One Mother’s Journey On the Inside of Injustice Igzabihair’s Story

Let me introduce you to Igzabihair Jabir Yamakosi-Lewis……..

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Born April 10, 1994, Jabir as we call him was raised and nurtured by his mother and stepfather.  

He is funny, quirky, very artistic and always wanting to help others.  When he was 3 he wanted to solidify his place in his new family of older kids and asked, “can I call you daddy too” to the man of the house.  As time went on he became the oldest.  The older kids became adults as our family grew.  He was a great big brother.  Growing up his life was family, church, community service and school.  He loved reading, recess, drawing and writing poetry and raps.  Growing and maturing, he always found himself attracted to individuals who were in need of the things he received at home…..positive support, encouragement and motivation.  He’d brag in a proud, chest puffed out kind of way, “my mom is this and my dad is that.”

 

He always brought home kids who some considered troubled youth and they were fed and showed how things are done the Lewis way.  His mother often told him, “bottom feeder need love too.”  While his intentions were to positively help his peers make better choices, the outcome sometimes found him being guilty of association.  With that being said, at age 17 being cool was more important than family…..so he thought.  He decided the rules at home were too strict and hindered him from being his own person and making his own decisions……so he left his parents’ home and the lure of street life quickly swooped in.  At this point he was consumed with trying to be cooler than the next, and that included experimenting with drugs, getting involved with girls and riding on the coat tail of potential criminal activity.  He spoke to his mom before he left and told her, he loved her and all she asked was that he checked in at least once a week.  She warned him that she would not enable his bad choices, that she would always love him and that he was welcomed to come home anytime.

 

Although petty as it sounds, he was guilty of being in the vicinity of a phone snatching right after his 18th birthday, and yes he knew the boys who did the snatching.  Unfortunately, that day he became another victim of the criminal justice system that traps young Black men from their youth.  A statistic, another young black boy/man who took a deal and got the bad end of the stick.  When this happened, he had completely disconnected himself from his family and they had no clue that he was arrested or even offered this deal.  His attorney called his parents to warn them of the sentencing hearing and to inform them that he would be released with time served, but also with a strike on his record.  During that hearing, the judge said if you get your life together and come back to this court we will reduce the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor and then you can ultimately expunge this whole experience all together.

 

The judge said his hands were tied…..while there was no violence, the crime was still considered a felony robbery and a strikeable offense.   Imagine being at the wrong place in time, with the wrong group of people and you receiving a strike over a cell phone.  The judge also said, hopefully this will teach you a lesson.  He served 43 days in jail and was put on 3 years’ probation.  (Jan 2016 would have been the end of his probation and he was in the process of filing for the reduction.)

 

After this eye opening experience, he allowed his mom to bring him back home and he wanted to make some changes in his life.  He knew the bar was high but he was up to meeting the challenge.  His parents reminded him that he didn’t have to be perfect, but that he had to be consistently trying to better himself.  At this stage in his life, he experienced severe depression and was afraid to leave the house for fear that he would mess up, disappoint himself and let his parents down again.  He was ready to receive the help his family has always been ready and able to give.  After a long job search, he was hired by a cousin who was a manager at the local Jack In The Box.   He also worked with his uncle at the Sacramento Bee.

 

After that first year home and suffering depression, he looked into programs to earn those last few credits to get a high school diploma because a GED wasn’t what he wanted……oh how he regrets not finishing his last semester of high school.  He was employed by American Paper in Elk Grove, working a 40 hour work week, at a job with benefits and a union.  He was a founding member of a local rap group.  He is a super creative, artistic person who draws, writes poetry and raps.  He loves science and collecting rocks.  He had even gotten admitted to Consumnes River Community College (CRC), while simultaneously attempting to earn the credits for his diploma.

