Testimony began Wednesday in another Sacramento pot robbery murder trial, with a dealer once again getting killed, the prosecutor said, by somebody out to steal his weed and money.
"One good thing about being a marijuana dealer is people think you have money and you have weed, and that makes you cool," Deputy District Attorney Charles Gonzalez told a Sacramento Superior Court jury. "One of the bad things about being a marijuana dealer is people think you have money and you have weed, and you are a target to be robbed."
In the fourth trial of its kind this year in Sacramento, Nathaniel James Carter, 24, is the last of four defendants left to answer for the 10:55 p.m. Oct. 29, 2010, shooting death of Steven Carmassi, 35, in the Foothill Farms Shopping Center at Garfield Avenue and Auburn Boulevard.
Carter's two co-defendants pleaded out last week, before jury selection started in Judge Greta Curtis Fall's courtroom.
Dejohng Mariedenie Taylor, 23, jammed her car up behind Carmassi's pickup truck so he couldn't back out when Carter, according to authorities, approached the victim with a gun in his hand and demanded, "Gimme all your (stuff)." Taylor admitted her guilt to voluntary manslaughter Dec. 3 and is facing 12 years in prison, according to court documents.
Latice Marcus Collins, 26, pleaded guilty two days later to a first-degree felony murder charge. He is slated to be sentenced to 26-to-life when Carter's trial is over.
Collins admitted he jumped out of Taylor's car and ran up to the passenger side of Carmassi's white truck in the parking lot of the shopping center's SaveMart while Carter came up on the driver's side with a single-shot .22, Gonzalez told the jury in his opening statement.
"When people try to commit robberies," the prosecutor said, "bad things happen."
With Carter's gun pointed at him and Taylor's car blocking his rear exit, Carmassi jammed his truck into forward gear and hopped a berm in an effort to speed away, according to Gonzalez. The prosecutor said Carter fired once into Carmassi's chest.
Before he died, Carmassi burned rubber into Garfield Avenue, ran over the center divide, took out a traffic light when he swerved back southbound, then looped across Garfield south of Auburn and plowed into three cars parked outside a pool hall.
Deputies found $151 in cash and a medical marijuana certificate in Carmassi's wallet, two jars of marijuana buds on the back seat and two silver Bowie-type knives on the front floorboard.
Carter's attorney, Stan Kubochi, did not make an opening statement. In cross-examining one eyewitness Wednesday, Kubochi elicited testimony that she identified the robber on the driver's side of Carmassi's truck as a Latino. Carter is African American.
Sheriff's detectives didn't make any arrests for more than a month until investigators received an anonymous call pointing the finger at Taylor. The detectives took both her and Collins into custody Dec. 2, 2010. The two of them then implicated Carter, according to the prosecution's trial brief.
Gonzalez said that Carter took off for Lake Isabella in Kern County the day Collins and Taylor were arrested. The detectives tracked him down and booked him into the downtown jail six days later.
The robbers approached Carmassi the night of the shooting while he sat in his truck and waited to deliver a few buds of pot to a 16-year-old girl for whom "he had a soft spot," the prosecutor said. It turned out the teen, who authorities say sold marijuana for Carmassi, reluctantly but admittedly played a role in setting up his killing, according to the prosecution's case.
Carmassi's teenage friend is scheduled to testify at trial, along with another girl from the Keoncrest Circle neighborhood where the two of them and all the defendants either lived or hung out.
According to the prosecution, Carter and company approached the girl whom Carmassi liked and asked her to help them set up the pot dealer for the robbery. She refused at first, but agreed when Carter pressed harder, according to Gonzalez.
She told her friend that at the last second, she was going to warn Carmassi that he was about to get robbed, the prosecutor said. Standing across Garfield Avenue, Gonzalez said the girl did yell out "Matty!" Carmassi's nickname right before the robbery, but that the suspects were already on him.
The girl refused to cooperate with the investigation until authorities jailed her for 15 months, Gonzalez said. Under an arrangement worked out with the prosecution, she pleaded no contest in February and will be sentenced to time served if she testifies truthfully at trial, the prosecutor said.