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The People v. Rigoberto Valencia

November 28, 2011


(Super. Ct. No. 08F07468)

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

P. v. Valencia



California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

A jury found defendant Rigoberto Valencia guilty of conspiracy to transport methamphetamine (declining to find the greater offense of transporting it from a noncontiguous county), in which he was substantially involved in the planning and which involved a quantity greater than a kilogram. It also convicted him of the underlying offense.*fn1 Defendant waived his right to a jury trial on the allegation of a prior drug conviction under Health and Safety Code section 11370.2, subdivision (c), which he then admitted. The trial court sentenced him to 10 years in prison, granting conduct credit equal to his presentence custody. Defendant's notice of appeal did not request a certificate of probable cause (CPC).

Defendant contends the trial court erred in ruling that his 1997 federal conviction for conspiracy to possess heroin with intent to distribute was admissible under Evidence Code*fn2 section 1101, subdivision (b) to show knowledge and the absence of mistake. He further asserts that the totality of the circumstances surrounding the admission of his prior drug offense do not demonstrate that it was voluntary and informed.

As we will explain, his appeal from the latter is inoperative because he did not obtain a CPC. Further, we find no abuse of discretion in the admission of his prior conviction. We shall affirm.



The Crime

A confidential informant, working with federal and state officials as a pretextual participant in drug transactions, learned Ceja and his brother were involved with methamphetamine and sought to initiate a deal to obtain a large amount of the drug. Ceja called the informant and said he knew someone from San Jose who could get six pounds for $21,000. At the direction of his police contact, the informant arranged to meet in a Home Depot parking lot on September 8, 2008 (rather than at Ceja's brother's home, as Ceja suggested). The informant got a call from Ceja on the scheduled date to postpone the exchange for a day because his San Jose supplier would be coming with him and had to be in court.*fn3

The informant spoke with Ceja early on the following morning to confirm the meeting at the Home Depot. The informant parked in the lot and waited for several hours, during which Ceja called him multiple times to say that they were on their way from San Jose. Ceja initially told the informant that they would be driving a gold Lincoln Navigator; however, on his arrival he called to say that he was driving a white van with lettering on it. The informant then saw a white van with "Mr. Chimney" on its side drive by and leave the lot.

In the meantime, police surveillance saw a gold Navigator registered to Ceja arrive at the same time as the white van and circle around the parking lot several times. Two people inside the Navigator appeared to be scouting the area.

The white van returned and parked on the street. The informant could see Ceja was driving. Ceja called him and said he wanted to complete the deal at his brother's house because he saw suspicious cars in the parking lot. The informant said he needed to see the "merchandise" for himself, after which they could complete the exchange at the nearby home of the informant's purported customer. The informant walked over to the van, and Ceja got out. Ceja phoned someone (whom he referred to as his supplier; his cell phone records showed a call to his brother during this time) to ask if it was acceptable for the informant to see the drugs in the parking lot. Apparently getting permission, Ceja opened a cooler that he took out of the van, and the informant saw the six pounds of methamphetamine in containers.

During this same time, police surveillance saw the Navigator park in a lot across the street. The passenger went into a fast-food establishment and returned to the car a couple of minutes later. The Navigator drove back to the Home Depot parking lot.

The informant told Ceja that he needed to phone the purported customer to tell him that they would be coming over. He returned to his ...

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