The DA was insisting on six months of jail. He accused my client, his brother-in-law and friend of exceeding their catch of abalone for commercial sale. He charged him felony conspiracy, possession of an excessive number of abalone and possession of abalone for sale. This was Mendocino County, and he saw himself as a steward of the environment.
I was hoping to have the judge reduce the conspiracy charge to a misdemeanor because other than the fact that they had exceeded their limits (59 amongst three of them), there was no evidence that they were going to sell them. My client was hard-working dishwasher, and picked up more abalone than he should have because the tide was low.
The night before the preliminary hearing, the DA informed us that Fish & Game agents had connected phone calls between my client’s brother-in-law and the husband of a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. Tenuous, I thought. What does that prove?
Then, the DA informed me us the next morning that the owner of the restaurant confessed to buying abalone from my client’s brother-in-law. The evidence against my client was building by the second. He lived with his brother-in-law and had gone fishing with him many times. This was damning evidence.
This is when it is crucial to have an attorney who can communicate with the District Attorney. I was ready to fight on behalf of my client, but we needed to reach a resolution where my client would not go to jail nor face deportation.
Although the Assistant District Attorney had been insisting on six months of jail and the evidence had become stronger, my co-counsel and I were able to persuade him to change his mind the morning of the hearing. Yes, my client took a plea, but he was not going to spend a day in jail. That was a victory for him.