Abalone posession hearing held

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Posted by on January 20, 2009 at 10:29:30:

Ukiah Daily Journal

On Wednesday, a preliminary hearing was held before Judge Ron Brown in Ukiah for four defendants allegedly found to be in possession of 62 abalone, according to a release issued by the Mendocino County District Attorney's office.

The maximum number of abalone that may legally be possessed at any one time is three per person.

"Judge (Ron) Brown held each of the four defendants to stand trial on a felony charge of conspiring to take abalone for commercial purposes, and on three misdemeanor charges," stated a portion of the release issued Friday.

The four defendants, Ricky Seo, Kun Chung, Hak Kim and Weon Lim, all hailed from the Los Angeles area. Three of the defendants required Korean interpreters.

"Warden Eric Bloom, who has 20 years of law enforcement experience, was the witness for the prosecution," stated a portion of the release. "He testified that on May 2, 2008, at the Pine Beach Inn in Fort Bragg, he responded to an anonymous tip of abalone poaching. He saw Kim drive into the parking lot in a black SUV. After getting Kim's consent to search, he discovered therein two large coolers containing a total of 62 abalone. He also discovered $3,257 cash in the front of the SUV, and three checkbooks belonging to a Ricky Seo. Kim told the warden he had bought' the abalone."

Bloom then testified that Seo and the two other defendants then arrived and went to Kim's room at the inn.

"Upon being confronted, Seo admitted that the four of them had taken abalone and knew what they were doing was illegal, but that they had come a long ways' and needed to take a lot home," stated a portion of the release. "He said they were going to have a big party' and give some of the abalone as gifts to friends. When asked why the abalone were not tagged, Seo said they knew they could get caught and therefore had to move fast.'"

After Bloom's testimony had concluded, the defense then called Kim, who testified that he never gave consent to search and that he had in fact bought the abalone but was only trying to take responsibility for them.

"After the conclusion of the evidence defense counsel argued that no holding order' should issue because the warden did not have consent to search the SUV, and that Kim, not being the owner of the SUV, had no apparent authority to give consent," stated a portion of the release. "Prosecutor Tim Stoen argued that Warden Bloom's testimony showed he had either lied to the officer, or to the court, about buying the abalone. He argued that ownership had no bearing on the right to give consent, because Kim was in possession' of the SUV."

Judge Brown then found in favor of the prosecution, and ordered all four defendants to appear for a jury trial in his court in Ukiah on June 1.

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