 

The day before his 21st birthday (April 9, 2015), he was robbed at gunpoint at CRC.  He was pistol whipped and beaten badly by three teenagers.  The pocket watch (heirloom) that he was given from his grandfather was stolen.  That pocketwatch was his grandfather’s grandfather’s and was from the late 1800’s.  Also stolen was his gold chain, a ring and cell phone.  He refused to press charges because he remembered those 43 days in jail.  Even though he had that experience at CRC, he still went through the process of enrolling at CRC without fear.  It was during this time at CRC working with the BSU, poetry club and waiting for his new girlfriend that he met several positive young people…..including one of the victims in the crime for which he will serve time in prison. How ironic is that?

 

On December 3, 2015 two brothers in ElK Grove were robbed of their electric scooters at Backer Park.  While investigating the crime a Detective Bearor (with the Elk Grove Police Department) came to our home to ask Igzabihair questions about the individuals known to be involved with the crime.  Igzabihair had taken the stance that he would not help the police do their job because he had seen first hand far too many young Black men involved with the criminal justice system.  Officer Bearor didn’t like this and told him, “I promise, I’m going to get you.”  Igzabihair didn’t pay the threat any mind because he knew he wasn’t involved with the crime.  Periodically, however he did note seeing that same officer in our neighborhood, as if he were following his every move.  Throughout the year of 2016, Igzabihair had met and befriended one of the boys who was robbed…..I’m sorry but I know that Igzabihair is far from sadistic.  They had something in common, being robbed.  They got along and shared common friends while hanging out at CRC.

 

On December 13, 2016, one month shy of his probation being over from the phone snatching incident…...Elk Grove police detectives had our home surrounded and in wait for someone to arrive home.  I, his mother pulled into the driveway after picking his siblings up from school, was approached by 5 officers with hands on guns, and wearing bullet proof vest while exiting my vehicle.  They asked if my son Igzabihair was home?  I said I didn’t know but that I would find out.  I asked what this was about and they explained they had a warrant for his arrest.  I said I wanted to see it….at first they were hesitant and then I pulled my phone out and told them I was calling my lawyer (I have Legal Sheild on speed dial).  One of the officers was trying to play like the nice guy and went to his unmarked vehicle to get some paperwork.  While I had never seen a police warrant before and didn’t know if it was legit, it had his name on it and had details similar to court documents from the County of Sacramento.  I then told the officers, who were now surrounding me, that they could not bum rush my home and that I would broker the deal.  I expressed that I have 5 other minor boys and 2 granddaughters who were home and that they would not traumatize them on this day.

 

December 13, 2016 was exactly one year and 8 days after the crime took place (December 3, 2015).  I asked them why they took so long to execute the warrant and they said they could find us.  My husband, 2 adult sons and I are all listed with a current address through DMV and all receive mail at our home, we were not hiding.  One officer was getting impatient with me, so they tried to distract and bypass me in the garage.  They asked about the layout of the house and where his bedroom was located.  I told them to stand here and I would check, they pushed their way pass me in the hallway.  Two of the officers did not speak, Officer Lee tried to play good cop and Officer Jimenez was definitely the bad cop.  On any given day, his bedroom door would be locked and he would be napping because he gets up at 5am to make his way to a HS redemption program.  Then he’d come home and take a nap, before going to work.  I knocked and told him to get decent that the police were here with an arrest warrant.  I told him to stay calm and not to panic.

 

He opened it, and was noticeably asleep in only his underwear.  He was clearly confused.  The officers pushed passed me and I warned them again, Jimenez in particular to not let his ego in the way of a peaceful interaction.  Officer Lee explained to Igzabihair that he was under arrest and they needed him to get dressed.  They all had their hands on their weapons ready to draw if necessary.  I looked Officer Jimenez straight in his eyes like I dare you.  Igzabihair got dressed and they handcuffed him.  Officer Lee asked if he needed to tell me anything and he wanted me to know his cell phone’s passcode.  Jimenez was getting impatient again and it was turning into rudeness.  A third officer intervened, asking Jimenez to get the car ready.  They had to wait for a squad car to arrive for transport.  Finally, the squad car arrived, I took out my cell phone to video him being placed in the car and to capture the unmarked vehicles parked sporadically on my block.  Officer Lee advised that he would be booked in about an hour and to check online for inmate status.  He also said his bail was set at $570,000…..my only response was WTF, he’s not a murderer.

