Almanac

News - February 13, 2013

Accused murderer of activist set free

by Sue Dremann

The man who confessed to gunning down well-known East Palo Alto community leader David Lewis was set free by a San Mateo County Superior Court judge on Feb. 5.

Gregory Leon Elarms Sr., 60, was released from jail three months after a San Mateo County Superior Court judge threw out first-degree murder charges against him after finding that San Mateo police violated his Miranda rights. The California attorney general is appealing the decision.

Mr. Elarms confessed that he gunned down Mr. Lewis on June 9, 2010, after following him to the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo, where Mr. Lewis was fatally shot in the parking garage. His motive remains unknown, but the two were childhood friends, police said.

While Mr. Elarms awaited trial on the murder charges, he was found to be mentally incompetent and was placed in a state mental hospital to receive treatment. A judge found he was restored to competency in May 2012.

The Feb. 5 court ruling by Judge Craig Parsons was a double blow to prosecutors, who had sought to keep him behind bars on weapons charges while the appeals court reviews the murder case. He had been in custody on $500,000 bail.

He pleaded no contest on Jan. 3 to possessing handmade "shanks" while in jail, including a sharpened toothbrush, a sharpened spork (a plastic eating utensil), and two sharpened pencils tied together to work as a stabbing instrument.

Mr. Elarms was in court Feb. 5 for a hearing to withdraw his plea and to set a date for sentencing if the withdrawal was denied. His request for a new attorney and move to represent himself were denied. But a defense motion to continue the hearing was granted, and the court agreed to release Mr. Elarms on his own recognizance.

He was released from jail on the condition that if he fails to appear at a court hearing or commits a new offense, the maximum four-year state prison sentence he could receive on the weapons charges would be removed.

Prosecutors vehemently objected to the release.

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