Orlando Vilchez Lazo is accused of sexually assaulting four women by posing as a ridehail driver. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Orlando Vilchez Lazo is accused of sexually assaulting four women by posing as a ridehail driver. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Judge rules against challenge of search warrants in ‘Rideshare Rapist’ case

No decision made on legality of DUI stop police used to obtain suspect’s DNA

The prosecution of San Francisco’s alleged “Rideshare Rapist” will move forward after a judge on Wednesday ruled against a defense attorney who challenged the validity of search warrants at the center of the case.

Deputy Public Defender Sandy Feinland argued that the search warrants were based on DNA evidence that police illegally obtained from his client without a warrant by staging a phony drunk-driving investigation last July.

Orlando Vilchez-Lazo, 38, was arrested five days after the traffic stop when police matched his DNA to a series of rapes in which a man posing as a Lyft or Uber driver kidnapped and raped four intoxicated women.

But Feinland asked a judge to toss out the DNA sample and all the evidence that flowed from it as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

On Wednesday, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Newton Lam ruled against a motion to quash and traverse the search warrants. He found that police had enough probable cause to obtain the warrants, even without the legally questionable DNA.

For the same reason, Lam declined to rule on another motion to throw out the evidence. Though he indicated that he disagreed with Feinland about the evidence being tainted, he said whether police illegally obtained the initial DNA sample was irrelevant to his probable cause determination.

Feinland’s motions had threatened to dismantle the case.

The traffic stop in question happened July 7, 2018. Plainclothes officers allegedly watched Vilchez-Lazo circle the block of a nightclub ,where some of the victims had been kidnapped, before pulling him over.

Police then made him blow into an alcohol-screening test as a means to obtain his saliva. Over more than three days of hearings last week, there was a dispute over whether police had reason to believe Vilchez-Lazo was intoxicated.

One of the lead inspectors on the case testified that Vilchez-Lazo had been driving erratically. But the test detected no trace of alcohol in Vilchez-Lazo’s system, and one officer testified in court that he was told by the inspector to lie about the reason for the stop.

Regardless, Assistant District Attorney Lailah Morris argued that police would have inevitably identified Vilchez-Lazo as the alleged rapist.

One of the warrants in question was for police to obtain an additional sample of Vilchez-Lazo’s DNA, and Lam found that there was probable cause for police to obtain it based on the “good police work” of investigators.

Before the stop, police had been collecting license-plate reader data from the area of the club that allegedly detected Vilchez-Lazo circling the area on various occassions.

Before administering the alcohol-screening test, police also asked Vilchez-Lazo for his identification. Vilchez-Lazo was later identified by a victim in a photo line up that included his Department of Motor Vehicles picture.

Feinland argued that all that evidence was tainted because police only connected the dots to Vilchez-Lazo after the DNA match.

With the ruling Wednesday and no decision on the motion to suppress, the case is expected to continue to preliminary hearing where a judge will decide whether Vilchez-Lazo will stand trial.

Feinland would then have a chance to return to the issue of the legality of the DNA evidence with a motion to dismiss.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsCrime

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Many famillies have supported keeping John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park free of car traffic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Fight over future of JFK Drive heats up

Shamann Walton compares accessibilty issues to segregation, likens street closure to ‘1950s South’

Tara Hobson, center, principal at SF International High School, welcomes a student back on Monday, April 26, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD seniors get a chance to say goodbye to school in person

Deal to briefly return older students to school leaves many parents and teens dissatisfied

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City College union deal staves off layoffs, class cuts

One year agreement allows community college time to improve its finances

San Francisco Giants pitcher Logan Webb (62) faced down the Rangers Tuesday in a two-game sweep by the giants. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Webb posts career-high 10 strikeouts as Giants finish sweep of Rangers

The Texas Rangers arrived in San Francisco with one of the hottest… Continue reading

A Homeless Outreach Team member speaks with homeless people along Jones Street in the Tenderloin on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Breed proposes another street outreach team to divert calls away from police

San Francisco would launch a new street outreach team to respond to… Continue reading

Most Read