Six people affiliated with the Sidelines or Toby and Jack’s bars in Arcata were arraigned today on felony drug charges, with arrest warrants issued for two men who decided to skip court.
This afternoon visiting Judge Marilyn Miles arraigned Mykie Rae Bastidas, Elijah Calvin Browning, Nicole Taylor Costanzo, Joshua Michael Cuppett, Ryan Johnston and Jasmine Cerise Oakeshott on the charges, all related to alleged cocaine-dealing at the popular bars on the Arcata Plaza. Miles issued $50,000 arrest warrants for Scott Clinton Gamar and Jeffrey Franklin Shields Jr., who failed to appear for the hearing.
The eight were charged after an undercover operation by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. An undercover ABC agent testifying this week in a separate administrative hearing said she bought cocaine at the Sidelines. The agent also was expected to testify about drug-dealing at Toby and Jack’s.
Both establishments are owned by Sal Costanzo, who is in danger of losing his liquor license for the long-time businesses.
All eight suspects are out of custody for now. Miles ordered that Gamar and Shields Jr., if arrested, cannot be cited and released.
Four defendants appeared with private attorneys: Bastidas with Kathleen Bryson, Costanzo with Will Kay, Cuppett with Michael Robinson and Oakeshott with Manny Daskal. Both Browning and Johnston told Miles they can’t afford to hire a lawyer, and she appointed Deputy Conflict Counsel R.J. Leonard for Browning and Deputy Public Defender Luke Brownfield for Johnston.
Judging by the charges, Browning is in the most serious legal trouble. He is charged with four felony counts of sale or transportation of cocaine and three felony counts of possession of cocaine for sale. In a separate criminal case he is accused of possession of a controlled substance and driving without a valid license, both misdemeanors.
Nicole Costanzo faces felony allegations of allowing a place for storing or distributing cocaine, sale or transportation of cocaine and possession of cocaine for sale.
Bastidas and Cuppett are charged with one felony count each of allowing a place for storing or distributing cocaine. For Johnston and Oakshott it’s one count each of sale and transportation of cocaine.
The two now-fugitives, Gamar and Shields Jr., are each charged with one felony count of transportation or sale of cocaine.
Through their respective lawyers, the six defendants who were present entered pleas of not guilty. Attorneys Bryson, Robinson and Daskal said they have been hired. Kay, representing Nicole Costanzo, said he may or may not be retained depending on the outcome of the ABC hearing for Sal Costanzo. He is related to Nicole. Kay said the hearing should conclude tomorrow.
All defendants entered general time waivers, meaning they gave up their right to have a preliminary hearing within 60 days. Miles set Oct. 29 as the date for scheduling the preliminary hearing.
The case is being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Trent Timm, who had wanted an earlier date.