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The People v. Carlos Robinson

October 28, 2011


Superior Court of Contra Costa County, No. 05-050746-7, Charles B. Burch, Judge. (Contra Costa County Super. Ct. No. 05-050746-7)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simons, J.

(received from court 11/1/11)


Carlos Robinson (defendant) appeals from the judgment entered following a jury trial that resulted in his conviction of assault on a peace officer with an assault weapon, possession of heroin for sale, being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and participation in a criminal street gang. The jury found true sentencing enhancements associated with various counts. On appeal, defendant contends the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence discovered following a warrantless entry into a residence. We conclude denial of the motion was proper under the independent source doctrine. Among other things, we conclude the police did not violate the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution by testing a key in the front door lock to the residence; the information gained by testing the key is, therefore, properly considered in applying the independent source doctrine. We also reject defendant's contentions that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the offense of brandishing a firearm in the presence of a peace officer as a lesser included offense to the assault charge, that gang enhancement findings are not supported by substantial evidence, and that the trial court committed error under Penal Code section 654.

The People cross-appeal, contending the trial court erred in staying an enhancement to the assault charge for commission of a violent felony for the benefit of a criminal street gang (Pen. Code, § 186.22, subd. (b)(1)(C)).*fn2 We conclude the California Supreme Court's decision in People v. Rodriguez (2009) 47 Cal.4th 501 (Rodriguez) did not obligate the trial court to stay the enhancement because section 12022.53, subdivision (e)(2) expressly authorized imposition of enhancements under both section 186.22(b)(1)(C) and section 12022.53, subdivision (b).*fn3 We remand for resentencing and otherwise affirm.


An indictment filed on May 20, 2005, in Contra Costa County Superior Court charged defendant in counts 1 and 2 with assault on a peace officer with an assault weapon (§ 245, subd. (d)(3)), with enhancements for personal use of a firearm (§ 12022.53(b)), carrying a firearm in the commission of a street gang crime (§ 12021.5, subd. (a)), carrying a firearm with a detachable magazine in the commission of a street gang crime (§ 12021.5, subd. (b)), and commission of a violent felony for the benefit of a criminal street gang (§ 186.22(b)(1)(C)). Count 3 charged defendant with possession of heroin for sale (Health & Saf. Code, § 11351), with enhancements for being armed with a firearm (§ 12022, subd. (c)) and commission of a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang (§ 186.22(b)(1)), and a probation ineligibility allegation for possession of more than 14.25 grams of heroin (§ 1203.07, subd. (a)(1)). Count 4 charged defendant with being a felon in possession of a firearm (§ 12021, subd. (a)(1)), with an enhancement for commission of a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang (§ 186.22(b)(1)). Count 5 charged defendant with being a felon in possession of ammunition (§ 12316, subd. (b)(1)), and count 7 charged him with participation in a criminal street gang (§ 186.22, subd. (a)). The indictment also included allegations relating to defendant's prior convictions.*fn4

In June 2009, a jury found defendant not guilty on count 2, and guilty on counts 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7. The jury found true the enhancements alleged as to counts 1, 3, and 4.

In August 2009, the trial court sentenced defendant to a prison term of 30 years, including consecutive 10-year terms for both the section 12022.53(b) and the section 186.22(b)(1)(C) enhancements to count 1. Subsequently, the trial court resentenced defendant and imposed a new sentence of 29 years four months in state prison, including 10 years for the section 12022.53(b) enhancement; the court stayed the count 1 section 186.22(b)(1)(C) gang enhancement.

Defendant appealed and the People filed a cross-appeal as to the trial court's order staying the section 186.22(b)(1)(C) enhancement to count 1.


Around 10:00 a.m. on February 17, 2004, then Richmond Police Officer Amy Bublak was responding to a report of a burglary when she heard 13 to 15 gunshots coming from the 300 block of Sanford Avenue (Sanford). She drove her patrol car down Filbert Street (Filbert), in the direction of the gunfire, and observed a silver Volkswagen on Sanford moving toward her. As the Volkswagen entered the intersection at Sanford and Filbert, Bublak moved her patrol car forward causing the Volkswagen to stop with its passenger door in front of the patrol car's bumper. The passenger in the Volkswagen leaned out of the window and aimed a rifle at Bublak for about 10 seconds. At trial, Bublak identified defendant as the person who pointed the rifle at her.

The Volkswagen drove off and Bublak pursued it. The Volkswagen stopped at 221 Sanford, and the driver and defendant exited the car and fled on foot. Defendant turned, briefly pointed the rifle at Bublak a second time, and then continued fleeing.

