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Taft Midway Driller - Taft, CA
  • Not guilty plea entered by gold theft suspect

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  • One of the two men suspected of breaking into the courthouse Feb. 1, 2012 and making off with $1.25 million in gold was arraigned Wednesday in the Siskiyou County Superior Court.
    David Dean Johnson, 49, of El Cerrito pleaded not guilty to a single felony count of second degree commercial burglary and he denied the two enhancements pertaining to the value of the stolen items.
    Johnson was accompanied by his defense attorney Howard Williams of the Sacramento law firm Lieber Williams & Labin.
    Williams told the court the statutory bail amount for Johnson’s charge is $15,000 and he asked that court to lower his client’s bail.
    “Mr. Johnson is not a flight risk,” Williams said. “He turned himself in because he wanted to comply with the law. Mr. Johnson does not intend to flee from justice.”
    Siskiyou County Deputy District Attorney Martha Aker said due to the value of the items stolen, she believes Johnson has the means to flee.
    “Due to the seriousness of the charges and value of the theft we consider him to be a high flight risk. We ask that the bail remain at $1 million,” she said.
    “At this point the court is concerned about the risk of flight,” responded Superior Court Judge Karen Dixon. She ruled that Johnson’s bail will remain at $1 million.
    Dixon set Johnson’s preliminary hearing for April 12. Aker said she estimates the hearing will take three hours. At that time, the judge will hear testimony from investigators and determine whether there is enough evidence to hold Johnson to answer to the charge. Preliminary hearings are open to the public.
    Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said DNA evidence was collected at the crime scene and Johnson’s DNA has been collected for testing to determine if it matches.
    The Sheriff’s Department is working with the California Department of Justice crime laboratory in Redding, and he anticipates Lopey will take less than two weeks for the results to be confirmed. He declined to disclose the nature of the DNA evidence found at the crime scene, and the method of collecting Johnson’s DNA.
    Williams said if his client is found guilty of the charge, he faces a maximum sentence of six years in prison. He explained that under the state prison realignment plan, his client is prison-eligible due to the two enhancements.
    Johnson has been held in the Siskiyou County Jail on $1 million bail since he turned himself in Monday night, April 1 following the issuance of a warrant for his arrest.
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