R. Addison Steele II, Attorney at Law - Criminal defense attorney in Santa Barbara
Three Strikes Cases
 
Addison Steele has:
 
Twelve acquittals on charges in three strikes trials.
 
Three counts with hung juries on three strikes trials.
 
Six acquittals on charges in second strike trials. 
 
     Three strikes cases are difficult because petty crimes can result in life in prison sentences in some cases.  There was recently a change in the three strikes law by voter referendum, Proposition 36 (that's the new Prop. 36 that addresses the three strikes law, not the old Prop. 36 that addresses drug treatment in drug cases).  A person can no longer be "struck out," that is receive a life sentence, for petty crimes in most cases, however that is not the situation in all cases, there some strike priors that still allow a person to be struck out for petty crimes.  
        It's not just three strikes cases that require an attorney with knowledge and experience in the area, just one strike prior doubles a prison sentence and makes it so a client cannot get probation and must go to prison.  In order to save a client that's charged with three strikes from a life sentence, either the trial has to be won or a Romero motion (a motion to strike the strike prior) has to be won.  It is critical to have an attorney that is experienced in handling three strikes cases, has saved clients' lives by winning three strikes trials and has saved clients lives by winning Romero motions.  If you need to hire a lawyer for a three strikes case, you need a lawyer that has experience with three strikes trials and that has won three strikes trials that have gone before a jury.
     I have not only done twelve three strikes trials, I have had full acquittals on all felony charges in four of those trials, I have saved my clients from life sentences in six of those trials, including a three strikes murder case.  I have saved so many clients lives by winning Romero motions that I don't even track them.  My record of trial wins in three strikes cases and winning Romero motions is unparalleled.
     My three strikes trial successes include:
 
Robbie Catchings
 
  • Robbie Catchings
  • Charges:  Murder (Penal Code § 187(a)), attempted murder (Penal Code § 664/187(a), felon in possession of a firearm (Penal Code § 12021(a)(1), special allegations of personal use of a firearm (Penal Code § 12022.53(d), a prison term prior (Penal Code § 667.5(b), serious crime prior (Penal Code § 667(a) and three prior strikes (Penal Code § 667(c)&(e)(2)/1170.12(c)(2)).
  • Exposure:  Robbie was facing 171 years to life in prison.
  • Outcome:  There were two trials, the first trial ended in a hung jury with the jury deadlocked at ten to two for acquittal.  At the second trial, Robbie was found not guilty of all charges.
 
Robbie, Addison and the investigators on the case after the verdict
 
Robbie was featured in an article in the Los Angeles Daily Journal that was done about my winning so many trials. I've been told, but have not been able to confirm, that the Los Angeles Daily Journal has never done an article like this about any other criminal defense attorney.
 
 
     "In another of Steele's high-profile wins, the defender secured a murder acquittal in October for Robbie Catchings, a Moreno Valley resident prosecutors said shot and killed a man at a Perris apartment complex in 2002. Steele also persuaded a judge to reduce to a misdemeanor a felony assault charge against Catchings in a separate case that could have exposed the defendant to a life sentence under the three-strikes law.
     Catchings walked free as a result.
. . .
     Jenny Reis, a Corona woman who served on the jury that acquitted Catchings, said Steele's 'down-to-earth' evidence presentation helped his credibility with the jury.
. . .
     She also said she could tell Steele 'thoroughly believed' in his client's innocence.
     'He was so passionate,' Reis said. 'He reminded me of a parent defending [his or her] child.'"
 
The headline. The story about my success defending clients was featured right below the masthead on the front page.
 
The first half of the article.
 
The second half of the article.
 
Robbie was also featured in a newspaper article covering when I was named Riverside County Public Defenders Office Attorney of the Year.
 
 
     "The Riverside County public defender's office presented awards Friday night to a staff committed to providing opportunity and hope.
     Deputy Public Defender Addison Steele won the top award for his embodiment of what it means to fill that role, said Robert Willey, assistant public defender, Steele spent 115 days in trial in 2007 and thanked the entire office for helping him win the case of Robbie Catchings, who was charged with murder and acquitted by jury.
     'As you can see I didn't win a murder trial, we won a murder trial,' Steele wrote in an e-mail to staff, Willey said."
 
 
  • After we won the murder trial, the district attorney tried to give Robbie a life in prison sentence because he was a third striker and had gotten in a jail fight while he was waiting for his trial, the trial that he was acquitted of all charges. I filed a series of motions, including a bail motion when the tried to have Robbie sent back to jail, a motion to dismiss the jail fight case, a motion to strike the strike priors and a motion to reduce the jail fight charge to a misdemeanor. The judge reduced the case to misdemeanor, Robbie pled guilty to the misdemeanor for credit for time already served and it was finally all over. Robbie was able to go home and take care of his ailing mother.
 
 
An interesting side note about this article is that Jorge Estrada, whoever he is, had absolutely nothing to do with the case, his picture in the article is a copy editor's mistake.
 
