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By Henrietta J. Burroughs            Follow East Palo Alto Today on
East Palo Alto Today                  Facebook    Twitter         Blog    
Thursday, February 14, 2013             
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Photo of Gregory Elarms         Photo of Patrick Brock addressing EPA City Council
Gregory Elarms         Patrick Brock

Before Gregory Elarms was released from jail last week, many in the community already knew that he was getting out of jail. It was not the news most, if anyone at the East Palo Alto City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 5 wanted to hear.

But Patrick Brock, an East Palo Alto resident, businessman and childhood friend of David Lewis, the man Elarms is accused of killing, spread the news. Brock told the council that he had heard about Elarms release earlier in the day from Lewis’ mother, Cora Lewis, that Elarms was being released because he had not been read his Miranda rights when he was arrested for Lewis’ murder in 2009.

Brock made his remarks to the council during the community forum session, when members of the public are allowed to address the council on issues of personal concern. He told the council, the city staff and the audience in the council chambers that he was putting the community on notice about Elarms release. Some at the meeting seemed stunned by the news, which on the surface, didn’t make sense.

At the time of his arrest, Elarms had confessed to shooting Lewis, an East Palo Alto activist, who had gained national and international recognition for the work he was doing to address drug addiction and the problems ex-prisoners faced when they returned from prison. For months, there had been few suspects in Lewis’ shooting on June 9, 2009 in a garage at the Hillsdale Shopping Mall in the City of San Mateo.

Shortly after his arrest for the crime, Elarms was declared incompetent to stand trial and was committed to several state mental hospitals until he was declared competent, which happened in May 2012.  The following November, the first-degree murder charges against him were thrown out and he was ordered released because the court ruled the San Mateo Police, who arrested Elarms did not read him his Miranda rights.

However, since Elarms was also charged with three felonies for the possession of weapons in jail, he was not released in November when the judge cited the Miranda violation. Instead, Elarms was ordered to remain in jail on $500,000 bail because he was found to have weapons in jail on three separate occasions. In one instance he was found with a sharpened toothbrush; on a second occasion, he had a sharpened Spork (an eating utensil that is a combination spoon and a fork), and on the third occasion, he was found with two sharpened pencils tied together to work as a stabbing instrument.

Elarms pleaded no contest to the felony charges. But, he requested that he be given another attorney, a request that was denied, as was his request to represent himself.

So, on Tuesday, February 5, hours before the East Palo Alto City Council held its meeting, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge, Craig Parson, ruled to grant the request of Elarms public defender, Jonathan McDougall, that Elarms be released from jail “on supervised own recognizance.”

Parson’s ruling allowed for Elarms’ release and it allowed him to remain out of jail unless he fails to appear at a court hearing or commits a new offense. Elarms requested that the court allow him to withdraw his guilty plea to the felony charges.

If found guilty of the felony charges, Elarms faces a maximum state prison term of four years, which is two years less than the sentence sought by county prosecutors. If he violates the terms of his release, then the four year maximum sentence can be increased. 

Parson made his ruling over the “vehement” protests of the San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Ivan Nightengale. 

Elarms case is scheduled to continue in the San Mateo County Court on March 5, 2013 at 9 a.m. when the presiding judge will rule on his request to withdraw his plea or impose a sentence.

When Brock updated the community about Elarms at the council meeting, he admitted that he was the bearer of bad news, but he urged that everyone just be calm and consult the police chief if they had an issue with Elarms release.

Henrietta J. Burroughs, the author of this article, can be reached at epatoday@epatoday.org.

For background information on this article, click on the links to other East Palo Alto Today articles below:

Accused now deemed sane
David Lewis' alleged murderer deemed competent to stand trial
Suspected murderer Gregory Elarms pleads not guilty
David Lewis’ alleged murderer could get maximum penalty
San Mateo Police: Making an arrest for murder
Suspect arrested for the murder of David Lewis