Winters councilman denies guilt in weapon charges

Yolo County Courthouse (Sue Cockrell/McNaughton Media file photo)

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A Winters city councilman facing felony weapon charges pleaded not guilty to the allegations Wednesday in Yolo Superior Court.

Richard Thomas Casavecchia appeared in Judge Tom Dyer’s courtroom via Zoom, as did his attorney Michael Wise, who requested a June 7 court date for setting a preliminary hearing in the case.

“I did want to see if we could resolve it before we set it,” Wise said.

Casavecchia, 39, remains free on his own recognizance in the meantime.

Dyer also granted Wednesday a motion by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office to file an amended complaint in the case, adding two counts of possessing an assault rifle to a previous misdemeanor charge of possessing an unserialized firearm.

Documents filed in support of the motion allege that police found the assault rifles in Casavecchia’s home on April 2, after the victim arrived at the Winters Police Department to report a domestic violence incident and request an emergency protective order.

“She then told Winters police that defendant has a concealed-weapons permit along with other weapons,” the document says. She initially declined to give officers consent to enter her home and remove the weapons, but later reversed that decision.

About two hours earlier, a Winters patrol officer initiated an unrelated traffic stop on Casavecchia at Neiman and Main streets and asked Casavecchia whether he possessed any firearms, the motion says. Casavecchia confirmed he did, producing three handguns from a case on his truck’s passenger seat.

“One of the handguns did not contain a serial number or any identifying information,” prosecutors wrote. “Based on the officer’s training and experience, he opined the handgun was manufactured with several after-market parts, none of which contained a serial number.”

Officers went to Casavecchia’s home at about 4:30 p.m. that same day, seizing three AR-15 style rifles, two ammunition magazines and four ammunition rounds, the motion says.

Police later determined two of the firearms were not registered to Casavecchia.

Court documents describe both of those weapons as “semiautomatic, centerfire rifle(s) that did not have a fixed magazine. Further, (they) had a pistol grip that protruded conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, a telescoping stock, a forward pistol grip and a flash suppressor. Both rifles meet the definition of an assault weapon.”

Casavecchia remains on the Winters City Council while his court case is pending. Voters elected him to a four-year term last November.

Council discussion
At the May 2 Winters City Council meeting, Council members Jesse Loren, Carol Scianna and Mayor Pro Tempore Albert Vallecillo voiced support to add an agenda item at the June 6 meeting to discuss a possible vote to censure him.

In her council member report, Loren said that constituents shared concerns with her about the “council member situation and how it reflects on council.”

“Concerns were expressed to me and I hope there’s a time in the future that we can have a conversation,” Loren said.

Vallecillo expressed he would also like the council to have a separate discussion about options or solutions to remedy any future similar situations.

Assistant City Attorney Martin de los Angeles advised that the censure discussion should happen first at a regular meeting, and if the Council wants to proceed with a broader discussion it should be at a different meeting.

City Manager Kathleen Trepa said the City would need to do research on what other cities have done and to look into their municipal codes.

“We need a little bit of time to do that research,” Trepa said, noting the City staff would need to accommodate the time to do the work to look into the potential remedies for council member actions that could be contrary to the Code of Conduct, which is voluntary and non-binding.

Crystal Apilado contributed to this article

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