 

 
 
Daniel Hudson
 
  • Daniel Hudson
  • Charges:  Domestic violence with a domestic violence prior (Penal Code § 273.5(e)), five prison term priors (Penal Code § 667.5(b)) and two strike priors (Penal Code § 667(c)&(e)(2)(A)/1170.12(c)(2)).
  • Exposure:  Danny was facing thirty years to life in prison.
  • Outcome:  Despite his ex-wife testifying that Danny had beat her bloody sending her to the hospital, the jury acquitted Danny on all charges. He was found not guilty of domestic violence and all the lesser included offenses. Danny was immediately released and has lived crime free.
 
Danny, Addison and the investigator on the case after the verdict
 
Howard Robertson
 
  • Howard Robertson
  • Charges:  Robbery (Penal Code § 211) and residential burglary (Penal Code § 459) with four prison term priors (Penal Code § 667.5(b)), five serious crime priors (Penal Code § 667(a)) and five strike priors (Penal Code § 667(c)&(e)(2)(A)/1170.12(c)(2)).
  • Exposure:  Howard was looking at fifty-four years to life in prison.
  • Outcome:  Howard was acquitted of all charged and released from jail. He moved Tennessee to live with his brother, made a living as a painter and trained defense lawyers on prison gangs and even testified as a gang expert at a trial. He unfortunately was the victim of a river drowning accident. His family said that he died doing what he loved, enjoying being free in the outdoors.
 
Howard, Addison and the investigator on the case after the verdicts.
 
Howard was also featured in the article in the Los Angeles Daily Journal about my trial successes that's above in the Robbie Catchings section of this page.
 
 
     "The stakes were high, and, on the surface, the case looked tough to defend.
      Howard Robertson faced a charge of snatching a woman's purse, a crime that could send the ex-convict back to prison for life as a three-striker.
     Prosecutors told jurors about Robertson's previous prison time for robbing a string of banks in the 1980s. And the defendant looked menacing, sporting prison tattoos, including a satanic insignia on his forehead and a swastika on his hand.
     But the defendant's lawyer, Riverside County Deputy Public Defender R. Addison Steele II, persuaded jurors to vote for acquittal.
     The Robertson case last year was part of an amazing winning streak by Steele. The high number of wins makes him one of the most victorious lawyers in his office and perhaps the state. In the past year, he won acquittals for one man facing a murder charge and three others on trial for attempted murder, all of whom were eligible for life sentences.
. . .
     'That's certainly very impressive,' said Kathleen B. Cannon, San Diego County deputy public defender and president of the California Public Defenders Association.
     For his work, Steele's office recently gave him its highest honor. The Public Defender Award.
     Assistant Public Defender Robert Willey said Steele is one of the top deputies in the 149-attorney office.
     'Addison has a skill of really helping the jury see [a defendant] as a person and not just a label and a background,' Willey said."
 
This is the Verdict Form where Howard was found NOT GUILTY of robbery.  He was found NOT GUILTY of all charges saving him from a three strikes life sentence.
 
Victor Vasquez
 
  • Victor Vasquez
  • Charges:  Assault with a car (Penal Code § 245(a)(1), hit and run (Vehicle Code § 20001(a)) and a later driving under the influence (Vehicle Code §§ 23152(a)&(b)) with three strike priors (Penal Code § 667(c)&(e)(2)(A)/1170.12(c)(2)).
  • Exposure:  Victor was facing fifty years to life in prison.
  • Outcome:  Despite Victor's girlfriend's testimony that Victor had tried to run her over with his pickup truck, the jury acquitted Victor of all charges accept a conceded unrelated driving under the influence charge. Victor was given credit for time served for the DUI and released from jail. He now runs his own lawn care business.

 Above is the Verdict Form and Minute Order from Victor's case that shows him being acquitted on all felony counts and saved from a life sentence.
 
Ruben Tinoco
 
  • Ruben Tinoco
  • Charges:  Possession of methamphetamine for sales (Health and Safety Code § 11378), felon in possession of ammunition (Penal Code § 12316(b)(1)) and possession of drug paraphernalia (Health and Safety Code § 11364), with two strike priors (Penal Code § 667(c)&(e)(2)(A)/1170.12(c)(2)).
  • Exposure:  Ruben was facing fifty years to life in prison.
  • Outcome:  The jury found Ruben not guilty of felon in possession of ammunition and possession of drug paraphernalia, the jury hung eleven to one in favor of acquittal on the possession of methamphetamine charge.  The case later settled for Ruben pleading guilty to simple possession of methamphetamine and the district attorney dismissing one of the strikes and Ruben being sentenced to two years, eight months in prison. 

 
The verdict forms and Minute Order where Ruben was saved from a fifty years to life prison sentence and instead was only sentenced to two years, eight months. 
 
