2 Convicted In Series Of Oakland Break-Ins Targeting Asians
OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Two men were convicted Monday of about 60 felony counts each for a series of 12 home invasion robberies in Oakland over an eight-month period last year in which they mainly targeted Asian immigrants.
Romier Simmons, 26, of Stockton, and Christopher Malbrough, 24, of Hayward, face life in state prison when they are sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson on May 18.
Jurors deliberated for three days before reaching their verdicts late Thursday afternoon. Jacobson asked the jurors to wait until Monday to announce their verdicts because there were so many counts that it would take a long time to read them all in court.
Oakland police said Simmons and Malbrough targeted victims who did not speak English well because they would be less likely to report the crimes to authorities.
Prosecutor Laura Passaglia said that 11 of the 12 robberies charged in the case involved victims who were from Asia or Southeast Asia.
The charges of which Simmons and Malbrough were convicted include first-degree residential robbery and kidnapping. They also were found guilty of using firearms during their crimes.
Passaglia told jurors in her closing argument last week that the robberies were “incredibly scary and violating” for the victims.
“Your home is a place of sanctity, but these two selfish men entered their homes with the intent of terrorizing people,” Passaglia said.
The prosecutor said Simmons and Malbrough used guns to “threaten kids, dogs and the elderly.”
The victims ranged in age from 2 to 69.
“They humiliated people and bragged about it later,” Passaglia said.
Lawyers for Simmons and Malbrough told jurors that the evidence against them was too unreliable to find them guilty.
Attorney Frank Lang, who represents Simmons, said many of the victims couldn’t identify the men in court at all, and that the prosecution’s most reliable witness was only 60 percent sure they were the culprits.
“The identification of the suspects is subject to a whole lot of doubt,” Land said.
But Passaglia said multiple victims identified Simmons and Malbrough as the suspects, and that DNA evidence also tied them to the robberies.
“The evidence in this case is overwhelming,” Passaglia said.
Simmons and Malbrough each pleaded no contest last Aug. 5 to one count of first-degree robbery with the use of a firearm as well as to 18 counts of second-degree burglary in a plea bargain that called for each to be sentenced to 26 years in prison and be eligible for parole when they are in their mid-40s.
But Jacobon allowed them to withdraw their pleas late last year after the two men said they had changed their minds and wanted to go on trial.
If their convictions stand, it is now likely that they’ll never get out of prison.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)