Written by David Greenwald Tuesday, 15 January 2013 06:21
This past week, the local newspaper featured an article on one of the top professional skaters in the world, Nyjah Huston, who also happens to be a native of Davis. Mr. Huston, who just turned 18, is using his fame to help people less fortunate than he.
Writes the Davis Enterprise, "In 2008, Nyjah and his mother Kelle Huston formed a nonprofit called Let it Flow, which raised enough money to build a well in Ethiopia. Now, the Hustons have a new Indiegogo.com campaign that aims to raise funds by Jan. 18 to build four more wells in African countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania."
However, despite the tremendous success of Mr. Huston and his generosity, there is another story that needs to be told and it is at least part of the reason that Mr. Huston no longer resides in Davis.
The Vanguard just ran a story about Israel Covarrubias and Amaris Rodriguez, who for two and a half years faced marijuana charges with gang enhancements, which threatened them with thirteen years of prison time.
During the preliminary hearing held in July 2011, Davis Police Officer Kierith Briesenick described the incident that began on May 5, 2010, when police served a search warrant on the home of a Davis resident at the 1500 block of Cypress on the corner of Drexel. During the search, they found multiple bags of marijuana, scales and US currency. One of the residents, a juvenile, was arrested.
During the course of the arrest, the juvenile received a text from someone with the moniker of "Chico," whom police recognized as belonging to defendant Israel Covarrubias, about the availability of marijuana for sale. Police intercepted the call and used the phone to lure Mr. Covarrubias to the site for the purpose of selling one ounce of marijuana.
That home was owned by Kelle Huston.
"I'm facing charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor because on May 5th of 2010, the police acquired a search warrant to search my property," Kelle Huston told the Vanguard in August of 2011, in an interview she asked the Vanguard to hold while her charges were pending.
"They found approximately, I think it's around 23 or 24 grams of marijuana that my 17-year-old son had hidden in my bedroom closet, as a way to avoid his own personal probation charges," she said. "He would strategically place marijuana in my closet when I was gone, while I was gone all day at school and at work. So they found that in my closet and they tried to charge me with it."
"My son admitted to the police that I had nothing to do with it. And it was in fact his, and so they charged my son with it," she continued. "But then they charge me with contributing to the delinquency of a minor because they said, I should have known it was there."
Her 17-year-old son, Abhi, was on probation because he was originally arrested back in November of 2009. Based on a comment he made on MySpace involving a fight he had witnessed, police and DA investigators decided that this statement was an attempt to dissuade a witness.
That arrest was covered in a January 25, 2010 Vanguard article. Abhi Huston, still a juvenile at the time, would be charged with ten felonies - including 5 gang enhancements - for his role in a fistfight in front of her home on Cypress Avenue.
Kelle Huston, who at the time had her name withheld, told the Vanguard she arrived home one day in the early evening to find a number of kids dispersing from her property. Apparently one of her son's friends had fought another young man over a bicycle. In addition to the combatants, there were four spectators on each side watching them fight.
She said, "From what I could see I didn't even know there had been a fight. I definitely didn't see any weapons. There was no sign of blood or trauma, no yelling or screaming. No one was on the ground. I couldn't tell there had been a fight. None of the boys had told me there had been a fight."
Ms. Huston would only find out about the fight later when Officer Kierith Briesenick arrived at her home. She alerted Ms. Huston to the fight and asked for a statement from her son and friend. She informed the mother that the fight was a big deal and it involved baseball bats.
Mr. Huston got further involved in the legal mess when he made the decision to confront the second combatant's girlfriend on MySpace. According to his mother, he was simply asking the girl to tell her boyfriend to tell the truth. But the police took it as a threat and an attempt to dissuade a witness.
"Tell [name redacted] it would be best for him to tell the truth. If [his friend] gets hella time for this, it's going to be bad," the message read.
Ms. Huston told the Vanguard, "I was shocked, I was like, I can't believe this. My son is just telling him to tell the truth. This kid has made up a total lie about this crowbar. Now my son has been charged with ten felony counts."
Not only did they charge him with attempting to dissuade a witness, but they upgraded it with a gang enhancement.
In the end, they dropped all but one of the charges. But Mr. Huston did get probation for the dissuading a witness.
Copping to a plea reduced the severity of the charges, but it also gave the police and probation department license to frequent the home that the Yolo County Gang Task Force and Yolo County DA's Office labeled as a Norteño home.
Between Mr. Huston's November 2009 arrest and the May 5, 2010 incident, Kelle Huston believed that probation visited her home at least four or five times to do probation searches - which were limited to searching Abhi Huston's bedroom and common areas of their home.
When they came on May 5, 2010, Kelle Huston told the Vanguard that "the search warrant was in the name of my oldest son, Jahmai, my oldest son at home. And Jahmai has never been on probation, never been in trouble and somehow they managed to get a search warrant for him. And they never even ended up searching him at all. The officer found nothing in his bedroom."
After the May 5, 2010 incident, probation came to her home more frequently for searches.
"At one time they actually came on a Sunday night at 11pm and put guns, there were some young men sitting on the back patio, they put guns to their head, they had all the children lying down the ground, on the floor," she described. "I was out watching a music show at downtown Sacramento with one of my girlfriends. They searched the entire house, they had dogs, they went up in the attic, but they didn't find anything."
Kelle Huston accused Davis Police Officer Trevor Edens of fabricating police reports.
She said that in one report she saw, Officer Edens said that "on that day that when he was talking to me, that my eyes were red, that my fingers were green like I've rolled marijuana cigarette and all these ridiculous details, which none of it is true."
She said she has not smoked marijuana since she was pregnant with her son Jahmai back in 1990.
She said that, for some reason, when they searched her house on May 5, 2010, the first thing Officer Edens asked the kids was, "When was the last time you smoked with Kelle?"
At gunpoint, the kid said, "It's not like that; I've never seen Kelle smoke."
Kelle Huston did not know either of the defendants in the case where police lured Israel Covarrubias to the Cypress St. home.
She said she told police, "I have no idea. I don't know anybody by the name of Chico." "Chico" is the name that police allege Mr. Covarubbias goes by. "So then I come to find out later that Chico and his girlfriend live in Woodland, I've never met them. I wouldn't even have a clue what they look like even if you show me pictures."
In addition to Officer Edens, Ms. Huston also believed that Officer Briesenick had "a strong personal vengeance" toward her family and her home.
She told the Vanguard, "I remember her coming, I believe it was in maybe the summer of 2009. She came to my gate and said, "You know, I'm here with the gang task force and we want to search your property. We want to look around your property. We hear that there's a gang you're feeding here."
Kelle Huston regained custody of Nyjah following her divorce from his father in 2008. Originally, the father had maintained custody and resided in Puerto Rico, managing Mr. Huston's skateboarding career. However, after a lengthy battle in the family court system, she was able to win back sole custody in May of 2010.
Mr. Huston began skating when he was about five. By the time he was ten, he had already won the most recognized amateur skateboarding events in the US.
"He won that when he was 10 years old which is really unheard of. It's an all age event, it's not broken up into age groups," she said. The next year he entered the X Games and has been competing ever since.
He would win his first professional event in September of 2010.
There is irony, even here. When the police were investigating Abhi Huston, they confiscated a picture from a skate competition in the summer of 2009.
"That was a picture of me, my five children and a few of their friends were the background. And they all had skateboarding white t-shirts that said, "I am a skateboard" And they used that saying we were like a gang affiliate," she said.
The harassment from the authorities ultimately led to Kelle Huston moving her family to southern California.
"Ever since they charged me and continuously searched my home, I mean, I'm going to have to say that they have searched my home probably, I'm going to estimate 10 times in the course of a year and I think that's kind of ridiculous," Ms. Huston told the Vanguard.
She said, "Out of those 10 times, other than when they came with YONET and found that stuff in the closet, they found a piece of marijuana in Jahmai's bedroom that was about as big as that piece of chicken, and they continued to search us and come by. On a regular basis, they drive by on a Friday night and shine all those spotlights on my house."
The decision to move began forming one evening when Ms. Huston left to attend Celebrate Davis! and the fireworks display.
A kid came by the home, and had a fight with one her son's friends. She said, "[He] threw a brick like [from] a cement walk into the back of my son's car and also into my garage and broke on all windows on the top of my garage and shattered my son's rearview mirror glass."
She said that the police told Nyjah something to the effect of, "Oh, your mom is a violator and don't even bother to make a police report. This is a gang house and a drug house."
She said, "My son Nyjah, you know, was just standing there out of a shock. It's clear we have been vandalized by some kids driving by and the police are talking about my family and my house like we were the problem."
She said her kids were just sitting in the house, on the couch with a couple of friends listening to music and "obviously we're home...my three younger kids were home."
"I was just infuriated. I've come home, I see my garage windows were broken, my son's car smashed. I go down to the police department and I spoke to the night sergeant and I say, 'What's going on here?' " Some officers came to my home, they told my kids to tell their mom when she is home to not even bother making a police report and because of whatever reason I have no idea. They were slandering me so very much," she added.
The final straw came a bit later.
"So then the kicker to me though is that, you know, the police have been harassing us now since November 2009 when they initially put my son on probation for the MySpace comments and treating us like we're criminals. And the final kicker for me, though, was when I recently went to court for my son. I believe it was on June, I want to say June 8, and it was the day after he graduated high school," she described.
So when she went to court for a review, the DA told the court that they wanted to keep Abhi Huston on probation until he turned 21 (three years later).
As she put it, "Ever since he's arrested, he hasn't had any further charges. All of these major charges were dropped. Why do you want to keep this young man on probation?"
According to his attorney, the DA saw this as the opportunity to keep their home on searchable probation.
"They keep wanting to search my home even though they really haven't found anything," she said.
This left her with a dilemma. She said she could stay in Davis, where all of her children went to school, where she had lived since 2000.
But at the same time, moving to Orange County would provide her with opportunities to help her advance her son's career in skateboarding.
"For me it's a 50-50," she said. "But the fact that the police want to keep my son on probation until he is 21 and continue to drive by my house with spotlights, and continue to knock on my door and want to search my property is the weight that took this scales from me."
"For me it's a tough choice because I consider Davis my home. But it's the fact that the police will not leave us alone and they want to keep my son Ahbi on probation until he is 21, that's what tips the scales for me," she said.
Her legal counsel also advised her, "If you want - for the sake of your family - you should move out of this county."
Contrast that with the interview last week, where Nyjah and Kelle Huston are giving back.
She told the paper, "There are people in the world that have to (walk to get their water) every day and they aren't walking 500 feet. They're walking miles."
The paper reports, "To build a well with clean water, an average Ethiopian citizen would have to save their roughly $1,000 annual average pay for four years without any expenditures.
"The campaign hopes to raise a total of $18,000 and, through Wednesday afternoon, had received $9,314. For contributing to the cause, donors can receive different Nyjah Huston prizes such as an autographed T-shirt, an autographed skateboard deck, or even a private skate session depending on the amount donated."
"I want people to know the human side of Nyjah beyond the skateboard," Kelle Huston told ESPN in December. "His upbringing has given him a unique perspective on life, and I think he has a lot to share. Clean, safe water is something that most Americans take for granted and I know that we wouldn't be so passionate about it had we not experienced it ourselves."
Unfortunately, no longer in Davis.
---David M. Greenwald reporting
> Star Athlete and Family Leave Davis Following Years
> of Alleged Harassment by Authorities
As a “skater*” who spent time hanging out with other “skaters” in SF in late 70’s/early 80’s I can tell you that 99.9% of skaters are breaking the law so they are not being “harassed” by authorities, the authorities are just doing their job (many nights our main plan was to get the cops to chase us)…
About 5 years ago I was running by the home mentioned in the article (down the street from Holmes Junior High) and walked in to the back yard when I heard guys skating on a big half pipe. We talked about the half pipe I had as a kid and I impressed them with stories of skating with Tony Hawk and Stevie Caballero.
I’m not an “authority” and I walked in to the yard to chat not “harass” but I’m guessing that they may describe someone who has a problem with kids that look like they go to the Junior High down the street smoking pot as “harassment”…
*"skater" is to "kid with skateboard" as "biker" is to "guy with motorcycle"
I think it was a good idea for Ms Huston to move. Some times parents need to remove their children from a group of friends to keep then from getting in trouble. It's pretty clear that marijuana and groups of kids with a tendency to be involved in illegal activity were attracted to Ms Huston's house for whatever reason. Not to mention that Davis isn't exactly a hub for aspiring professional skateboarders. Let's not gloss over that fact simply to carry on a crusade against law enforcement. This is another opinion piece that requires at least a moderate amount of reading between the lines.
> SOD: First, I think that's ludicrous generalization
> that 99.9% of skaters are breaking the law.
Do you also think that it is a "ludicrous generalization" that 99% of "bikers" (real “bikers “ the guys with rocker patches and 1% patches on their jackets) are breaking the law?
I had a "Skateboarding is not a crime" sticker on my skateboard in college, but sadly it was against the law to ride anywhere on campus (and just about anywhere in the city off campus).
> So the level of attention and the level of
> harassment did not match the actual crimes
> that we know occurred there.
Why do you write the actual crimes that "WE" know occurred there? Do "YOU" personally know all the crimes that occurred there (remembering that most people like Lance Armstrong don't just come out and admit committing crimes)...
P.S. Did "you" know that Nyjah was doing all this stuff on campus?
This article really doesn't have much to do with the "star athlete" who is the subject of the headline......
It appears to me from reading the above that the mother is either 1) clueless as to what her teenage kids are doing, or 2) actively assisting them in breaking the law. Either way, the intervention of law enforcement appears warranted. As reported in this article, the house has become a magnate for ne're-do-wells, druggies, and brawlers. How about interviewing the neighbors, and asking them how they feel about living next to people who attract these activities? Doesn't the rest of the neighborhood have a right to the peace and enjoyment of their property?
