The preliminary hearing in the death of Turlock resident Korey Kauffman, 26, resumed Tuesday with testimony from one of the men prosecutors say defense attorney Frank Carson tried to recruit as muscle to stop thefts at his Turlock property.
The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office says Carson was angry over thefts at his property on Ninth Street that he believed were being committed by his Lander Avenue neighbor Michael Cooley. Their theory of the case has Carson — the one-time candidate for district attorney — serving as the mastermind of a criminal conspiracy that ultimately led to the death of Kauffman on March 31, 2012. According to the district attorney’s case, Carson and the eight others charged in connection with the murder, worked to hide the death from authorities and thwart any investigation. In addition to Carson, the district attorney has accused his wife, Georgia DeFilippo, Turlock brothers and Pop N’ Cork owners Baljit Athwal and Daljit Atwal, and former California Highway Patrol Officer Walter Wells with murder. CHP Officers Scott McFarlane, Eduardo Quintanar, and Carson’s stepdaughter Christina DeFilippo have all been charged with being accessories after the fact and conspiracy. McFarlane and Quintanar are not part of the preliminary hearing, nor is Robert Lee Woody, who was arrested in March 2014 and charged with Kauffman’s murder. Woody is expected to testify during the preliminary hearing.
Tuesday saw Ronald Cooper once again take the witness stand to answer questions about his involvement in the case. Cooper, who is currently serving a sentence for domestic violence, had previously testified that he witnessed a heated exchange between Carson and Cooley over stolen property.
Cooper later met Carson after being assigned to the same jail cell as Rajesh Singh, who is the brother of Praveen Singh, who served as a private investigator for Carson and operates his own bail bond company, according to the Ramey warrant filed with the arrests. While in custody Cooper wrote a letter to Carson that stated he knew who was stealing from Carson and that he should come down to the jail to talk to him and help him with his legal troubles. In Cooper’s recount of the conversation to investigators, he said Carson asked him who was responsible for the thefts and he told him it was Cooley and his friends that were responsible for the thefts. According to Cooper’s account, Carson asked him if he had any friends out of custody that could help him with his property, but Cooper said no.
Cooper was told by his cellmate that he could get bailed out if he would serve as “muscle,” according to the warrant.
In the criminal complaint filed against the defendants, Carson is accused of soliciting Cooper to “commit assault with great bodily injury on unidentified persons found to be trespassing” on his property.
Under cross-examination Cooper admitted that he used and sold methamphetamine and that he often took items in trade for methamphetamine. Defense attorney Robert Forkner asked Cooper if he ever took items in trade from Cooley, and while Cooper could recall selling Cooley methamphetamine, he could not recall if he ever took items for trade. Hoping to jog Cooper’s memory, Forkner asked him to whom did he sell methamphetamine and Cooper replied “Turlock.”
Cooper testified he did have a curio cabinet that he believed could have come from Carson’s property, but he couldn’t recall who had given it to him in exchange for methamphetamine.
Cooper said that he initially started talking to investigators with the hope of some kind of consideration on his case, because he was facing a felony possession charge with one strike already to his name. However, the charge was lowered to a misdemeanor with the passage of Prop 47 and eventually dismissed.