General Crime

Gregory Elarms leaded no contest to possession of weapons in jail San Mateo

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A man accused of fatally shooting an East Palo Alto community leader will remain in jail despite the dismissal of murder charges after pleading no contest on Thursday to unrelated weapons charges, according to San Mateo County prosecutors. Gregory Leon Elarms, 60, pleaded no contest Thursday to three counts of felony possession of weapons in jail and will receive a maximum of four years in state prison under the terms of a plea agreement, according to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

The weapons in question were a sharpened toothbrush, a sharpened “spork” and two sharpened pencils tied together, prosecutors said. Elarms remains in custody in lieu of $500,000 bail and will be sentenced on the weapons charges on Jan. 30, Wagstaffe said. The move keeps Elarms in jail while prosecutors pursue an appeal of a Nov. 6 decision by Superior Court Judge Stephen Hall to throw out murder charges against Elarms in the fatal shooting of David Lewis outside the Hillsdale Shopping Center on June 9, 2010.

Hall ruled San Mateo police had inappropriately obtained a confession from Elarms in violation of his Miranda rights, rendering his confession inadmissible at trial. Prosecutors are appealing, but have said the process could take 12 to 18 months. Elarms, an East Palo Alto native with an extensive criminal history, was taken into custody about six months after Lewis was shot once in the stomach in a parking lot at the mall.

Lewis, a reformed drug addict and convicted felon, had been active in the East Palo Alto community as an advocate for rehabilitation and re-entry programs for ex-cons. On Dec. 18, 2010, Elarms — who was not a suspect at the time — allegedly contacted San Mateo police detectives and claimed to have information about Lewis’ killing, according to police.

Prosecutors said Elarms requested police protection because he believed his life was in danger. Detectives offered to meet with Elarms, and while he was in police custody — but before he was arrested — he allegedly confessed to the murder and “muttered” something about needing an attorney, Wagstaffe said. Elarms was arrested, and since then has been in custody in San Mateo County Jail and at Atascadero State Hospital.

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