Joseph Thompson
 
  • Joseph Thompson
  • Charges:  Robbery (Penal Code § 211) with a strike prior (Penal Code § 667(c)&(e)(2)(A)/1170.12(c)(2)), prison term prior (Penal Code § 667.5(b)), and serious crime prior (Penal Code § 667(a)).
  • Exposure: Joe was looking at sixteen years in prison. His case actually started out as a life in prison exposure case because he was charged with two additional out of state strikes. I challenged those strikes before the trial began and got them dismissed.
  • Outcome: Acquitted of all charges. Joe was immediately released from jail directly from the courtroom. Joe and I then went and had lunch where I started a tradition of buying a carne asada burrito for the first meal back to freedom for my clients that have been released from jail after an acquittal.
 
The verdict forms where Joe was found NOT GUILTY on all charges.
 
     My one strike prior (which if lost means that the client is probation ineligible and must be sent to prison and the prison sentence is doubled) trial successes.
 
Ronnell Bennett
 
  • Ronnell Bennett
  • Charges:  Domestic violence (Penal Code § 273.5(a)) with a prison term prior (Penal Code § 667.5(b)) and a strike prior (Penal Code § 667(c)&(e)(2)(A)/1170.12(c)(2)). 
  • Exposure: Ronnell was facing ten years in prison.
  • Outcome: Despite his girlfriend testifying that he had hit and injured her, Ronnell was acquitted of all charges, which were domestic violence and all the lesser included offenses, and released from jail.
 
The verdict forms where Ronnell was found NOT GUILTY on all charges and saved from a possible ten year prison sentence. Ronnell had a strike prior, so if he had lost even one felony count he had to be sent to prison with a doubled sentence.
 
Edward Pereira
 
  • Edward Pereira
  • Charges:  Attempted robbery (Penal Code § 664/211) and residential burglary (Penal Code § 459), with a strike prior (Penal Code § 667(c)&(e)(2)(A)/1170.12(c)(2)), prison term prior (Penal Code § 667.5(b)) and serious crime prior (Penal Code § 667(a)).
  • Exposure:  Edward was looking at sixteen years in prison
  • Outcome:  He was found not guilty of all felonies, he was only convicted of the conceded misdemeanors of trespassing and vandalism. He was sentenced to credit for time served and immediately released from jail.
 

The Verdict Form and Minute Order where Edward was saved from nineteen years in prison because he was acquitted of all felony charges and sentenced to credit for time served for the misdemeanor convictions and was released from jail and went home.
 
     Questions you should ask an attorney that you are considering hiring for a three strikes case:
 
  • Have you done a three strikes trial before?
  • This question is important because a three strikes trial involves complex issues and require the ability to address the strike priors.  Three strikes cases require specialized knowledge and experience.
  • I have done twelve three strikes trials, seven of which I saved the client from a life sentence.
 
  • What were the results of your three strikes trials?
  • This question is important because in a three strikes trial a loss means a life sentence in prison. If an attorney has won three strikes trials and saved clients from life sentences, that attorney has the experience and skills to handle the level of complexity involved in a three strikes trial.
  • I have won four three strikes trials by winning all of the felony counts, including a three strikes murder trial.  Typically a defense attorney expects to win maybe one in ten trials because the district attorney can choose to just not have a trial in any case in which they think they cannot win.  My win rate far exceeds that.  If you find another attorney that has done the number of three strikes trials that I have done and has had more successful outcomes than I have and that has beaten three strikes cases and saved as many lives as I have, hire that person. If you want the best possible chance of not going to prison for life and potentially going home when facing three strikes charges, you should contact me.
 
  • Do you train others lawyers in your techniques for winning three strikes trials?
  • This question is important because typically only the leading lawyers in a field are invited to conduct trainings of other lawyers.
  • I was a speaker at the California Public Defenders Association (CPDA) homicide defense training in 2011 to train on my winning trials by humanizing the client method. I have also given that same training at the Riverside County Public Defenders Office, the Riverside County Barristers, the Santa Clara County Public Defenders Office and the San Francisco County Public Defenders Office.  I was a speaker at the CPDA homicide defense training in 2012 to train on utilizing a neuropsychologist in a homicide case.  The winning trials by humanizing clients training has a three strikes aspect to it and those techniques are easily utilized to win three strikes cases.
 
  • How long were the three strikes trials you've done and how many days of defense did you present?
  • These questions are important because although some cases just call for a short trial, a short trial can also mean that the prosecution was not sufficiently challenged or that no defense was presented. A three strikes trial that lasts five or ten court days is reason for concern because it's an indicator that the prosecution is not being thoroughly challenged and a complete defense is not being presented.
  • I have spent 121 court days in three strikes trials (cases with two strike priors where the government was trying to "strike out" my client).  I have a success rate in three strikes trials that is really unparalleled.
 
     If you need to talk to me about a three strikes case, you can send me an e-mail at rasteele@steeledefender.com or call me at (805) 770-1188.
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