preliminary hearing, everything. This costs the county a lot of money. Calling in a jury panel is expensive. I am a salaried employee, but the attorneys for the other three co-defendants get paid by the county at an hourly rate. So, because the DA did not like a ruling the court made, we get to do a do-over at taxpayer expense.”
This is not the fist time this year that Lisonbee has opted to dismiss and refile charges at the start of a trial. In August, Lisonbee asked for a week’s delay in order to subpoena a witness in the case against Brian Mack, one of four men arrested in a T-Mobile robbery In November 2018. When the judge declined the request, she dismissed his charges and then filed new charges.
“It’s not uncommon,” Walsh said at the time. “We can do that up to three times on serious and violent felonies.”
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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