Once he was booked in, I confirmed his bail was set at $570,000…..let that simmer in your soul for a moment.  His bail was over a half a million dollars….I couldn’t wrap my brain around that number much, less than the fact that he would find himself in this kind of trouble knowing how hard he’d worked to get himself to a place with traction and stability.  I called a bail bondsman and was told we would have to come up with $50k….I mean we are responsible with saving for an emergency but $50k.

 

I completed the call to Legal Shield for legal advise, called his biological father, as well as calling family and friends.  He called from jail and I prayed that we would make it through this situation, as I had been one of those people who said, “I’ll never deal with a person in jail, accepting collect calls, putting money on the books and living that life depressed because someone you know got caught up in the criminal justice system.”  I had been sold that LIE, that if you do everything right….this kind of stuff won’t come your way.  I called his girlfriend and friends and I grilled them about what they knew and if he could in any shape, form or fashion be involved with this crime.

 

I started a notebook to collect facts and planned on being at his first court appearance.  I called the public defender's office to see if I could get a heads up on who he would be assigned.  I looked up media coverage on the crime.  His girlfriend told me he had distanced himself from one of the boys known to had committed the crime (1) because before the robbery they had gotten into a fight at the park and (2) because that young man was doing things the friends didn’t want to be associated with.  My son and his girlfriends wanted me to make sure his attorney knew one of the boys who was robbed (the victim) was an associate of my son.  

 

After speaking with his friends, I started doing searches of social media pages to gather facts.  In the process I discovered I had been FB friends with both parents of the robbery victims.  I struggled that night if I should reach out to them…..I still think I should have back then, but I didn’t want to be accused of traumatizing that family further.  I trusted to a certain degree that the truth would come out and this nightmare would be over sooner than I could imagine.  I was so wrong.

 

I discovered the robbery was set up by one boy who played basketball with the victims at a local Elk Grove park.  There were 3 different boys who showed up at the park to commit the robbery, one who was identified by the victims and one (my son) who there was an extremely weak ID from the mother who was sitting in the car.  The third robber was never ID by anyone was wearing a santa hat.  The robber wearing the santa hat, hit one of the victims in the head with a baseball bat causing the victim to suffer from seizures.  I don’t wish that kind of pain on anyone, because I know what it feels like as a mother to see your child in pain, as Igzabihair had been viciously beat and robbed earlier in 2015.

 

Timeline:

 

  • December 3, 2015 - robbery of 2 brothers at Backer Park in Elk Grove, CA.  While their mom sat in the car, the brother went to the back of their vehicle to sale electric scooters but in the process they were robbed and one of the brothers was viciously hit in the head.
  • December 15, 2015 - boy IDed by both of the victims was arrested, bailed out and lawyered up
  • December 5, 2016 - boy who set up robbery arrested - 1 year and 2 days after the crime
  • December 13, 2016 - Igzabihair was arrested without incident at approximately 4:45pm
  • December 15, 2016 - arraignment hearing, no attorney assigned, new court date assigned
  • December 16, 2016 - mom’s first visit
  • December 19, 2016 - attorney visited Igzabihair at the downtown jail
  • December 19, 2016 - mom visit
  • December 20, 2016 - mom called attorney and he called back, he would ask for continuance
  • December 22, 2016 - preliminary hearing and joining of co-defendants - continuance granted
  • December 23, 2016 - continuance, power outage at court house
  • December 25, 2016 - visit denied
  • December 27, 2016 - family visit
  • December 28, 2016 - bail hearing but bail not addressed, discovery not received
  • January 2, 2017 - mom visit
  • January 5, 2017 - court Dept 9 - continuance attorneys not ready, discovery not received
  • January 9, 2017 - visit
  • January 17, 2017 - consolidated arraignment
  • January 20 & 26, 2017 - family visit
  • January 31, 2017 - court in Dept 9 - continuation
  • February 1 & 8, 2017 - family visit
  • February 9, 2017 - court - another continuance DA still hasn’t released discovery
  • February 13, 2017 - mom’s birthday and visit
  • February 16 or 17, 2017 - Igzabihair was moved from downtown to RCCC
  • February 21, 2017 - court in Dept 9, Judge reassignment, DA still hasn’t turned over discovery
  • February 23, 2017 - visit
  • March 7, 2017 - preliminary, continuance detective not available
  • March 9, 14, & 20, 2017 - visit
  • March 22, 2017 - court Dept 9, BLMSacramento organized court support for next court date
  • March 29, 2017 court Dept 9 - attorney thought it would be continued, but BLM presence - Preliminary Hearing all day - judge held it over for trial, son’s attorney pressed no issue of the weak evidence
  • March 30, 2017 - charge 245(A)(1) dismissed
  • April 6, 13, 20 & 27, 2017 - visit
  • May 4 & 9, 2017 - visit
  • May 11, 2017 - court Dept 61 - TRC continuation
  • May 17, 2017 - change in charges online
  • May 18, 2017 - court Dept 61 - TRC and new prosecutor assigned, if trial it begins 5/25/17
  • May 18, 2017 - visit
  • May 23, 2017 - court Dept 61 - new DA not ready but is promising offers next court date
  • May 25, 2017 - Witness Readiness hearing and no witnesses show up and no attorney show
  • May 25, 2017 - visit
  • June 1, 2017 - visit
  • June 7, 2017 - court Dept 61 - TRC
  • June 15 & 29, 2017 - visit
  • June 18, 2017 - biological father came from the Bay Area to visit
  • July 7, 2017 - court Dept 61 - DA offered deal - Judge warned that max if lose at trial is 17 yrs
  • July 8, 2017 - family party and he gets to talk to his 87 year old grandmother for first time
  • July 10, 2017 court Dept 61 - take deal or trial, he felt the pressure to take the deal, BLMSacramrno court support
  • July 22, 2017 - 71 yr grandfather in town from TX, went to see him and cried the entire time
  • July 27, 2017 - visit
  • August 10, 2017 - visit
  • August 18, 2017 - court Dept 61 - sentencing hearing, BLMSacramento court support

 

 

After a number of continuations and the DA’s office with-holding evidence (discovery), the DA’s office changed the assigned prosecutor from a white female attorney to a black male attorney.  How ironic, considering BLMSacramento mentioned how this DA’s office was guilty of divvying out excessive bails and excessive sentences to young Black and Brown men.

 

Facts Unaddressed Through Due Process:

  • 2014 Igzabihair had a fight with one one of the robbers

  • Circumstantial connection - morning of the crime text messages between 6am – 11am, between Igzabihair and the boy who set up crime, that boy wasn’t even at the robbery.

  • Circumstantial connection - Igzabihair was FB friends with one of the boys who was at the robbery, but this is the boy he had a fight with and they hadn’t been friends since 2014.  There was no activity between their FB pages in years.

  • Weak/False ID - mother of victims was sitting in the passenger seat of their vehicle and she says the robbers walked by the car and she saw Igzabihair.  But during her ID, she said maybe to pictures #2, 3, 4, and 5.  Detective Bearor asked her if #5 (Igzabihair) looked more like him.  She didn’t say yes or no, she just cried.  I’m sorry, I’m no expert but that sounds like a false ID to me.

  • The victims who were face to face with the robbers did not ID Igzabihair and they had a better look at the three robbers.

  • Elk Grove Detective personally told Igzabihair, “I’m going to get you,” for not helping him December of 2015 after the crime.  This officer was often seen in our neighborhood, stalking Igzabihair.

 

Now let me introduce myself to you, my name is Sonia Lewis, Igzabihair’s mother.

I am writing this because I have now witnessed first hand how our criminal justice system is corrupt and unjust on so many levels.  Igzabihair is my oldest child and my first love.  I am not one of those mothers who believes everything their child says and I believe all kids lie.  What I can tell you is this case does not make sense.  Unanswered questions in my mind continue to linger.  

Why would my son rob someone with a person he didn’t like?  He said he was at Arden mall at the time of the crime?  

Why did the police wait more than a year after the crime to arrest, making it impossible to validate his being at Arden mall?  

