The trial against Derrick Gonzalez, 37, began Tuesday morning with jury selection. Gonzalez is charged with alleged violation of the Nebraska Certificate Title Act and willful evasion of sales tax, both Class IV felonies.
Jury selection started the trial where 12 jurors (8 men, 4 women) were selected.
The prosecution, represented by Special Prosecutor Marty Klein, began the arguments by stating that this case would be very straightforward. He noted that this deal was as simple as Gonzalez buying a motorcycle, failing to pay sales tax on the vehicle, and selling the vehicle. He noted that this case might get complicated with Gonzalez’s verbal jargon, but listening to the witnesses and the facts of the case.
During Gonzalez’s opening statement, he argued that the government is a corporation and has no right to force someone into a contract. He also asserted that there must be a person against whom to make a claim.
The first witness who testified during the trail was Tristina (Tess) Gilligan who works for the Custer County Treasurer’s Office. During her testimony, she testified that the purchaser of a vehicle is obligated to pay sales tax of 5.5%. She also testified that both the seller and the buyer are required to sign the title when it is transferred.
She said when Dustin Kettlebourough, who bought a Yamaha motorcycle from Gonzalez, arrived at the office, information regarding the deeds of sale was missing. Gilligan testified that when the documents were presented to him, Lo’Akeem Jackson was the name on the title as the seller and Kettlebourough was the name on the buyer, but on the deeds of sale Jackson noted that he had agreed to sell to Gonzalez. According to Gillian, Gonzalez should have filled the buyer’s place and paid the taxes.
During cross-examination, Gonzalez inquired about the training of the job and also the necessity of the bill of sale. He also asked her if she knew her intention with the motorcycle if she was not physically present during the transaction. He also questioned the title of the vehicle which was presented as evidence. He asked if a copy had been made of a document, such as a vehicle title, if it was a forgery, which she agreed to.
Custer County Treasurer Sheri Bryant also spoke and testified on her account of the day Gonzalez and Kettlebourough were at the Custer County courthouse and also the procedure for paying sales tax on a vehicle. According to Bryant, when an individual buys a vehicle, the seller puts their name in the place of the seller of the title and the buyer puts their name in the place of the buyer of the title. She then says that a bill of sale is presented to the office and the vehicle is appraised and taxes are applied.
On October 30, 2020, Bryant was in his office when she heard voices coming from the front part of the treasurer’s office and asked to help Gonzalez and Kettlebourough. According to Bryant, Gonzalez started talking about denying certain rights when she started looking at the bills of sale and noted that there were errors with the second bill of sale.
During cross-examination, Gonzalez inquired about formal training to which Bryant replied that he was not required to apply for the job, but extensive training takes place once on the job. Gonzalez also asked Bryant if she was able to give him an order by law regarding the title and taxes she did not order, but referred to the fact that under the law of the State, he is required to pay taxes on the vehicle.
During the reorientation, Special Attorney Klein simply asked Bryant if Gonzalez paid the taxes on the vehicle, which she said she did not.
Lo’Akeem Jackson, who sold the motorcycle to Gonzalez, testified that he received $ 1,500 from Gonzalez for the motorcycle. He said he signed the title on the seller’s line, but never saw Gonzalez sign the buying part of the title.
Dustin Kettlebourough, who bought the motorcycle from Gonzalez, paid $ 800 for the vehicle, put his name on the buyer part of the title that had Jackson’s name on the seller part. During cross-examination, Gonzalez asked Kettlebourough if he harmed him by not being able to titrate the bike, which he replied that he didn’t because Gonzalez bought the bike back. for the previously agreed $ 800.
Investigator Marcus Siebken, who is part of the Nebraska Motor Vehicle Fraud Unit, received an email assigned to the case. He testified that during his investigation he contacted a number of people regarding the sale of a Yamaha motorcycle purchased by Gonzalez, but that he did not pay sales tax with the purchase. . He then sold the motorcycle which, according to Inv. Siebken, is a common practice for those trying to avoid taxes so that they can make money on the sale without paying taxes.
During the cross, Gonzalez asked the Inv. Siebken if he had proof that he lived in Ansley or if he had assumed he lived there. According to his testimony, Inv. Siebken was given an address to send all documents to Gonzalez which Gonzalez says is a post office. He also asked if the Inv. Siebken knew that he had resided at the home where the motorcycle was located or that he was only living there temporarily. The investigator replied that he assumed he had lived there after being able to combine the information gathered during the investigation.
Gonzalez also spoke and testified by reading numerous documents containing case law from other states, including Nebraska, and also cited numerous Uniform Trade Codes. During his testimony, Gonzalez stated that he believed, according to the UCC code and other reference documents, if an individual is using a vehicle for recreation and not for business purposes (using the vehicle to make business), then he does not have to register it with the state.
He also testified that he bought the motorcycle, but decided he no longer needed it and conducted a private sale that would allow him to exchange the motorcycle for valuable goods, in this case the money, and would not have to pay taxes.
During the counterattack, by Special Prosecutor Klein, he asked him if he was following the government, to which Gonzalez replied, “I am the government. I am the executor of the law. He was also asked if he believed in the law, to which he replied that there is a time when statutes and natural law are in harmony. Throughout the interrogation, Gonzalez did not answer the prosecutor’s questions and was repeatedly warned to answer only the question and, as Judge Mark Kozisek said, “stop running the mouth “.
While at the helm, Gonzalez said he bought the bike, didn’t title it because it was not used in trade, and sold it to Kettlebourough. When asked a yes or no question about whether he had already paid the taxes on the motorcycle, Gonzalez refused to answer with a straightforward answer.
Ansley Village Clerk / Treasurer Lanette Doane also briefly testified and testified that the utility bills for the residence in question were paid by Gonzalez. According to Doane, the name on the bill was “Derrick Shawton Gonzalez with Care of Doug Stunkel”. She also stated that he referred several times to “his home” or “I have to pay my bill”. During the crossing, Gonzalez continued to ask if paying the bill showed proof that someone resided in Ansley. She agreed that any individual could pay for another person’s utilities and that would not constitute a residence.
During oral argument, Special Attorney Klein said this is a straightforward matter that does not involve codes, it involves the law of the state of Nebraska. Klein argued that it is a fact that the purchaser of a vehicle must pay sales tax within 30 days of the date of purchase. He said Gonzalez did not pay the taxes and also violated the title law by not filling in the correct portions correctly. He also said that the jury had an important job of reviewing the evidence as well as the witnesses and assessing their credibility. Klein said no one at the bar had a vested interest in the case except Gonzalez. Klein asked the jury to find Gonzalez guilty of both counts.
During Gonzalez’s argument, he stated that the evidence presented is copies and therefore is counterfeit and should not be considered. He also noted that the two utility bills only prove that he is a generous person and does not mean that he resided in Ansley. He argued that the state had not established his residence, which is the subject of the case. He concluded by saying that he had the right to face his accuser, which cannot happen because “no man or woman has been harmed by his actions”. He asked the jury to find him not guilty.
The jury began its deliberations at 12:06 p.m. on the second day of trial on Wednesday, November 24. The verdict was read at 1:38 p.m.
The jury returned a unanimous decision and found Derrick Gonzalez guilty of violating the Nebraska Certificate Title Act and willful evasion of sales tax, both Class IV felonies. He will now be sentenced for the charges against him on January 19, 2022 at 9 a.m. A pre-sentence investigation was also ordered by Judge Kozisek to be completed by the determination of the sentence.
Gonzalez could be sentenced to two years in prison and fined up to $ 10,000 on each charge.