The mother of the gunman believed to have killed Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy Robert French last week won a delay Thursday in the government’s efforts to seize her Castro Valley home because her son skipped out on a $100,000 bond in July.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston signed an order in federal court in San Francisco approving a postponement of Friday’s scheduled hearing until Oct. 6.
The order came in response to a request from attorneys for Nichole Littlecloud, whose son, Thomas, died after a shootout with Sacramento law enforcement officials last week.
Thomas Littlecloud died Saturday following the confrontation at the Ramada Inn at Auburn Boulevard and Watt Avenue, and a funeral for the deputy was held Thursday.
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Nichole Littlecloud declined to comment Wednesday when reached at her home, but the proposed order filed by her attorney is the first step in the family’s effort to convince the government not to take the house.
Thomas Littlecloud had been free on $100,000 bail since August 2016, when Nichole Littlecloud, who is identified in court papers as his stepmother, posted the bond with her home as security.
He was scheduled to appear at two hearings in July to accept a plea agreement in a case charging him with possession of methamphetamine and weapons and aggravated identity theft, but he failed to show for either.
“The court thereafter issued a no bail arrest warrant, and the defendant currently remains at large,” prosecutors wrote in court papers filed Aug. 10 seeking forfeiture of the home.
The motion noted that the conditions of his release stated that if he failed to appear “all cash or property posted to secure it shall be forfeited.”
“The interests of justice require forfeiture of the full bail amount here,” prosecutors wrote.
That led Littlecloud’s friends to post messages online urging him to turn himself in rather than let the government take the family home.
But with Littlecloud’s death Saturday, it is not clear whether prosecutors will continue efforts to seize the home.
One former federal prosecutor said the suspect’s death removed the incentive for the government to pursue forfeiture.
“Technically, once he failed to appear he’s in violation of the bond and you could lose the house,” said Sacramento defense attorney William Portanova. “But when he surrenders or is captured, the incentive disappears because the purpose of the bail bond is to secure his appearance.
“So, while the law may allow it, unless the person posting the property is somehow complicit it is extremely unlikely they would take the house. Honestly, the purpose of bail bond is to provide an incentive for the bad guy to surrender, and the theory is that if mom posts her house even bad guys should have some soul sufficient to protect mom.”
The last prominent example of a home being seized by government forfeiture in this region came in 2000, when U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia ordered the seizure of a home owned by the mother-in-law of fugitive Constantine Pappadopoulos.
Pappadopoulos, a prominent Sacramento developer, was convicted along with his wife Katherine in connection with a 1992 fire that destroyed their Arden Oaks mansion.
Constantine Pappadopoulos fled to his native Greece before sentencing and is believed to still be living there. Because he is a Greek citizen, he is not subject to extradition.
His wife served seven years in prison and died in 2008. Her mother, Joyce Drakos, had pledged the house to secure the pretrial release of the couple, and federal authorities allowed her to live in it until her death in 2000.
The government subsequently seized it, but later sold it back to Drakos’ son.