‘Date and rob’ plotter pleads no contest to robbery | TheUnion.com

‘Date and rob’ plotter pleads no contest to robbery

One of the defendants in an alleged plot in which a woman allegedly lured a 64-year-old man out on a Craigslist “date,” then robbed him at knifepoint, has taken a plea agreement and faces two to three years in state prison.

The victim, who has not been identified, reportedly thought he was going on a date with Debbie Delois Pristavec, 32, whom he said he met through a Craigslist ad. Pristavec, Ryan Christopher Weeks, 25, and a 17-year-old boy allegedly lured the man to a meeting spot in Grass Valley on July 26 and then stole his wallet at knifepoint.

The victim allegedly fought with the suspects, striking one on the head with a bottle, then the trio allegedly fled in a vehicle. The three suspects were arrested a short time later, and officers allegedly located the victim’s missing cash – about $250.

In Nevada County Superior Court on Aug. 30, Weeks pleaded no contest to second-degree robbery in return for a possible two- to three-year prison sentence; the charge carries a maximum penalty of five years. His sentencing was set for Oct. 1.

Pristavec has pleaded not guilty to robbery and criminal conspiracy. She was in court Thursday, but indicated she intends to hire a private attorney. A felony conference was set for Sept. 13.

In other court news:
A Nevada City man’s motion for a new trial on a pot-growing conviction was denied last week.

Eric Engstrom was found guilty in March 2010 of unlawfully growing marijuana; the verdict initially was set aside, but was reinstated after a successful appeal by the District Attorney’s office.

Nevada County narcotics task force members had found a cultivation set-up with about 80 marijuana plants and 2 1/2 pounds of buds during a Feb. 20, 2009, search of Engstrom’s Cascade Shores home.

The amount of marijuana found and the potential yields of Engstrom’s hydroponic garden factored into the jury’s decision, and Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger’s decision to grant a new trial. Jurors said expert witness testimony from a “cannabis consultant” on the potential yield of Engstrom’s grow was incorrect, so they used their own calculations.

In his motion for a new trial, Engstrom claimed there was insufficient evidence to convict him and that the jury was provided with incorrect instructions. He also sought to have the conviction set aside due to incorrect advice from his defense attorney, Stephen Munkelt. Engstrom claimed he had been offered a misdemeanor plea, but that Munkelt told him he would win the case.

After a hearing Aug. 28, Heidelberger denied Engstrom’s motion. She offered him drug court, over the objections of the prosecution, and his case was to be transferred to Santa Clara County, where he now lives.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail lkellar@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4229.

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