Riverbank City Councilman Jesse James White will stand trial on drug possession charges, a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday.
Judge Thomas Zeff made the ruling after a three-hour preliminary hearing in which prosecutor Doug Raynaud previewed the case against White, 21, who was arrested May 14 after deputies said they found cocaine and marijuana in his home and car.
Defense attorney Mary Lynn Belsher tried to poke holes in the prosecution's case, citing problems with the physical evidence, and saying Raynaud didn't prove White owned the substances or knew they were there.
White will be arraigned July 15 on charges of felony possession of cocaine and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
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During Wednesday's hearing, Stanislaus County sheriff's deputies assigned to Riverbank said they found cocaine in the bathroom and marijuana in the kitchen of White's home and in a Hummer he owns. White was subject to search after being placed on three years' informal misdemeanor probation June 4, 2007, when he pleaded no contest to "wet and reckless" driving.
Belsher said White had roommates in the past and that several people frequented his apartment. She said the drawer where the cocaine was found wasn't one used by White.
Deputy Josh Humble testified that he found the cocaine in a drawer with a razor, batteries and some business cards from the city of Riverbank bearing White's name.
Belsher pointed to discrepancies in the measurements of the cocaine between Humble's original report and an analysis at the Department of Justice crime lab in Ripon. Humble weighed the cocaine at 0.002 grams, while a criminalist at the DOJ lab weighed it at 0.01 grams.
"That's five times the amount the officer documented in his report," she said. "What happened to the rest of this alleged controlled substance?"
Humble said he realized while investigating a later case that the manual scale he used to measure the substance had a problem.
"I noticed the needle that levels out the scale was dragging," Humble said. He didn't add the information to his report about White, he said.
Defense questions chain of custody, ownership
Humble testified about marijuana he said he found in the console of White's Hummer; Belsher said White had just gotten the car back from a repair shop. Detective Jesus Sigala testified that he found marijuana in a kitchen cupboard, and that White asked him in which drawer Humble found cocaine.
Belsher also raised the issue of the chain of custody for the evidence. She asked Humble if he knew how the white powder he took from White's bathroom got to the DOJ lab. He said he locked it in an evidence locker, and general practice is for a community service officer to deliver it, but he didn't know if that happened in this case.
Belsher tried to introduce problems at the Ripon lab, where discrepancies have arisen with some drug tests, but Zeff didn't allow it.
She asked Sigala if he was aware that someone else has come forward and claimed ownership of the drugs.
"No one specific that I'm aware of has come forward," Sigala said.
White, elected in November 2008, recently concluded an unsuccessful run for the state Assembly. He remains on the City Council.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.