The jury trial for a pair of former Hancock College basketball stars charged with murder, robbery and multiple burglaries resumed Wednesday in Lompoc Superior Court, with testimony heard from the alleged burglary victim, robbery witness and the homicide victim's friend.
Defendants Lavell Calvin White and Ali Mohammed are represented by defense attorney Michael Scott and Senior Deputy Public Defender Lori Pedego, respectively. Mohammed is accused of having the alleged murder weapon used to kill 23-year-old Terence Richardson near the apartments on Bradley and Jones Street on Dec. 30, 2014, during a drug deal.
On Tuesday, prosecutor Stephanie Savrnoch claimed that days prior to Richardson's death, White tried to find another dealer to rob, and often asked his fellow schoolmates if they knew of anyone he could "rip off to make quick money."
"You'll hear that Lavell White said he believed the dealers here in Santa Maria were soft compared to the ones from Gary, Indiana, where he's from, meaning they weren't armed and easy prey," Savrnoch argued Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday Richardson's friend Ryan DePalma testified he told police the two male suspects who robbed him Dec. 30 stood just a few inches taller than he -- between 5 feet 7 inches tall to 5 feet 10 inches tall. At that point, Scott, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall, had his client, White, stand up next to him.
It was then DePalma admitted that White is, in fact, significantly taller then the suspects he described to the police after Richardson was killed.
DePalma resumed his testimony Wednesday, telling jurors that during his interview with detectives, he had, in fact, been "set up to be robbed" by Hancock football player Mike Thomas just three months prior to Richardson's death, under defense questioning.
At that event, DePalma testified he drove to the Montiavo Apartment complex where Thomas lived to complete the drug sale. A man answered the door, then "ripped off my weed," he said.
"The guy was maybe about 6'2," he said, also noting that the man who answered the door was not White.
In addition to robbing DePalma, it's alleged that the defendants burglarized multiple homes and robbed another drug dealer named Eric Decos under the pretense of buying pot three weeks before Richardson died.
The prosecution also alleged that during one of the burglaries on Rubel Way, the pair stole an Apple laptop/desktop computer from Brandon Burton and David Deleon's home in late November, and White later told his friend Justin Armwood that he got the computer from "a lick," meaning theft.
On Wednesday morning, Deleon testified briefly, stating that his apartment manager at the Montiavo complex informed him that his front door was kicked in while Deleon was away during Thanksgiving break.
When he checked his room, Deleon testified, his Apple laptop/desktop computer was missing, along with some jewelry and clothes, although he had not witnessed the burglary itself.
Deontae Barnes, Decos' friend and former Hancock football player, who was in the passenger seat when Decos was robbed, was called next to testify.
During questioning from both the prosecution and defense, Barnes maintained over and over again that he didn't remember the specific details of the robbery during a marijuana deal, and that police kept pressuring him for details when he was taken in for questioning in February 2015.
On Dec. 5, Barnes testified, some football players were throwing a party at the College Gardens complex off Bradley. Prior to that, Decos had called him, asking him to come with him during a marijuana sale in that area, he said.
When Decos parked in the alleyway next to the complex, "that's when we got robbed of all this stuff," said Barnes under Savrnoch's questioning. "It was two people."
Then, Barnes identified the two suspects as Mohammed and White, who were seated at counsel table in the courtroom.
According to Barnes, he himself stepped out of the car so that Mohammed could get into the passenger seat when he approached them. Then, Mohammed pointed a gun at Decos who was sitting in the driver's seat and demanded him to "give me all your (expletive)."
White allegedly joined the group outside later, and had a black handgun, also demanding that Decos give him everything he had.
"I was just standing nearby, but I don't know what they stole," he testified. "I had no idea Eric was going to get robbed. I was just minding my own business."
Barnes said he knew both defendants played basketball at Hancock, and, also, said he never saw football player Gentry Oden anywhere near the scene.
Under Scott and Pedego's questioning, Barnes admitted that he wasn't forthcoming to police officers when they questioned him two months after the incident.
Barnes also admitted originally denying witnessing the robbery, but when they began "pressuring me and took my phone away," that's when he began sharing more details, and confirmed that two men robbed his friend.
Testimony resumes Thursday.