SAN BERNARDINO - Defense attorneys can't question an informant involved in a controversial July drug raid because a judge denied a motion Friday to reveal the source's identity.
Judge Michael Smith, during a brief hearing in San Bernardino County Superior Court, said defense attorneys could argue at a preliminary hearing next week that the informant should be identified.
Friday's hearing in San Bernardino concerned an informant who could substantiate gang allegations against four people accused of being drug dealers, who were arrested after a July traffic stop.
The four are Carl Edward Alexander, 27, Toriano Jerome Houston, 37, and Frederick Edward Williams, 30, all of Highland; and Maurice Lynell Lockett, 27, of Pasadena.
They are charged with possession of cocaine base and marijuana for sale as well as the special allegations that the sales were meant to benefit a criminal street gang.
If proven, the gang allegations could add as much as four years to their sentences.
Their preliminary hearing was scheduled for Tuesday.
The four were arrested July 2 in San Bernardino. Allegations later surfaced that San Bernardino police Sgt. Bradley Lawrence had illegally held Alexander "on ice" without probable cause justifying his arrest.
That allegation was not addressed Friday.
Smith said the judge handling the preliminary hearing could decide whether the informant's identity should be revealed.
Defense attorney Samuel Knudsen, representing Alexander, said conflicting police information makes the informant's cross-examination essential to disproving the gang allegations.
Before the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Jay Hoffman said unmasking informants exposes them to retaliation -- especially in gang cases.
Reach John F. Berry at 951-369-9514 or jberry@PE.com