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DA Appeals Dismissal In East Palo Alto Community Leader’s Killing

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Hillsdale Mall shooting, David Lewis

Police on the scene of the June 9, 2010 shooting at Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo. (CBS)

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EAST PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office has announced that it will appeal a judge’s decision to throw out murder charges against Gregory Elarms, the man accused of fatally shooting East Palo Alto community leader David Lewis outside the Hillsdale Shopping Center in 2010.

Superior Court Judge Stephen Hall last week ruled that San Mateo police had inappropriately obtained a confession from Elarms in violation of his Miranda rights, rendering his confession inadmissible at trial.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe called the judge’s decision “erroneous,” and vowed to appeal the ruling.

The district attorney’s office has 60 days from Nov. 6 in which to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal, which would return a ruling in 12 to 18 months, Wagstaffe said.

In the interim, Elarms remains in custody on $150,000 bail and faces three separate charges of possessing a sharp object while in custody since his arrest in December 2010, Wagstaffe said.

The objects were a sharpened toothbrush, a sharpened “spork” and two sharpened pencils tied together, according to prosecutors.

Elarms on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to all three charges and is expected to be back in court for a bail hearing on Nov. 19.

Elarms, an East Palo Alto native with an extensive criminal history, was taken into custody about six months after Lewis was shot once in the stomach in a parking lot at the mall on June 9, 2010.

Lewis, a reformed drug addict and convicted felon, had been active in the East Palo Alto community as an advocate for rehabilitation and re-entry programs for ex-cons.

On Dec. 18, 2010, Elarms—who was not a suspect at the time—allegedly contacted San Mateo police detectives and claimed to have information about Lewis’ killing, according to police.

Prosecutors said Elarms requested police protection because he believed his life was in danger.

Detectives offered to meet with Elarms, and while he was in police custody but before he was arrested, he allegedly confessed to the murder and “muttered” something about needing an attorney, Wagstaffe said.

Elarms was arrested, and since then has been in custody in San Mateo County Jail and at Atascadero State Hospital.

After an extensive review of the case with the state Attorney General’s Office, prosecutors believe that the confession was properly obtained and should be ruled admissible, Wagstaffe said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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