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Judge throws out key evidence in ex-con’s prosecution

By
From page A3 | July 19, 2014 |

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 jsullivan@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 5 comments

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  • Really?July 19, 2014 - 10:20 am

    This is crap. This person was released from custody with the condition that he submit his person and property to search, anytime of the day or night, with or without a warrant. Its called search and seizure. So as long as the officer didn't order the individual to stop and simply asked if he was on parole or probation, there should be no problem here. Society wants law enforcement to keep our communities safe but when they do they are second guessed, ridiculed, and contested every step of the way.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Julian WestJuly 19, 2014 - 4:38 pm

    he wouldnt have figured that out, without harassing him first. and harrassment is ok? stupid.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • just sayin'July 19, 2014 - 2:25 pm

    I have learned that judges are corrupt and they allow only what they want as evidence so they can control the outcome of any trial.I have no respect for the crooked judges. (we have a few good judges, but most are as we see in this case.)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • RonJuly 20, 2014 - 1:02 am

    The police officer Watts clearly violated the constitutional rights of Luna. I agree with Judge Dwight Ely for his justice and decision. To all of you who made negative comments against Judge Ely and Luna, it is obvious that you people are very judgemental do not fully understand the our law as well as our constitution. I suggest you all get out of the USA and migrate to Ukraine or Palestine where you belong.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • General Fadi BasemJuly 21, 2014 - 3:36 pm

    Ron is not being judgmental when he judges others as judgmental. Nope. Not at all.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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