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3-Strikes Case Against LA Man Dismissed

New America Media, News Report, Words//Photos: Ken Kim Posted: Sep 06, 2008

LOS ANGELESEdmond Brandy, who has two prior felony convictions, has been fighting for nine months against allegations of threatening a motorist and his passengers with a gun on an Orange County freeway. Under Californias three strikes law, the oil refinery worker could have faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

But late Thursday night, Brandy, five days after his 33rd birthday and a day before a motion for dismissal was scheduled to be heard, walked out of the Orange County jail, a free man. Several hours earlier, the Orange County District Attorneys Office decided the charges against him should be dismissed. The evidence, which tied him to the alleged crime, was not enough to prove his guilt.

Edmond Brandy with his family

The whole thing seemed unreal, Brandy said. Ive never aimed a gun at anybody. Ive never owned a gun in my life. Ive been an innocent man all these days.

Brandy had a sudden urge to go to bathroom on his way home in the family car that drove him away from jail. When his wife, Raeleen Taylor Brandy, asked him whether she should stop the car at a gas station, he told her to continue to drive. I just want to get away from Orange County, he told his wife.

Brandy's ordeal began on the morning of Oct. 26, 2007. Adrian Arias called 911 to report a road rage incident on the eastbound freeway 91 in Orange County, telling the authorities that the driver of a Volkswagen had threatened him and his three fellow passengers with a gun.

The California Highway Patrol conducted a two-month-long investigation into the incident, and discovered that the registered owner of the Volkswagen was on active parole for committing an armed robbery.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 13, 2007, authorities raided Brandys South Los Angeles home. Although the officers and detectives from California Highway Patrol found no gun, they arrested him.

In the interest of Justice, our office felt that we couldnt prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt, Susan K. Schroeder, a prosecutor with the District Attorneys Office, said. Technically, he can be charged again but that is less likely to happen. The DAs office dismissed the case without prejudicemeaning the case is dismissed but the state is allowed to bring a new prosecution on the same claim.

According to Schroeder, upper levels in the DAs office began paying attention to the case after the preliminary hearing in early July.

Adrian Arias was unable to positively identify Brandy as the person who threatened him and his girlfriend with a gun, although he had previously picked out his mug shot from a photo line-up of six suspects.

The victims descriptions of the gun that Brandy allegedly brandished are inconsistent. Arias and his girlfriend Johanna Hipolito told the police they saw a black gun with a round barrel. However, the third victim, Ray Monroy, described it as a nickel-plated semiautomatic weapon with a square type barrel. The DAs office wasnt able to locate Monroy for the hearing.

Police have been unable to find the weapon that was allegedly used.

Judge James O. Perez, who presided over the preliminary hearing, warned the prosecution about weakness in the case. He said he wouldnt vote for conviction if he were a juror.

Its travesty for this man to sit in jail for many, many months just based on clumsy evidence, said Lonnie Brandon, Brandys attorney. The race of Mr. Brandy and the locale where the incident allegedly occurred has everything to do with why the authorities kept him in jail.

Brandys arrest last December not only devastated his family, but shook the African-American community in Los Angeles. Brandy has worked to change his life, dedicated himself to his wife and two young children, and was helping at-risk teenagers make the right decisions after getting out of prison. Recently, prominent local African-American politicians and grassroots organizations began showing interest in Brandys case.

It was past 11:30 p.m. Thursday night when a dozen family members and friends showed up at Brandys modest South Los Angeles home. They presented Christmas and birthday gifts for Brandy.

Raeleen Taylor Brandy cried softly in a corner of the living room, overwhelmed by the ecstatic reunion. Brandy, too, was blinking back tears, as he embraced his wife, his 2-year-old son and his sister, Deborah Brandy, an elementary school principal.

I need to pick up things from where I had been forced to leave them behind, Brandy said. But tonight, Ill just try to have a nice, good sleep. Ill think about the rest tomorrow.

We still have many questions about Edmonds case, said Deborah Brandy. At the same time, we will do our best to help him get back on his own feet, as we have done all these years.

Kenneth Kim is a Los Angeles-based reporter for New America Media.

Related Articles:

L.A. Dad Faces Third Strike on Weak Charges

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Stealth Initiative Threatens California Youth, Immigrants

Legislators, Exonerees Call for Criminal Justice Reform

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