Everything else is so circumstantial.  I know if we had OJ money he wouldn’t be serving time.  Let’s say he is guilty, why couldn’t his bail and punishment be in line with the crime?  When I think about our Criminal Justice system excessive bail and excessive sentencing is equally as harmful as excessive force and murder.  My heart goes out to the victims who were robbed, but the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office has not proved Igzabihair is guilty of anything, except association. Our law says “innocent until proven guilty,” I want to know why my son didn’t get that equity and due process?

 

The victims were 16 and 18 year old brothers and the boys on trial for the crime were 19, 20 and 23….yes, I still consider my 23 year old a boy and he will spend up to 4 years in prison for a crime that he potentially did not commit, at least based on the evidence.  I also wanted you to know that I have been the only parent showing up to court trying to figure out this whole mess, that should speak volumes to what kind of family he comes from.  I consider myself very intelligent and I truly believe my son was not involved and the circumstantial evidence they have against him hinges SOLELY on the fact that he had a criminal record.  If that weren’t the case, why did they show the victims his old mug shot and not his DMV picture, like they did with the other defendants.

 

Outcomes:

This past Friday, August 18th, he was sentenced and it’s a wrap, for now at least.  WIthin the next 30 days, the department of corrections will take him to Reception at DVI in Tracy, CA; where he could be up to 90 days before being transferred to an assigned prison.  Nothing will change, we….meaning his family and community will continue to love and support him.

 

The boy who set up the crime had his felony charges reduces to a misdemeanor and since he had been in jail since December 3, 2016 he was release with time served on July 10th.  He will have to do 5 years of probation.  During the sentencing hearing on August 18th, this young man came into court on crutches, had been shot 4 times because someone was trying to murder him.  

That is critical to the activities he is involved in, but he got off with a misdemeanor.

 

The boy who was arrested immediately after the robbery and identified by the 2 victims (brothers), bailed out and hired a private attorney.  He has been out on bond for the past 2 years doing nothing with his life.  During the sentencing hearing, he was taken into custody and the felony charge of robbery was a strike.  He will probably serve only 4 months in jail and will have 5 years of probation, he is also the boy that Igzabihair got into a fight with prior to the robbery.

 

The fourth boy in the santa hat is currently in jail on other more serious charges and was not tried in this case.

 

An amazing glaring fact in this case is the fact that Igzabihair and the victim who was hit in the head with a bat, had become friends after the crime.  Igzabihair is too loving of an individual to maliciously befriend the victim.  The victim and Igzabihair bonded over the fact that they had both been the victims of a brutal and violent robbery, they were strong and bouncing back.  

They were learning to trust again.  They both have families who have stood by their side.  At the end of the day, they stand on separate side of the table in this case, one standing accused.  

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Our system is extremely broken, anytime the prosecution is chummying up to the defense attorneys,  there's a big problem. Attorneys on both sides are overloaded with cases that can and should be handled outside of courtrooms. The flaws equate to a waste of tax payer dollars and resources, better spent on schools and community programs. You draw your own conclusions about our criminal justice system and decide if we need to dismantle and rebuild, a system that profits off the pain of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised.  You decide if Restorative Justice is a way to heal our community.  You decide if the voice of the people is important in this matter and all matters.  YOU DECIDE!!!

 

Coming BLMSacramento Events -

 

August 24 - Revolutionary Baby Shower fro Zityrua, 12 noon - 1pm at the Sacramento Police Department Communication Center on Freeport Blvd

 

September 2 - Policy Platform for Black Lives Workshop, 5:30pm at Colonial Heights Library on Stockton Blvd

 

September 9 - Whose Streets? Our Streets! Alternative to Police, 6pm at Colonial Heights Library on Stockton Blvd

 

September 14 - Lorenzo Cruz: Police Report? More Questions Than Answers, 11am at Sierra Community College, Rocklin, CA

 

September 15 - Get Together for Armani Lee, 7pm at Sacramento Public Library Belle Cooledge

 

September 29 - Justice for Armani Lee, Court Support, 8:30am at Sacramento Superior Court 720 9th Street, Sacramento, CA


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