Case Study

Scheme to rob marijuana grower who posted Craigslist ad led to Alameda murder, prosecutor says

By Malaika Fraley
Oakland Tribune

OAKLAND — Jury deliberations began Monday at the murder trial of an Alameda man accused of setting up an Oakland man to be killed during a marijuana robbery in Alameda.

Christopher Donaldson, 25, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of murder in the April 20, 2011, fatal shooting of 32-year-old William Adrian Falcon Sapp, a Florida transplant and U.S. Navy veteran who grew marijuana legally for medicinal marijuana clubs.

Donaldson is also charged with robbery in connection with the stickup of a second marijuana grower in Berkeley in February 2011. His attorney said Donaldson is not responsible for either crime and asked jurors for an acquittal.

Alameda County prosecutor Patrick Morarity said Donaldson masterminded the robberies of both victims after answering their Craigslist ads offering marijuana for sale. In both cases, Donaldson arranged a time and place for the sale, only to have the victims met by two accomplices: one who masqueraded as the buyer and another, “the muscle,” to rob the victim at gunpoint.

It was a poorly planned scheme, and Sapp was the “wrong guy” to target, Morarity said. After meeting the fake buyer, Richard Ezell, inside the Summer House Apartments, Sapp was confronted by Charles Kimbrough and proceeded to pistol whip and beat Kimbrough.

Ezell pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a sentence of 15 years to life. He testified that he fatally shot Sapp as Sapp was holding Kimbrough with one hand and pointing a gun at him with the other, Morarity said.

Kimbrough, 32, of Hercules, was bleeding from the head as he was arrested near the crime scene by officers responding to the 911 call. Donaldson and Ezell, 25, of Mendocino County, were arrested a few hours later at Alameda’s Islander Motel. There, police found the property that was allegedly stolen from the Berkeley robbery victim two months prior.

Defense attorney Mario Andrews argued Monday that Donaldson arranged a marijuana sale with Sapp but did not intend for him to be robbed. He argued that no robbery occurred because none of Sapp’s property was stolen, and any theory that an attempted robbery occurred is pure speculation.

As to the Berkeley incident, Andrews argued that although a cellphone associated with Donaldson was used to contact the seller, there is no evidence that he was involved. The victim in that case testified that the person he spoke to on the phone was the same man who served as the fake buyer, Andrews said.

Morarity countered that cellphone records of phone calls and texts, his possession of the Berkeley victim’s property, and his accomplices’ accounts of how Donaldson planned the robberies are proof that he was the shot caller for each robbery.