Hung jury for parolee charged with fleeing Berkeley crash

Police found a 50-round high-capacity "drum magazine" for holding ammunition during a search at the scene, according to court papers.

Hung jury for parolee charged with fleeing Berkeley crash
The crash took place at the intersection of Sacramento Street and Ashby Avenue, police said. Google Street View

The trial for a man who had been charged with fleeing the scene of a crash, after running a red light in Berkeley, resulted in a hung jury, according to court papers and police.

The man's car broke down nearby and he reportedly handed off a firearm to an associate who left before officers arrived, Berkeley police wrote in court papers.

Arriving officers determined that the driver was a felon on parole who had a 50-round high-capacity "drum magazine" for holding ammunition in his trunk, as well as dozens of baggies and a digital scale, which are commonly used in drug sales, BPD wrote.

Jahmari Butler, who is on parole for carjacking, is scheduled for a parole revocation hearing this week. He is also set for a readiness hearing, which could mean the DA's office will put the case before a jury again.

The incident dates back to Feb. 20 at about 4:20 p.m. when Berkeley police responded to a hit-and-run report involving a gun near Sacramento Street and Ashby Avenue in South Berkeley, police wrote.

A woman told police that a driver in a gray Mercedes had run a red light and hit her, causing minor injuries, according to charging papers.

The driver kept going until his car became disabled when his front wheels failed about a block away, police wrote.

The woman followed the driver and called police, who responded to the scene — but not before Butler wrapped a jacket around a firearm and handed it off to someone else, according to court papers.

Arriving officers detained Butler and determined that he was on parole for carjacking, police wrote.

During a subsequent search, they found a backpack in his trunk containing the high-capacity drum magazine, BPD wrote.

Butler told police that someone had left the drum magazine in his car, according to court papers.

The search also turned up 50 "colorful press sealed baggies and a digital scale" in the backpack, but police did not locate any drugs, BPD wrote.

Read more about traffic safety in Berkeley.

The Alameda County district attorney's office charged Butler in February with leaving the scene of an injury collision, which was originally listed as a felony, and possession of ammunition by a prohibited person, according to charging papers.

Butler entered not-guilty pleas in February and has been out of custody on bail since then.

In March, the felony charge of leaving the scene was reduced to a misdemeanor under Penal Code 17(b), according to court records.

"This motion can provide a range of benefits, such as allowing those convicted of a felony to avoid the stigma and restrictions associated with having a criminal record," according to one law firm's description of the penal code section. "It is also essential in helping individuals with low-level offenses get back on their feet without facing the consequences of being labeled as felons."

Also in March, the DA's office dismissed the ammunition charge altogether, according to court papers.

No additional information about those decisions was immediately available.

Jahmari Butler. BPD

Butler was sent to prison in 2001 on a robbery conviction and was later convicted in 2004 of cocaine possession for sale, which led to probation. In 2007, he was convicted again of drug sales, and sent to prison, according to court papers.

In 2015, he was convicted of vehicle theft, felony evasion, evading against traffic, robbery and carjacking in Alameda County, which resulted in a prison sentence.

Last month before trial, the DA's office filed an amended complaint that dropped various clauses that could have led to a stiffer sentence as well as any mention of Butler's prior felony convictions.

In recent weeks, Butler's trial resulted in a hung jury, with 11 jurors agreeing on a guilty verdict and one taking a different view.

It was unknown as of publication time whether the DA's office will retry the case.

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