Former Edison High football star Yasmon Haynes buried his head in his arms and cried uncontrollably Friday in a Fresno courtroom after a judge dismissed a robbery charge against him that could have led to long prison term and end his hopes of playing college football.
The case gained notoriety this week when Haynes’ friend confessed to the crime.
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Judge Alvin Harrell III’s ruling in Fresno County Superior Court caused Haynes’ mother, Yasmin Haynes, to shout, “Thank you Jesus!” several times. She and her son then embraced in the courtroom.
In making his ruling, Harrell said the case lacked evidence, noting that the robbery victim, Alberto Rocha, saw Haynes in the courtroom, but testified he “was not 100 percent sure” if Haynes robbed him of $300 at gunpoint on a cold February night.
Rocha also testified that he could not positively pick Haynes out of a police photo lineup. But he did on the second try after police changed photographs of Haynes. Even then, Rocha testified Friday he was “maybe 50 percent sure.”
“I don’t see why it was even filed,” Harrell said in dismissing the case.
Haynes, a 6-foot 1-inch, 315-pound defensive lineman, has scholarship offers from Lamar University in Texas and Southeastern Louisiana University, said his lawyer, Margarita Martinez-Baly. He also is interested in playing for Fresno State, Martinez-Baly said.
During the hearing, Martinez-Baly contended it was a case of mistaken identity. But prosecutor James Banh and Fresno police Detective Miguel Archan insisted that Haynes advertised an iPhone 7 for sale on the internet site OfferUp. When the buyer showed up in southeast Fresno, he was robbed of $300.
In Haynes’ corner was his friend, Xavier Hamilton, 19, who turned himself into police this week and implicated himself in the robbery. Hamilton was booked on a robbery charge on Tuesday but has posted bail. He showed up to court Friday to testify, but his lawyer advised him to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Rocha testified Friday that on Feb. 21 he contacted the seller of the iPhone and agreed to meet him in front of a house in the 4000 block of East Woodward Avenue, across from Sequoia Middle School, about 8:30 p.m. Rocha said it was so dark that he couldn’t see the address and passed up the house. He then backed up his car and ran into a pile of debris in the street.
Standing on the sidewalk were two young black men in dark clothing wearing hooded sweatshirts. With lights shining from the school, Rocha testified, he pulled up near them, leaving his 12-year-old daughter in the car.
He said one of them had a heavy build, while the other was skinny. He said the larger man pulled out an iPhone with a cracked screen. When he told him he didn’t want it, the larger man pulled out a handgun and demanded cash.
Rocha said he complied, and the two robbers let him go. Rocha said he drove away and quickly called 911.
In police reports, Rocha identified the gunman as a black male, about 6 feet tall, in his mid-20s with a medium build. On Friday, Rocha said he didn’t recall telling police the gunman had a medium build. In the reports, Rocha said the other robber appeared to be 17 years old, skinny and about 5 feet 8 inches tall. But on the witness stand he said he didn’t recall telling police that the second robber was a teenager.
On the witness stand, Archan contended that Haynes was the gunman and Hamilton was the other robber. Email addresses belonging to both Haynes and Hamilton showed up on the OfferUp application. Martinez-Baly, however, argued that Haynes’ email was the secondary one on the application. Hamilton’s email was the primary one on the account, Martinez-Baly said, noting that the longtime friends know each other’s emails.
In fact, Martinez-Baly said, the subpoenaed records say OfferUp welcomed Hamilton – not Haynes – to the internet site as the owner of the account. Archan testified he noticed that reference to Hamilton for the first time while on the witness stand.
Archan testified that he became more convinced Haynes was involved in the robbery when Rocha later told him that the gunman was medium build to heavy set. But he never put that information in a police report, Martinez-Baly said. Archan said Hamilton was the robber that Rocha described as a skinny 17-year-old. But Martinez-Baly said Hamiltion is much bigger. Jail records say Hamilton is 6-1, 230 pounds.
But Archan testified that he learned more this week when he interviewed Hamilton. Archan testified that Hamilton gave him information that only the robber would know, such as Rocha backing up into pile of debris in the street. He said Hamilton told him that he was alone during the robbery and used intimidation – not a gun – to rob the victim.
After Harrell’s ruling, Yasmon Haynes wiped tears from his eyes and thanked God and his family for raising the money to bail him out of jail and hiring Martinez-Baly. “I could have been sitting in jail, losing my mind for something I didn’t do,” he said.
Then he thought of playing football and his future. “I feel like I’m one of the lucky ones, because I know this (being wrongfully accused) has happened to many people,” he said.