VIDEO: Lawyers spar over access to documents in El Sobrante hate crime trial

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EL SOBRANTE (BCN) — The man charged in an El Sobrante hate crime killing pleaded not guilty Monday during his first court appearance, at which his lawyer complained that prosecutors are not providing him with vital documents that could aid the man’s defense.

Daniel Porter-Kelly, 31, was arrested Nov. 16 by Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputies in the shooting death of 28-year-old William Sims.

Porter-Kelly is charged with one count of felony murder and one count of robbery and is facing a hate-crime enhancement involving the race of the victim, according to the district attorney’s office.

Sims is African-American but prosecutors did not explain exactly why they felt Porter-Kelly should be charged with a hate crime, citing the ongoing investigation.

Deputies are still searching for two other suspects in the case, 32-year-old Ray Simons of Hercules and 31-year-old Daniel Ortega, a resident of either Novato or Richmond.

Porter-Kelly’s lawyer, Colin Cooper, said he’s outraged that prosecutors have yet to provide him with any law enforcement reports, witness statements or an arrest warrant, a process called “discovery” in legal circles.

“It’s an absolute outrage and a violation of the Constitution,” Cooper said. “You can’t charge somebody with murder and have your detectives going on social media and news shows telling people it’s a hate crime without (giving the defense access to those documents).”

The prosecution, however, is adamant that the search for the other suspects in the case takes priority over writing the types of reports Cooper is demanding.

Cooper’s claims of Constitutional violations are “offensive,” said Deputy District Attorney Derek Butts.

“(Investigators) made an arrest, they are looking for two other guys,” Butts said. “They don’t have time to sit at their desks to satisfy Mr. Cooper.”

Butts said it’s not “super unusual” that prosecutors would make court filings in a criminal case prior to the discovery process.

Just after 2 a.m. on Nov. 12, a sheriff’s sergeant who was on patrol in El Sobrante discovered Sims lying in the roadway near Appian Way and Garden Road and suffering from a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Detectives believe that Sims was at the nearby Capri Club when some kind of altercation occurred.

Porter-Kelly is being held at the Martinez Detention Facility without bail. He is expected to appear at his preliminary hearing on Dec. 9.

While he could have faced the death penalty for the crimes he’s accused of, prosecutors are seeking a maximum penalty of life in prison, Butts said.

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