The Vanguard has a new home, please update your bookmarks to

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Young Man Faces 7 Years in Prison for Allegedly Stealing Less Than $100 Worth of Property

During the course of following cases such as the Buzayan case, I have often openly wondered on this blog what would happen if the individuals involved did not have the vast resources of the Buzayan Family. Unfortunately, I have now learned the answer and for now 21 year-old Jeffrey Lockwood it is going to change the rest of his life.

In June of 2005, Jeffrey Lockwood had no record, no priors. According to his mother, Tammy Lockwood, he had never even seen the inside of the principal's office in school. He went to high school in Woodland and was a baseball star. But his life would change forever when he went to party at a friend's house.

It was there that he allegedly took a female that he only knew from one class upstairs into a closet and fondled her. Then he supposedly took her to another bedroom and had sex with her.

He denies both actions. Witnesses at the party deny both actions. According to his mother even the DNA evidence suggests that it was not him. Nevertheless, the girl accused him of rape.

According to his grandfather, the rape case would have been resolved if he had pled guilty to "consensual sex with a minor less than three years younger," however the young Mr. Lockwood insisted that he had never touched the girl and the case went to trial. The girl was just under 18 and Mr. Lockwood was just over 18.

In that case, he was represented by Bob Blasier, renowned defense attorney who had worked on the OJ Simpson Dream Team in 1995. Despite not being able to introduce key evidence showing the girl had used sex issues in the past when she was mad at someone, including a sexual harassment charge against a fellow student that result in that student being expelled from school for six months, Mr. Blasier nearly was able to get Mr. Lockwood acquitted.

According to Mr. Blasier and the family, the jury deadlocked 9-3 with the 9 favoring acquittal.

The district attorney involved in this case tells a different story, according to Steve Mount, the jury indeed reached a 9-3 verdict, but it was really 3 to 3 with six others in the middle realizing that it was hopelessly deadlocked they apparently agreed to hang and all voted against the verdict. Those familiar with such cases were skeptical of Mr. Mount's claim, nevertheless, Steve Mount made it clear that this case will be revisited.

Unfortunately for Jeff Lockwood this was not the end of his dilemma but simply the beginning.

Three weeks after the rape incident allegedly occurred, Mr. Lockwood was drving to Gamestop in Woodland with a friend who was perhaps more of an acquaintance, Dennis Pineda. When they arrived at the Gamestop, Mr. Lockwood saw the contents of the bag. Apparently they belonged to the brother of Mr. Pineda.

However, once Mr. Lockwood helped Mr. Pineda carry the bags into the store he became involved in the situation despite immediately going back outside, something that was caught on the video tape. Upon being questioned by the Woodland Police Department, Mr. Lockwood admitted that he had helped to carry the stuff into the store even after learning that it was stolen. The officer told him that his story matched what they saw on the video, but he would probably be charged with receiving stolen property, a misdemeanor.

However Deputy DA Steve Mount made a deal with Pineda and he received six months probation for the burglary despite a fairly lengthy record and Mr. Lockwood only having the pending rape charge. According to both the family and their attorney, Pineda told several different conflicting stories to the police and the court.

Nevertheless, Jeff Lockwood was charged with felony burglary since he had allegedly taken the Playstation from Pineda's brother's house. This despite the fact that the only evidence tying Mr. Lockwood to the house was the testimony of Mr. Pineda. There was no physical evidence that Mr. Lockwood had ever set foot in the house.

The worst part for the Lockwood family is that during the course of financing Jeff Lockwood's defense during the rape trial, his mother mortgaged her house. They paid out over $100,000 in legal expenses, an amount not dissimilar to what the Buzayans had to pay. In short, they simply ran out of money to pay for Jeff Lockwood's defense. So for the burglary charge, they were represented not by Bob Blasier but by the Yolo County Public Defender.

Because the burglary charge is a felony and deemed a serious charge, it carries with it a mandatory sentence of seven years in prison of which he can serve no less than 85%. The value of the Playstation was deemed to be less than $100.

On Friday of last week, Jeff Lockwood was found guilty of first degree burglary. He has been remanded into custody in Monroe detention Center, where he is being housed in the section with the most violent inmates, since he is listed as a sexual offender, despite the fact that he was never convicted of the rape charge. He resides next to the man who is on trial for killing the California Highway Patrol Officer.

There are a number of aspects of this trial that are disturbing. Judge Johnson resided over both trials. Apparently during the first trial he made disparaging remarks about the defendant being a privileged high school baseball player. Despite these comments, he was allowed to preside over the second trial as well.

Furthermore the family alleges that when arrested Mr. Lockwood was questioned despite repeated requests for counsel. This they claim was caught on videotape.

The most troubling aspect is that had the family been able to retain the services of Bob Blasier, he likely never would have been convicted on the burglary charge. According to my sources, this particular Public Defender has a reputation for being a very poor defense attorney.

While Jeff Lockwood certainly was not blameless here. He used incredibly poor judgment in aiding Pineda with the stolen property, itself a misdemeanor. He probably chose poorly in who he associated himself with. However, he also does not deserve to face at least 7 years in prison and possibly 13 years total if they get a conviction when Steve Mount retries the rape trial.

Nevertheless, this appear to be yet another case of overzealous prosecution by the Yolo County District Attorney's office. When I spoke to Deputy DA Steve Mount, he told me since this was still ongoing he could not speak to the specifics of the case.

What I want to ask is why he decided to charge Mr. Lockwood for first degree burglary rather than plea down to possession of stolen property, a misdemeanor. And second, I really want to know what the community interest is in sending a young person to prison for seven years for stealing less than $100 worth of property.

Finally, to this community, I wonder how many more of these cases there actually are. Since I began this blog a year and a half ago, more and more people have come forth with simply mind boggling stories about the way this District Attorney's office handles itself. The unfortunate thing about it is that even if you are innocent and you lack the resources, they will eventually wear you down. And once you end up in the Public Defender's office, things can go either way.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting