Written by Vanguard Court Watch Interns Friday, 08 February 2013 06:26
By Vanguard Court Watch Interns
In Department 2 under Judge Fall on Monday February 4, 2013, the jury was selected for the case of Alberto Medina, charged with committing a felony by the possession and sale of methamphetamine.
Mr. Medina, represented by Frank Sage, is charged with five counts: first, possession of a controlled substance, second sale of meth; third, the transportation of meth; fourth, the offer to sell meth and armed with a firearm; and fifth, the possession of meth greater than 28.5 grams for sale and armed with a firearm.
After the jury was selected in the afternoon, DDA Michael Vroman gave his opening statement.
On October 14, 2009, Medina helped negotiate and conduct the sale of methamphetamine to two undercover officers in Napa. Officer Schneider, one of the undercover police officers involved, tried to buy about 30 ounces through Medina.
After purchasing 35oz. of meth, Officer Schneider arranged for a second purchase from Medina to sell $16,000 worth of meth to "a friend," who was also an undercover officer.
Medina became suspicious at the second meeting with Officer Schneider's "friend," when he believed he was being watched and moved the meeting location to a parking lot at a Carl's Jr.
Officer Schneider got into the car with Medina and negotiated for about an hour until Medina told him to go to another car at the lot to get the one pound of meth with Medina still in visual distance.
The officers busted Medina and his accomplice during the transaction. Unlike the first transaction with Officer Schneider earlier that day, Medina had a rifle in the front passenger that was concealed within a cut-off leg from some blue jean pants.
After Mr. Vroman presented his opening statements, Defense Attorney Frank Sage reserved his opening statement.
Undercover Officer Testifies in Medina Drug Trial
Alfred Medina is on trial for sale and possession of methamphetamine. His arrest was the result of surveillance, informant information and an undercover operation.
This afternoon, the jury heard a recording from the wire worn by undercover agent Schneider just prior to the arrest. Medina can be heard in the background, speaking Spanish on a cell phone. When he relays information to Schneider it is in English or Spanglish.
Officer Schneider was heard speaking only English. The negotiations continue for over an hour, consisting mostly of "show me the money, no you show me the drugs." Eventually, Medina dropped Schneider at a fast food parking lot, directing him to a vehicle driven by Anthony Zuniga. Mr. Zuniga attempted to sell the drugs to Schneider and all are arrested.
When a recording is played in court, a written transcript is usually prepared and issued to the jury so they have a clearer understanding of the dialogue. Those of us in the gallery have to suffer without a transcript. The tape played on Tuesday was mostly unintelligible; so I had time to wonder if the Spanish portions had been translated for the jury.
Defense Attorney Sage opened his cross-examination with a similar line of questioning. This is what we learned: Schneider does not speak or understand Spanish. Most of the portions in Spanish were marked "unintelligible" on the transcript. The portion of the recording in Spanish has never been translated. A juror who understands Spanish would have information about the case not available to the other jurors.
If you were riding around town with an alleged drug dealer, trying to make a $16,000 purchase of a pound of meth, would you not be curious about those "unintelligible" parts of the conversation? Curious to know your life was in danger. Curious to know your case may be in jeopardy.
Medina Claims to Have Quit Using Meth
Alberto Medina took the stand and testified under cross-examination by Deputy DA Michael Vroman that on October 14, 2009, at lunch he told Officer Schneider that the company he worked for closed during winter.
Mr. Medina claimed he never told Officer Schneider that he said he wasn't making any money during the period of closing.
Mr. Medina used meth for six years and stopped after his arrest. He didn't go to any residential or outpatient treatment. He just said he no longer was using it. He had needed to use meth every day for six years.
It is up in the air whether or not Mr. Medina could stop a six-year addition in four to five days. Mr. Medina said his body asked for the drug but he decided not to use it. However, no one has ever asked him to take a drug test since his arrest, and he said on the stand that he would be willing to if he were asked to.
Officer Schneider said Medina thought that he was being followed. So Mr. Medina wanted to change locations.
At the parking lot of the Carl's Jr., Medina never indicated to Officer Schneider that he wanted to call off the deal. Officer Schneider said he never pressured Medina to stay.
Mr. Medina never got out of his car, so he could have simply reversed and driven off and left. Mr. Medina was a middleman.
Officer Schneider said middlemen complicate things, and more problems can arise in undercover operations. Middlemen are usually paid off with drugs or money, some form of compensation.
Officer Schneider said that smoking meth was about five times better than the pleasure of having sex.
Mr. Sage asked Officer Schneider whether, if Perez promised drugs to Medina knowing he is an addict, he [Officer Schneider] would have allowed it.
Officer Schneider responded with his opinion that it is important to catch the big dealers and to take a pound of meth off of the streets.
Public Defender Sage then proceeded to ask Officer Schneider if it is possible for people to quit cold turkey for three years after smoking every day for six years.
Officer Schneider responded that it isn't probable with his own experience. However, there is no evidence to prove Medina has smoked. Sage said that Officer Schneider doesn't know everyone in the universe so it could be probable that Medina quit successfully.
The trial wrapped up on Thursday. The Vanguard will report on closing arguments and verdict on Monday.
"Schneider does not speak or understand Spanish. Most of the portions in Spanish were marked "unintelligible" on the transcript. The portion of the recording in Spanish has never been translated. A juror who understands Spanish would have information about the case not available to the other jurors."
Interesting complication. But, how could the Spanish be identified "unintelligible" if no translation was made? If this is accurate, the DA needs to put a Spanish speaker to work on the tapes.
"Officer Schneider said that smoking meth was about five times better than the pleasure of having sex."
Did the officer get court-qualified as an expert?