I am very concerned with the unethical and immoral practices of the DA's office and their cronies. However, it seems to me that this has nothing to do with race (as intimated in the article), and that the local police in this instance have reason to be concerned about this particular property and its inhabitants.
"Do you really think The Vanguard would publish an opinion on this topic that doesn't support the narrative? "
The Vanguard does so all the time. I don't have any direct knowledge, but remember two of the critical cases that emerged on this property were Ms. Huston's son who was charged with 10 felonies and 5 gang enhancements plus the case from last week. Both of those were plead down to misdemeanor offenses without incarceration time. So it seems the police and DA were overly aggressive.
Does that mean that Ms. Huston is right, not sure. But the discrepancy in charge and result should be a red flag here.
Once young men get on the radar of the juvenile justice system in Yolo County, it is almost impossible to extract them until they "age out" and leave town. Many families have the wherewithal to hire good lawyers, ship their boys out of town, enroll them in private drug programs and private schools to avoid their children from being sucked into this system. But others mistakenly think that reasonableness will prevail. DAs involved in juvenile cases are usually young, new prosecutors who are eager to demonstrate their effectiveness (aka conviction rate). Reasonableness is not a characteristic of the Yolo County DAs Office. Ms. Huston thinks that she is alone in this, but she is not. That said, Ms. Huston should not have allowed drugs to be in the home and her kids did her no favors by bringing it home. It sounds like moving was the best thing for the family to do for many reasons.
"Rusty, count yourself lucky! Any little thing could bring you to law enforcement's attention and you'd be in the same position. You don't have to have done anything wrong to start the ball rolling."
Or just maybe it could be that my kids kept their nose clean and we never had any drugs in our house. I would hope to think that parenting had a lot to do with that.
"I will be willing to bet you, that I can find people just like you, who ended up with kids that got into some trouble."
No doubt you could, Siegel, but that's not the point. Some of those people that you could find would also enable their errant teens, or would be completely ignorant of their activities, either of which Ms. Huston appears to be doing. Others would act differently, taking action to make sure that their teenagers acted responsibly, and not make excuses or blame others for their plight.
The point that I believe good ol' Rusty is making is that THIS particular parent (Ms. Huston) has made bad choices with respect to how she allows her children to behave.
*"skater" is to "kid with skateboard" as "biker" is to "guy with motorcycle"
"Nyjah Imani Huston (born November 30, 1994) is an American professional street skateboarder and, in August 2012, was the overall champion at the Street League Skateboarding contest series." (Wikipedia)
David, do you see a heavy, vertical, black line running through this page and only this page?
Morpheus has got the situation about right; based on meeting the Mom after the alleged baseball-bat fight altercation (I happened to be walking by on the way to Nugget) another possibility is that Mom is in (self)-denial about some of her sons activities ("my precious darling can do no harm" syndrome).
I've lived a few blocks away from the house for many years, and often walk or bicycle by on the way to Nugget market and drugstore. The youths that used to hang around there were definitely starting to adopt a gang 'tude; just getting to the point where I was getting concerned about emerging gang activity in my neighborhood. Kudos to the Davis pd for nipping this one in the bud; I would guess some of their closer neighbors agree but would prefer not to comment publicly. I hope their involvement in positive activities continues in their new place of residence; and they can leave some of the more negative activities in the past. I am sorry that they feel they need to move; however they should understand that because of past activities, naturally they would be under more scrutiny by law enforcement.
Since the baseball bat/fight incident (and presumably law enforcement response); there has been very little presence of teens hanging out with an emerging gang 'tude; for which I am grateful. Perhaps law enforcement nipped a situation in the bud that could have grown into a gang issue.
There's a reason why juveniles who get into trouble are not classified normally as criminals, and that is because people under the age of 18 are considered impressionable and not fully mature. The line has to be drawn somewhere, and so that line has come to be drawn when a child turns 18, whereupon the child becomes an adult.
I don't want my future kids growing up in a world that threatens to punish them as if they were adults, when they are not adults. Treating children unjustly like this constitutes a much greater injustice than the temporary effects of relatively minor incidents that minors may get caught up in, for whatever reason, because it steals away their childhood and surely *increases* the risk that they become troubled adults. It's not only bad (wrong), philosophically, but it's bad in practical terms, too.
I don't know Ms. Huston, but I couldn't help but notice that, on at least a couple of occasions, she described not being present (she was instead present at social events) when the incidents involving law enforcement and probation transpired. Did she ever elaborate as to why or if she was worried about leaving her kids alone? Did she ever comment that she had concerns about doing so?
I don't mean to pass judgement and this fact may be irrelevant. Just something that stood out.