Prosecutors are moving to dismiss an indictment against the gunman who killed Sacramento sheriff’s Deputy Robert French in a wild shootout last month, but it remains unclear whether the government is still seeking to seize his parents’ home because he skipped out on $100,000 bail.
Federal prosecutors in San Francisco filed court documents Thursday saying they planned to dismiss a drug possession and identity theft indictment against Thomas Daniel Littlecloud because he died after being wounded in the Aug. 30 shootout in Sacramento that also wounded two California Highway Patrol officers.
Prosecutors had been pursuing the forfeiture of the gunman’s family home in Castro Valley after he failed to appear for court hearings in the case in July. His mother, Nichole Littlecloud, had posted a $100,000 bond secured by her home to ensure his appearance at court hearings. When he failed to appear, authorities scheduled a hearing to seek forfeiture of the home.
An Oct. 6 hearing on that issue is still on the books, but the dismissal of the original indictment, which still must be approved by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, may signal that prosecutors will back off.
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Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Faerstein and Littlecloud attorney Erin Crane did not immediately respond Friday to emails and phone messages seeking comment. Littlecloud’s mother, reached at her home, declined to say whether she expected the forfeiture efforts to cease.
One former federal prosecutor said the dismissal of the indictment does not automatically signal that efforts to take the home must stop as well, but he added that he believed the government would halt forfeiture efforts.
“Unless the family who posted their home is somewhat complicit, forfeiture of the home – while legal – is really not justice,” said William Portanova, now a Sacramento defense attorney. “These things are within the discretion of the U.S. attorney, and that person has the authority to enforce the law and to make exceptions. And this feels like a good fit for an exception to the law.”
Thomas Littlecloud had an extensive criminal history in the Bay Area. After he went on the lam in July, his family and friends implored him on social media to turn himself in rather than allow his mother to lose the house.
Instead, he surfaced violently in Sacramento, where authorities tracking a car theft ring ended up in a shootout with him at the Ramada Inn on Auburn Boulevard. Deputy French was killed while pursuing Littlecloud, who fired a high-powered assault rifle as he fled. Littlecloud was later wounded and crashed his car on El Camino Avenue.
Litlecloud, 32, died from his wounds Sept. 2.
A forfeiture hearing for the home had been set for Sept. 8, but was postponed following his death. Prosecutors filed a status report with the court on Sept. 22 indicating that they would seek to dismiss the original indictment.
“In light of the reports of the defendant’s passing on September 2, 2017, the government has been making efforts to obtain confirmation of the defendant’s death, in particular, a certified copy of the defendant’s death certificate,” they wrote. “Once it has obtained that documentation, the government intends to file a notice ... seeking leave of the Court to dismiss the indictment against the defendant.”