Rosalio Ahumada, 08/17/12
A judge on Friday delayed a trial scheduled to start next month for a former Stanislaus County sheriff’s detective accused of four felony charges, including embezzling from the Sheriff’s Department and cultivating marijuana.
Defendant Kari Abbey also has been charged with conspiracy to commit unlawful evictions and child endangerment. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains free on bail as she awaits her trial, which was initially scheduled for Sept. 25.
During a pretrial hearing Friday, Michael Rains, Abbey’s defense attorney, said he needed more time to prepare. He told the judge he had just received discovery evidence and is expecting to receive more.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova granted the attorney’s request and canceled the Sept. 25 trial date. The judge scheduled Abbey to return to court Oct. 2 to schedule another start date for the trial.
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 preliminary hearing in December, Córdova dismissed the murder and manslaughter charges. However, the judge determined there was enough evidence for Abbey to stand trial on the other four felony charges.
The embezzlement charge stems from allegations by investigators and co-workers who said Abbey spent half of her time at the Sheriff’s Department attending to personal business associated with her family’s rental properties.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris has argued in court that Abbey had a pattern of unlawfully evicting tenants, sometimes shutting off utilities before forcing them to leave. He said Abbey had no right to evict Elias from a duplex on Donald Street in west Modesto, where the shooting occurred.
A search last year of property Abbey shared with her father yielded a sophisticated marijuana garden, several weapons, counterfeit bills, steroids and items taken from the Hayward Police Department. Abbey’s husband, Bennie Taylor, worked for the Hayward police until last year.
In a separate criminal case, Abbey’s husband and her father, James Abbey, have been charged with cultivating marijuana and conspiring to forcibly enter homes. Those charges were the result of an investigation into the fatal shooting of Elias.
A filed criminal complaint says Taylor and James Abbey unlawfully entered rental homes owned by Kari Abbey or her family. Harris also is prosecuting Abbey’s husband and father.
Prosecutors additionally have charged James Abbey with possessing a dangerous weapon (a sawed-off shotgun) and receiving a stolen handgun, according to the criminal complaint.
Taylor also is accused of child endangerment, illegally possessing steroids, possessing an assault weapon and illegally carrying a concealed handgun in a vehicle.
The men, both free on bail, also appeared briefly for a pretrial hearing in Córdova’s courtroom Friday morning. The hearing was continued until Oct. 2, when the judge is expected to schedule a preliminary hearing in their case.