Federal prosecutors have moved to dismiss an indictment against two East Bay residents, just days before they were due to stand trial on charges of trafficking fentanyl into San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.
Olvin Isaac Gutierrez-Nunez, 24, and Marvin Alexander Rodriguez Flores, 27, were accused of commuting from Oakland to sell illegal narcotics. Large quantities of drugs, cash, and a rifle were found during a home search.
The case was overshadowed by the involvement of an SFPD narcotics officer who is facing misconduct charges over allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a confidential informant. Christina Hayes helped conduct searches in the case.
It emerged two weeks ago that the Government’s understanding had been that the defendants would ultimately plead guilty in some form but, when the Hayes controversy emerged, they immediately moved to invoke their right to a speedy trial.
“This case is a hot mess in my opinion,” said U.S. District Judge Susan Illston at a July 25 preparatory hearing ahead of the trial. Prosecution and defense attorneys argued over whether Hayes could be called to testify and, if so, whether she could be questioned about her alleged misconduct. The court was told that Hayes’ phone had been handed over to the defense for them to analyze.
This is the latest case to be affected by the Hayes issue, with several already having been discontinued by state and federal authorities.
Jury selection was due to begin on August 14 at San Francisco Federal Courthouse.
In an earlier motion, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hillary Irvin had asked the court to forbid defense attorneys from questioning SFPD Officer Hayes about any aspect of her alleged misconduct. Allowing questioning about her purported relationship with an informant would be “improper” and “highly inflammatory,” they said.
Hayes involvement with this case included her conducting a search of Gutierrez-Nunez’ bedroom which turned-up five pounds of fentanyl, $7,709 cash, a high capacity magazine loaded with 24 rounds and – “ironically” – a drug court completion certificate issued to him by San Francisco Community Justice Center.
Police say the rifle yielded DNA which showed very strong support it was his.
In a backpack found in the home officers found cash, fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine. Inside a dresser was Rodrigues Flores’ “bail bond paperwork,” more than $10,000 in cash and a Honduran passport in the name of another resident.
Officer Hayes transported the evidence collected from the entire search, except the rifle, back to San Francisco and then conducted the analysis which identified the drugs.
The criminal complaint recorded both defendants’ drug-dealing activities in the Tenderloin that had come to the attention of an SFPD-DEA task force.
Rodriguez Flores was caught near the intersection of Eddy and Larkin with fentanyl and cocaine on March 5 2022 while Nunez sold fentanyl to an undercover police officer on April 12 2022 near the same location. Nunez was also seen selling drugs on October 5, 2022. Suspecting that the defendants were part of a bigger drug dealing operation, police did not initially arrest them.
The complaint said that analysis of cell site data demonstrated that Gutierrez-Nunez regularly commuted to the Tenderloin from a residence in Oakland, which was confirmed when officers trailed him driving from his home to the Tenderloin and saw him again sell drugs.
When traveling to and from the city Rodriguez Flores drove a silver Infiniti sedan, while Gutierrez-Nunez preferred to drive his gray BMW sedan.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston described the case as a “hot mess” at a preparatory hearing on July 25 at which attorney’s argued a slew of pre-trial motions on admissibility of witnesses and evidence.
She subsequently ruled that evidence of the rifle could be admitted with respect to Gutierrez-Nunez as could evidence of the drug transactions conducted by both defendants in the Tenderloin.
She decided to wait before determining if Hayes could testify until close to the beginning of the trial. The court heard that the Government had shared Hayes’ phone with the defense – the phone which, it said, was the original source of the evidence of her alleged misconduct.
The Government had intended to call eight SFPD officers as witnesses along with three Drug Enforcement Administration officials and one criminalist apiece from SFPD and Alameda Sheriff’s Department. They themselves would not have called Hayes to testify.
Jury selection was set for August 14 and the trial was scheduled to last 5-7 days.
This is the latest case to be affected by the Hayes issue, with numerous cases being dropped by state and federal authorities.
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