A judge who three weeks ago released a murder suspect awaiting sentencing for having homemade weapons in the county jail remanded the Pittsburg man back into custody yesterday, saying he was incorrectly informed about how much credit Gregory Leon Elarms had racked up while at the county jail and a state mental hospital.
Last week, Judge Craig Parson had ordered Elarms, 60, back to court Tuesday morning without explanation to attorneys. After Parsons announced his change of heart, Elarms, who had been free since Feb. 5, was immediately handcuffed and returned to Maguire Correctional Facility.
Parson said he was given inaccurate information by defense attorney Jonathan McDougall that Elarms had earned near or enough credit against his potential four-year sentence on three weapons charges. When given recalculated figures from the Probation Department, Parsons reversed his earlier ruling, said prosecutor Ivan Nightengale.
McDougall did not return a call for comment.
Nightengale had opposed Elarms' release on his own recognizance out of concern for public safety and his belief the man still had time remaining. Elarms, who is the main suspect in the murder of East Palo Alto activist David Lewis at a San Mateo shopping center, is paranoid, allegedly threatened his son and may have headed to East Palo Alto while free which alarmed that community, Nightengale said.
"I was absolutely happy," Nightengale said of Parson's new decision.
Time served is calculated as a combination of actual days in custody plus other credit for good behavior or work time. Time at the jail is figured differently than days at a state mental hospital which is part of why the various parties came up with disparate totals.
Elarms was originally held without bail when charged in the 2010 murder but the amount was dropped to $500,000 after a judge dismissed the case for a violation of his Miranda rights. Prosecutors charged Elarms with having the jailhouse weapons -- a spork, a toothbrush and two pencils strapped together and all sharpened to a point found during cell searches in February 2011 -- as a way to keep him in custody while appealing that ruling and in January he pleaded no contest to three counts. However, Elarms is seeking to withdraw the plea. McDougall previously told the Daily Journal Elarms has questions regarding what he understood about the plea deal's future consequences for probation and parole.
Parson will hear the motion March 5 and, if it is denied, impose sentence up to four years. If he receives that maximum, Elarms has about 10 months left of the time for which he'll serve half, Nightengale said.
Meanwhile, prosecutors remain hopeful a higher court will overrule Judge Stephen Hall's ruling in November that San Mateo police did not Mirandize Elarms or respond to his numerous requests for a lawyer before taking his confession. With the admission out, Hall found insufficient evidence to hold Elarms to answer for Lewis' murder.
Elarms is accused of following Lewis on June 8, 2010 from San Mateo Medical Center, where he was an outreach worker, to the parking garage of Hillsdale Shopping Center and shooting him once in the torso. The men reportedly knew each other from childhood but Elarms believed Lewis had become his enemy. Lewis uttered the name "Greg" before dying but police made no arrests until contacted by Elarms six months after the shooting.
Elarms was later committed to Napa State Hospital as unable to aid in his own defense before being deemed competent and returned to San Mateo County for prosecution.
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