Three defendants to be tried in El Sobrante killing originally charged as a hate crime

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MARTINEZ — More than three years after Richmond resident Willie Sims was beaten and shot in a bar confrontation police initially labeled a hate crime, three suspects are set to go on trial.

The suspected shooter, Ray Simons, 35, as well as Daniel Ortega, 34, and Daniel Porter-Kelly, 34, as set to face a jury sometime in mid-March. Pretrial motions will start on Tuesday, with jury selection slated to start as early as Thursday.

Among the motions trial Judge Barry Baskin must consider is a request for a gag order filed by Simons’ defense team. The order would bar prosecution and defense attorneys from publicly commenting on the case during trial.

On Nov. 12, 2016, Sims, a musician and member of the band Jazz-ology, was attacked in the back of a bar at 4156 Appian Way in El Sobrante, known as the Capri Club. Police say a confrontation started in the bar after Porter-Kelly allegedly said, “f— that n—–,” referring to Sims. His attorney has defended the remark, saying Porter-Kelly used it in a colloquial way and wasn’t intending to be racist.

A few minutes after being badly injured during the beating, in the front of the Capri Club, Sims walked up to a car containing Simons, Ortega, and Ortega’s girlfriend, and Simons allegedly shot Sims, 28, with a pistol. At the time of the shooting, Porter-Kelly was in a car, driving away from the area.

Initially, prosecutors charged the three defendants with murder and committing a hate crime, saying that there was evidence Sims was killed because he was black. A detective investigating the homicide also wrote a sworn statement in a search warrant return alleging that the now-defunct Capri Club was known as an establishment where black people were generally unwelcome.

In April 2017, though, a grand jury rebuffed prosecutors, indicting the three on murder charges but declining a prosecution request to include a hate crime enhancement on the indictment. Four months later, Porter-Kelly posted bail and was freed from jail.

view The Mercury News
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