FAIRFIELD — Nearly three months ago, an ex-con who has been to prison four times was ordered to stand trial on three felony charges for what started as a casual conversation with a police officer in a Vacaville motel parking lot.
At a Friday court appearance, Judge Dwight Ely gave the probationer a huge break.
Police Officer Erik Watts testified he saw Julio J. Luna Jr. walk through the Motel 6 parking lot on Lawrence Drive around 10 p.m. on the night of Jan. 14, according to Watts’ testimony. Their casual conversation included Watts asking Luna if he was on parole or probation.
It stopped being casual when Luna said he was on probation and that one of the conditions of his probation was that cops could search him whenever they want. Watts decided to search Luna’s car and motel room, but he was unable to confirm with his dispatchers what Luna had told him.
The search of Luna’s motel room turned up methamphetamine and gold-plated brass knuckles. Behind an air conditioning vent, Watts found three stolen drivers licenses, a stolen passport and some stolen checks.
Luna’s defense lawyer claimed the search was unconstitutional and wanted the drugs, brass knuckles and stolen identification all barred as evidence from an upcoming jury trial.
In spite of hearing about the motel being an area rife with crime, Ely ruled that the casual conversation was inappropriate and that Watts had no reason to be asking Luna questions. Ely agreed with the defense lawyer and ordered Luna to return to court July 30 to see if prosecutors will drop the felony charges he faces.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.