Driver in Grass Valley taco run case held on drug sale charges | TheUnion.com

Driver in Grass Valley taco run case held on drug sale charges

Rhonda Needles

The driver of a truck that reportedly was full of stolen property was held to answer on drug charges Tuesday.

The truck was stopped in the parking lot of Jimboy's Tacos by a police officer after one of the occupants allegedly used a stolen debit card to pay for their meals.

Rhonda Lee Needles, 43, was in Nevada County Superior Court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing into the evidence against her.

But Needles and her co-defendants, Christian Aaron Davis and Leia Perez, are not currently facing any criminal charges for the stolen items that have been linked to vehicle break-ins.

"With three people in the truck, it was unclear, initially, who had knowledge of" the stolen property, Nevada County Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said.

According to Walsh, the investigation into those burglaries is ongoing and the defendants still potentially face additional charges.

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Davis currently is only charged with misdemeanor possession of an ingestion device, has pleaded not guilty and is set for a pre-trial conference on Friday. Perez is facing a misdemeanor charge of providing false information to a peace officer.

The trio was arrested on Aug. 21 after a woman monitoring the use of her stolen debit card was notified that it was being used at Jimboy's. An employee confirmed it had been used by someone who was still there and described the suspects as two women and a man in a white Chevrolet pickup.

Grass Valley Police officers stopped the truck and during a search reportedly found multiple IDs, backpacks, purses, wallets, keys, cell phones and laptops.

Inside the vehicle, they reportedly found the methamphetamine that constitutes the bulk of the charges against Needles.

During Tuesday's evidentiary hearing, Officer Christopher Roberds testified he was on patrol when he responded to the restaurant on Nevada City Highway and blocked the truck from leaving the parking lot.

According to Roberds, he could hear his own radio transmissions coming from the truck as he approached. Davis, who was seated in the back, was holding a tablet and later admitted to using a scanner app.

Officer Tyler Blake testified that he searched the truck and found a small zippered butterfly-print case on the driver's side floorboard, resting upright against the center console. Inside the case, Blake said, was a "large amount" of meth, as well as syringes and 40-50 unused baggies.

Blake said the meth weighed in at 18 grams, which he said was too great an amount for personal use. He testified that a gram would typically sell for $40 to $60, but admitted that a buyer might get a discount for a bulk purchase.

Needles' attorney, Deputy Public Defender Micah Pierce, argued that there was not enough evidence to link Needles to the case containing the meth.

Pierce also sought to convince Judge Robert Tice-Raskin that Needles should not face a charge of wrongful interception of a public radio communication.

After all, he pointed out, Davis was the suspect actually in possession of the scanner, questioning whether Needles should be vicariously liable because she didn't plug her ears.

Deputy District Attorney Ed Grubaugh, however, said the case containing the meth was stashed in the perfect place for Needles to be able to access it for surreptitious drug sales. And, he said, if she was engaged in drug sales then having a scanner in the truck showed "guilty intent."

Tice-Raskin noted that he accepted the officers' testimony and found enough evidence to hold Needles on the charges of sale of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sale and unauthorized scanner interception. She was set for formal arraignment on Sept. 17.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.