A Fresno man who was accused of leading police on a high-speed chase from his brother’s funeral pleaded no contest Wednesday to a felony charge of attempted resisting arrest.
Marcus Becote, 28, entered his plea in Fresno County Superior Court on the eve of his second trial on a felony charge of evading police with a wanton disregard for public safety.
He took the plea deal because he wanted to be released from the Fresno County Jail, said defense attorney Pauline Seiler, who defended Becote. Under the plea agreement, Judge Timothy Kams sentenced Becote to eight months behind bars.
The high-speed chase had a bizarre twist: two people arrested with Becote were his half-brothers, Willie and Denzel Ford, who were killed about three months later in a gunfight with a gang member. Police have arrested 19-year-old Domenek Leonard Greenberry on two counts of murder in connection with the Oct. 1 shooting outside a northwest Fresno apartment; he is awaiting trial.
In Becote’s first trial two months ago, a jury said it was deadlocked, 7-5, to find Becote not guilty of the felony evading police charge. Because the jury’s vote was not unanimous, Judge Kimberly Gaab declared a mistrial, giving the prosecution the opportunity to retry Becote.
Prosecutor Andrew Janz said Wednesday he was ready to retry Becote because jurors told him that they initially voted 10-2 to convict Becote, but later changed their vote.
Janz said the plea adds a felony conviction to Becote’s criminal record that includes a felony conviction for possession of a machine gun.
Becote isn’t out of trouble yet. He has a warrant for his arrest in Nevada. Seiler said Nevada authorities want to prosecute him on a drunken driving charge.
The high-speed chase had a bizarre twist: two people arrested with Becote were his half-brothers, Willie and Denzel Ford, who were killed about three months later in a gunfight with a gang member.
Becote got in trouble on July 21 this year when he went to Cherished Memories Memorial Chapel on Tulare Avenue near First Street to pay his respects to his 17-year-old half-brother, Benzo Ford, who was shot to death in southwest Fresno.
Janz told jurors in the first trial that Fresno police detectives had the funeral under surveillance because Willie Ford was a wanted fugitive and a suspect in multiple shootings.
An undercover detective with binoculars testified he saw Becote drive up to the chapel in a burgundy Chevrolet Tahoe. After the service ended, the detective testified that he saw Becote get behind the wheel of the Tahoe and saw Willie Ford, 19, get in the back seat. Denzel Ford, 18, and Anthony Littlejohn, 19, also got into the Tahoe.
The detective then saw the Tahoe leave.
The chase began when uniformed officers in marked patrol cars tried to pull over the Tahoe to arrest Willie Ford. The eight-minute police pursuit, captured by a police video camera, ended at the funeral home with Willie Ford behind the wheel and Becote in the back seat with Denzel Ford and Littlejohn.
During the police pursuit, Janz contended that Becote jumped into the back of the Tahoe and let Willie Ford drive. The switch happened when the Tahoe slowed and drifted to the right when no one had control of the steering wheel, he told the jury.
But Seiler pointed out that Becote is about 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds and that switching seats in a moving car during a police pursuit would have been nearly impossible. “It may happen in the movies, but not in real life,” she told the jury.
Seiler argued that police could not see who was driving because the Tahoe has dark, tinted windows. She also said the police officer who testified that he believed Becote jumped into the back seat to let Willie Ford drive never expressed his belief on the videotape during the chase or in his police report.
Wednesday, Seiler said the police made assumptions that weren’t true. For example, officers believed an assault rifle was inside the vehicle, but none was found. And when the Tahoe finally stopped, police found Becote drinking in the back seat, she said. “If he was driving,why didn’t police arrest him for drunken driving?” she said.