A San Luis Obispo police detective testifying in court Monday said no witnesses have been able to confirm that four Cal Poly football players arrested in connection with an attempted armed robbery at an off-campus fraternity house were at the property that August night.
The four, of a total of five arrested Aug. 10, were in court Monday for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.
While one defendant in the case — Cameron Akins, 19, who is accused of brandishing a gun, assaulting an officer and was the only defendant arrested at the scene — is awaiting a second arraignment, defense attorneys for the four others attempted Monday to poke holes in officers’ investigation into the incident.
Cortland Fort, 20, of Fontana; Dominique Love, 19, of Poway; Jake Brito, 18, of Cypress; and Kristaan Sterling Ivory, 20, of Los Angeles are facing multiple felony charges including conspiracy for their alleged roles in the incident during which members of Delta Sigma Phi were allegedly held at gunpoint.
On the witness stand Monday, San Luis Obispo police Detective Eric Vitale, the main investigator in the case, testified that evidence suggests all five defendants left a party on Aug. 10 with the intent to steal marijuana, cash and electronics from residents at the frat house.
Speaking to Deputy District Attorney Eric Dobroth, Vitale recounted his interviews with residents who claimed two men appeared on the property with their heads and faces masked by hoodies and bandanas, one carrying a small, unloaded derringer-style .38-caliber pistol.
Vitale testified that residents told him one of the men disappeared and the man carrying the gun held residents at bay while other residents went to retrieve valuables and either fled or stalled.
Akins was arrested on the property after one of the frat members allegedly wrestled the gun from him when officers arrived. Akins also allegedly briefly scuffled with officers.
Attorneys for the four other defendants crammed into one side of a San Luis Obispo courtroom and took turns questioning Vitale, each calling into question their own client’s involvement — and in some cases, presence — during the incident.
When asked by each of the defense attorneys if their clients were ever identified by witnesses, Vitale said they were not.
Chris Casciola, representing Fort, argued that Fort did not even know the other defendants, having been in town only two weeks. He said Fort’s phone, which was initially confiscated by police, showed no evidence he ever communicated with the others.
Fort was arrested driving away from the area in a car rented by another person who had attended the party earlier.
“He had been asked to drive because he was the only sober person,” Casciola said, adding that Fort was stopped by a patrol officer while driving without his headlights on because he was unfamiliar with the car.
Ivory’s attorney, Jacob Glucksman, argued that there was no evidence Ivory ever set foot on the Delta Sigma Phi property and that he tried to discourage others from going through with a robbery.
“He thought what was going on or about to go on was a bad idea,” Glucksman said. “(He) never did a single act in furtherance of this conspiracy.”
Denton Wilson, representing Brito, said his client was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“There’s no evidence my client agreed to this robbery. My client never said anything that night,” Wilson said. “He was along for the ride.”
Vitale described interviews with three female witnesses who claimed to have seen seven to eight masked men “lurking” around the property.
Under cross-examination by Casciola, Vitale said he did not take part in a police search of the frat house two days after the alleged robbery, during which officers allegedly found drug paraphernalia and marijuana packaged for sale.
Gear McMillan, 22, a former president of the local Delta Sigma Phi chapter, was arrested following the search on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sale, a felony. He has pleaded not guilty.
The hearing will resume Tuesday afternoon with Vitale again on the witness stand.