Monday, April 20, 2020
Court of Appeal:
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district held Friday that a man who was arrested at his home on Oct. 20, 2014, on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance but not charged until October 16, 2017, was not denied his right to a speedy trial.
There was a good reason for the delay, Acting Presiding Justice Laurie Zelon of Div. Seven said, pointing out that the arresting officer, Long Beach police detective Luis Rodriguez, was told to hold off on referring the matter to the District Attorney’s Office by a United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) agent. The telephone of the suspect, Luis Salto, had been tapped and, the agent explained, Salto was a minor player in a large conspiracy which the DEA was investigating.
Eventually others were federally indicted; Salto wasn’t; Rodriguez contacted the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office which opted to prosecute.
Salto moved for a dismissal of the charges against him—possession for sale of a controlled substance containing methamphetamine exceeding 20 kilograms and manufacturing a controlled substance other than PCP—based on the three-year delay in charging him. He maintained that the intervening death of a witness, Serefino Arroyo, a man who resided in his home, meant that the delay was prejudicial.
Shapiro Denies Motion
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Norman J. Shapiro denied the motion, saying:
“I don’t think there’s been a showing of much prejudice. The witness who died appears to be particularly uninvolved in much of anything. Any testimony he might have given is wholly speculative, assuming that there’s enough showing to shift the burden. I think the pending federal investigation was a valid reason for delaying the prosecution. The people acted swiftly after learning that the federal prosecution was no longer a problem for them. So I just don’t see a basis for due process here.”
Pursuant to a plea bargain, Salto pled guilty to the manufacturing count and was sentenced on Jan. 9, 2019, to four yeas in jail with credit for nearly two years, with three years of probation.
Salto obtained a certificate of probable cause and appealed based on Shapiro’s denial of his motion to dismiss.
Zelon agreed with Shapiro. She wrote:
“While a key witness’s death may in fact constitute prejudice…, this record contains no evidence suggesting that Arroyo was or could have been a material witness at trial. When interviewed at the scene of the October 20, 2014 search, Arroyo told detectives he had no knowledge of what was occurring in the house, and was unable to recall anything else about the incident. Salto does not suggest any manner in which this testimony might have benefitted Salto’s case.
“Salto’s suggestion that Arroyo’s testimony might have helped his case is, instead, purely speculative.”
She went on to say:
“Here, Rodriguez’s testimony that earlier charges filed against Salto in state court would have jeopardized an ongoing federal conspiracy investigation involving Salto and others supported the court’s conclusion that the prosecution’s delay was justified. Accordingly, the trial court acted within its discretion when concluding that the prosecution’s justification for its delay—neither negligent nor a deliberate attempt to gain a tactical advantage against Salto in the eventual state case—outweighed any speculative prejudice to Salto and denying Salto’s motion.”
The case is People v. Salto, B295061.
Copyright 2020, Metropolitan News Company