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Judge hints at changes to bail of former sheriffs deputy
Kari Abbey

A pretrial motion seeking more time for discovery was granted Thursday for the defense team representing Kari Abbey, the former Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputy charged with murder.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Cordova did hint changes regarding her bail could be forthcoming during the brief hearing.

Cordova granted the continuance and ordered the prosecution to unseal the search warrants and provide them to the defense team. Abbey was given a new court date court date of Aug. 10, at which time she will have a bail review hearing at the prosecutor’s request.

Abbey wasn’t at the pretrial proceeding Thursday. Cordova granted a request from the defense team that Abbey does not have to appear at every court proceeding, unless deemed necessary, out of concern for her safety. Abbey’s attorney, Michael Raines, appeared on her behalf Thursday and was told by the judge that Abbey would need to be at the next hearing and that she should bring her passport.

Abbey, a six-year veteran with the sheriff’s department, is charged with second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, conspiracy to forcibly enter a home, embezzlement from a government entity, receiving stolen property, cultivating marijuana, and permitting a child to be endangered.

The murder charge stems from the death of Rita Elias on Sept. 24, 2010. Elias was shot three times during a confrontation with Abbey outside a Westside Modesto home. Abbey was off-duty at the time and was at the property to collect rent for her father.

Abbey’s bail amount of $300,000 has been a point of contention in the community and among some defense attorneys.

Defense attorney Frank Carson is representing Turlock resident Michael Hoyt in a separate case and has brought up Abbey’s bail as a point of reference in his motion to have his client’s bail reduced. Hoyt’s bail review hearing is set for Wednesday.

Carson was waiting in the court hallway Thursday to serve a subpoena to Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris, the prosecutor in the Abbey case and whom Carson wants to question regarding bail amounts.

Thursday’s court proceeding was a stark comparison to Abbey’s last court appearance on June 1. On that day Abbey was surrounded by an entourage of family and friends, while the Elias family, friends and supporters staged a protest outside. At Thursday’s proceeding it was just the Elias family present and they sat quietly in the back of the courtroom.

The night before the court preceding the Elias family made an appearance at a community forum that was formed with the purpose of discussing the fatal confrontation. A group called, Friends for Justice, sponsored the “What Really Happened to Rita Elias?” forum. The group invited four panelists to discuss the issue. The panelists were former Modesto mayor and talk radio host Carmen Sabatino; NAACP local chapter President Frank Johnson; and community activists Miguel Donoso and Doug Gilbert. The panelists in general questioned the investigation of the shooting and their representation of what happened that fatal day varies widely from what investigators reported finding.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.