Multiple officers responded to the area to assist Bublak. Expended cartridges were recovered from in front of 319/321, 324, and 330 Sanford.*fn5 A lot with two residences is located at 319/321 Sanford; 321 Sanford is behind 319 Sanford. Bublak had recovered a set of keys from the ignition of the abandoned Volkswagen, and one of the keys fit the front door of 321 Sanford. Without obtaining a warrant, police officers entered 321 Sanford and found heroin, marijuana, drug packaging materials, and ammunition. The police also found photographs, and Bublak identified defendant in one of the photographs as the person who had pointed a rifle at her.

Two witnesses saw the shooting that preceded the incident involving Bublak. Christopher Barfield testified pursuant to a plea agreement. On February 17, 2004, Barfield was living at 412 Sanford. That afternoon, he saw defendant arguing with others over a drug sale. Defendant ran to a house across the street and emerged shortly thereafter holding an assault rifle (a police officer testified that Barfield told him defendant retrieved the weapon from 321 Sanford). Defendant fired at the men he was arguing with, and they returned fire with handguns. Defendant then fled up the street and encountered a police vehicle. He pointed the assault rifle at a female officer in the patrol car. Defendant then continued running on Sanford and met up with his brother, who was driving a Volkswagen.

The second witness to the shooting, Cal Harris, lived across the street from 319/321 Sanford. On February 17, 2004, he was standing at his front door when he saw a man shooting a gun directly across the street from his house. He could not identify the man. In an earlier statement to the police, Harris said he had seen the shooter go into 321 Sanford, apparently before the shooting occurred. At trial, Harris testified the shooter entered a blue, full-sized car and drove off. In his earlier statement to the police, Harris said the man ran down the street after the shooting.

Cynthia Peters, a confidential informant for the police, was at a construction jobsite in February 2004 when she heard gunfire. Defendant ran by her holding an assault rifle. Peters knew defendant because she had purchased heroin from him about 50 times. On one occasion she purchased drugs from him inside 321 Sanford.

Inspector Shawn Pate of the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office testified as an expert on Project Trojans. Project Trojans is a criminal street gang based in a 13-block area of North Richmond. Its primary purpose is the sale of narcotics, including heroin. There are several Project Trojans gang subsets. The subsets have independent narcotics sales operations, and a member may not sell narcotics outside the geographic boundary of his or her subset. Members of a subset will attack outsiders who attempt to sell drugs in their territory. The Yard is a subset of Project Trojans involved primarily in heroin sales. The Yard's "focal point" is 330 Sanford.

Pate opined that defendant and his brother, Ronnie Thrower, were members of Project Trojans on February 17, 2004, based on the assumed facts, among others, that they ran a significant heroin sales operation from a house in the 300 block of Sanford and photographs taken from 321 Sanford depicted defendant with persons flashing Project Trojans gang signs.

Pate also opined, based on Barfield's observations, that the shooting on February 17, 2004, involved a dispute between defendant and another person over the sale of narcotics to a customer. According to Pate, defendant's use of violence would benefit Project Trojans by maintaining order in the gang's narcotics sales operation. Defendant's act of pointing an assault rifle at Bublak would benefit the gang by holding her at bay, thereby allowing defendant and other members of the gang an opportunity to escape and hide or destroy evidence. Defendant's violent conduct would also benefit the gang by instilling fear in the community about cooperating with the police.

Defense Case

Barfield's mother denied that Barfield lived in her home at 412 Sanford in February 2004 and denied that he was present there on the day of the shooting. Barfield's brother also testified that Barfield was not at 412 Sanford on February 17, 2004.

Defendant's mother testified that 321 Sanford was rented for her, but she discovered that her oldest son, Thrower, was selling heroin from the residence. Defendant visited her at the 321 Sanford residence, but he was not involved in Thrower's drug sales. She moved to Fresno and was not living at the residence on February 17, 2004.


I. The Trial Court Did Not Err in Denying Defendant's Motion to Suppress

As explained above, following the alleged assault on Bublak, police officers made a warrantless entry into 321 Sanford, using a key retrieved from the abandoned Volkswagon. Once inside, the police observed narcotics, narcotics paraphernalia, and ammunition. Richmond Police Detective Mitch Peixoto included those observations in an affidavit in support of a search warrant for the residence. The magistrate issued the warrant. Defendant moved to suppress all evidence recovered from 321 Sanford. He contended the warrantless entry was unlawful, and issuance of the warrant was based on the police officers' observations during that illegal search. Although the trial court found no exigency justified the warrantless entry, it concluded the warrant affidavit, excised of the fruits of the unlawful entry, still contained probable cause for issuance ...

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