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Man accused of killing activist wants speedy trial
September 08, 2012, 05:00 AM Daily Journal Staff Report

Gregory Elarms

The childhood friend accused of fatally gunning down an East Palo Alto activist at a San Mateo shopping center in 2010 pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and gun charges that could send him to prison for life without parole. He also wants his trial to begin by the end of next month.

Gregory Elarms, 60, is also charged with lying in wait for David Lewis which leaves him facing no chance of parole if convicted of first-degree murder in the June 9, 2010 shooting. On Friday, after entering his plea, Elarms declined to waive his right to a speedy prosecution and a jury trial was set for Oct. 29.

Elarms’ prosecution was on hold for the better part of a year while he was hospitalized in a state mental facility as incompetent but he recently returned to San Mateo County after doctors concluded he is now able to aid in his own defense. A judge declared him competent based on those reports.

Elarms, of the East Bay city of Pittsburg, is accused of following Lewis, 54, from the San Mateo Medical Center where he was an outreach worker to the parking lot of Hillsdale Shopping Center on June 9, 2010. Just before 6 p.m., Elarms allegedly pulled a .44-caliber gun and shot Lewis in the torso.

During a preliminary hearing on the murder and gun charges, a San Mateo police detective testified that Elarms believed gangmembers were after him and that Lewis, once his friend, was now his opponent. Lewis uttered the name "Greg” before dying but police made no arrests until contacted by Elarms six months after the shooting.

Lewis was known as a community activist and rehabilitation counselor who overcame addiction and incarceration.

Prosecutors could have sought the death penalty for Elarms but opted against the option in large part due to his mental history and the predominance of drug rather than violent offenses on his extensive criminal record.

Before heading to trial, Elarms will again ask a judge to let him fire his court-appointed attorney. A previous request to release the same attorney was declined. A hearing on the new motion is set for Sept. 14.

Elarms remains in custody without bail.


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