Results tagged “Rebekah Mathis” from The Court Reporter

Alleged Gang Member with Loaded Gun Held to Answer for Trial

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Dillon Lee Mansell who is on parole and was allegedly caught by police walking down the street with a loaded gun denied that he was a Ventura Avenue gang member.

But shortly into his preliminary hearing, Mansell became exhibit A, so to speak.

The 20-year-old who was recently released from prison has a tattoo that is about an inch high across his left cheek --  "Avenue," it states.

Detective Todd Hourigan testified at today's preliminary hearing that Mansell also has a gang tattoo on the right side of his neck and on both the left and right forearms.

"He also has 'Ventura' across his chest," Hourigan told the court.

Mansell was spotted by a police officer on patrol walking eastbound in the 300 block of West Ramona and "was kind of hiding" behind a tree. The officer turned his vehicle around and eventually found Mansell hiding behind a red pickup, according to Hourigan.

The officer found a gun nearby that was wrapped in a blue bandana, said Hourigan. The weapon had a round in the chamber and there were nine rounds inside a magazine, Hourigan said.

During the preliminary hearing, prosecutor Anthony Sabo pointed out to the judge that Mansell who is out of custody brought an L.A. Dodgers baseball cap to court.

Hourigan said the Ventura Avenue gang uses the sports attire of the Los Angeles Dodgers to identify themselves as gang members because the blue baseball cap has the letters LA on the top of the cap. Avenue Gang members claim that the letters stand for "La Avenue," according to Hourigan.

Hourigan testified that he has had as many as 25 contacts on the street with Mansell  and  named several Ventura Avenue gang members who were seen with Mansell.

Mansell had agreed as part of his probation terms before being sent to prison for assault with a deadly weapon that he wouldn't associate with gang members.

Mansell's attorney Rebekah Mathis, who works with the Public Defender's Office, said Mansell could, indeed, be a gang member. But she said to prove that her client was an active gang member, prosecutors would have to provide more evidence than what was presented in court today.

She noted that Mansell's cousin is a gang member, that he grew up in that neighborhood, went to school, hung out and lived among many gangsters.

"He may be a gang member but that doesn't mean he is an active gang member," Mathis argued in court.

"Nothing shows that he is active," said Mathis.

Sabo disagreed, pointing to the tattoos, the LA Dodger baseball came he brought to court, having multiple contacts with police and he is just out of prison.

 "He's active," said Sabo.

In this country, however, people can be Nazis, criminal street gang members, motorcycle club members, the Mexican Mafia or Aryan Brotherhood members etc. because it isn't a crime to belong or associate with gangs.

Still, some defense attorneys argue  that police simply accuse many Hispanic youngsters as being gang members because they have shaved heads or tattoos or both.

So what constitutes an active membership? I ask Sabo.

(Right  then, I am thinking that it's like a credit card. You call an 800-number, listened to the recorded instructions and punch in some personal information to activate your VISA card membership. :) )

Seriously though, Sabo explained how it works.

In an interview, Sabo said authorities consider several things including how long was a person's last contact with police and crimes committed.

"You can be an active gang member on one incident," said Sabo.

Adding that in this case, the gun incident makes it a gang incident, according to Sabo.

But an active gang member might not have any arrest or incidents because he has managed to "stay under the radar" because he gets other people do his bidding, Sabo explained.

During the preliminary hearing, Judge Matthew Guasco ruled that there was a "strong suspicion" that the crimes were committed and held Mansell for trial.

Ojai Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Trying to Kill Sheriff's Deputy

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By Raul Hernandez

Ventura County Star

John Steven Atkinson who was found guilty of trying to kill a sheriff's deputy who was responding to a 911-call got a lengthy prison sentence today at Ventura County Superior Court.

Before Atkinson was sentenced to 23 years to life, he turned around and apologized to the female deputy's family who sat in the front row behind the prosecutor's table.

"I'd just like to say, I am horribly, horribly sorry for the thing that happened," said Atkinson.

In September, a jury found Atkinson guilty of attempting to murder a sheriff's deputy Traci Salmon during a struggle in the Ojai Valley in December 2010. Jurors also found Atkinson guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, second-degree robbery, false  imprisonment of his parents and two misdemeanor counts of elder abuse.

In addition, jurors found that Atkinson, 34, used a weapon, including a stun gun and radio, against  Salmon.

Salmon who wasn't in court had a prepared a one-page statement that was read to the judge by a district attorney employee.  It stated that she couldn't attend because it was more important to go on a field trip with her daughter than be in the same courtroom with her assailant.

She stated that on the morning of the assault she "stared at pure evil in the eyes" and all she thought about was what she would need to do to go home to her family.

 Salmon told about the fear of having a gun pointed at her face and hearing it click.

"I thought for a moment I was already dead," Salmon stated.

Salmon described how this incident had left her mentally scarred, leaving her with a feeling of isolation, having nightmares, and trying to deal with an emotional roller coaster that also impacted her family. She said she tried to go back to work but found that she was unable to do so because of her mental problems caused Atkinson, who, Salmon described, as a dangerous man.

"I am trying everything within my power to gain normalcy," Salmon stated in her statement.

Prosecutor Richard Simon said the entire community along with the law enforcement  were also victims because of what happened.

 Atkinson has schizophrenia and depression. He was admitted to Patton Hospital, a state mental facility, in October 2009 and released in September 2010, according to his lawyer Rebekah Mathis.

"He was suffering from mental illness. He had a complete psychotic breakdown. He didn't understand what was going on."

Mathis said Atkinson had two arrests for taking a vehicle and vandalism.

"His behavior has been good in jail," said Mathis.

Salmon, 33, was alone when she responded to a 911 hang-up call from a home in the 4900 block of Casitas Pass Road. Police say Atkinson had been terrorizing his parents John and Diane that morning and had struck his mother.

Soon after Salmon arrived, Atkinson attacked her as she was reaching for her Taser after she heard Atkinson's father, John, ask for help.

Atkinson's mother Diane Atkinson said the family loves him very much, asking the judge for some leniency in hopes that one day he can be released to be with his family again.

"John was a good boy growing up;. He never gave us any trouble," said Atkinson's father John, adding that all this changed when his son turned 30 and began displaying bizarre behavior.


The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at