MODESTO — A judge on Monday scheduled a preliminary hearing to start May 7 for two men accused of conspiring to forcibly enter rental homes owned by their family. The defendants are the husband and father of a former Stanislaus County sheriff's detective awaiting trial on four felony charges.
Along with the charges of unlawful entry, Bennie Taylor and James Abbey are being prosecuted on charges of cultivating marijuana.
While their cases are related, former Detective Kari Abbey is being prosecuted independently. She is accused of embezzling from the Sheriff's Department, cultivating marijuana, conspiracy to commit unlawful evictions and child endangerment.
All three defendants appeared Monday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Michael Rains, Kari Abbey's defense attorney, asked the judge to postpone rescheduling his client's trial until after the conclusion of the preliminary hearing for her husband and father.
Judge Ricardo Córdova granted the postponement and scheduled Kari Abbey to return to court May 24 to schedule her trial. The preliminary hearing for Taylor and James Abbey is estimated to last about a week.
Before Córdova scheduled the May 7 hearing, he heard arguments over a motion for discovery evidence.
Kirk McAllister, Taylor's attorney, argued that his client is being vindictively prosecuted. He said authorities went after Taylor when the district attorney's office failed in its murder case against his wife.
Kari Abbey initially was charged with second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in connection with the off-duty shooting death of Rita Elias, 31, who brandished a BB gun during a confrontation with Abbey in September 2010.
At the end of Abbey's 2011 preliminary hearing, Córdova dismissed the murder and manslaughter charges. However, the judge determined that there was enough evidence for Abbey to stand trial on the other felony charges.
The charges against Taylor and James Abbey were the result of an investigation into the fatal shooting of Elias.
A search in 2011 of property the former detective shared with her father, James Abbey, yielded a sophisticated marijuana garden, several weapons and steroids.
James Abbey also faces charges of illegally possessing a sawed-off shotgun and receiving a stolen handgun. Taylor also is accused of child endangerment, illegally possessing steroids, possessing an assault weapon and illegally carrying a concealed handgun in a vehicle.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris denied McAllister's allegation of vindictive prosecution, telling the judge his office made it clear there was an ongoing investigation into what was found at the Abbey home. The prosecutor said the office always intended to file criminal charges; it was not retaliatory.
Claims of vindictiveness
McAllister told the judge that Taylor's arrest is an example of the DA's office's vindictive behavior. The defense attorney said he offered in October 2011 to surrender Taylor should there ever be a decision to prosecute him. Instead, he said, authorities ignored his offer and arrested Taylor at his son's T-ball game.
Based on his argument of vindictive prosecution, McAllister asked Córdova to order prosecutors to hand over information including:
Logs relating to the activity of all officers involved in the search of Taylor's home March 30, 2011, and Taylor's arrest March 20, 2012.
All written communication, including emails and text messages, relating to surveillance of Taylor.
All memos, reports, notes and meeting minutes relating to the district attorney's office's decision to arrest Taylor and its decision to file criminal charges against him.
Córdova denied the defense's request to obtain that information. But he ordered the prosecution to provide the defense other materials, including background information about potential witnesses and evidence collected in the investigation. Some of the materials already had been provided.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.