On July 30, 2014, in Judge Richardson’s courtroom, the preliminary hearing for Armando Gonzales prepared to come to a close.
The defendant, in custody and wearing headphones for translating purposes, sat quietly next to his attorney, Clemente Jimenez. Kyle Hasapes and Amanda Zambor stood in for the People.
Armando Gonzales is being charged with felony vehicular manslaughter and hit and run.
Allegedly, on February 1, 2014, the defendant hit a motor vehicle, which resulted in the death of an 85-year-old woman. After failing to stop and aid the victim, the defendant rear-ended another vehicle down the road. The victims in the second collision did not suffer serious injuries.
The next witness approached the stand: Officer Randell Krantz, a Woodland police officer for over seven years.
DDA Hasapes asked Officer Krantz if he took a traffic incident report on May 3, 2010. Officer Krantz said, “Yes.”
According to Officer Krantz, the morning of May 3, 2010, he approached a traffic incident between a gold Nissan Pathfinder and a silver Mitsubishi Lancer.
“I talked to the owner of the Mitsubishi Lancer. It was Armando Gonzalez…He was heading to McDonalds. He began to feel ill… He had pulled over and stopped driving…He felt a seizure coming. ”
DDA Hasapes asked Officer Krantz what symptoms the defendant felt.
“I don’t recall…He may have felt tired.”
“Objection. Speculation!” the defendant’s attorney interjected.
“Sustained,” Judge Richardson responded.
DDA Hasapes then asked Officer Krantz if looking at his police report would refresh his recollection.
After a quick glance at his police report, Officer Krantz stated, “He said he felt tired and he may have a seizure. He said he had seizures since he was a child and he was taking medications for it.”
Officer Krantz also added that the defendant had mentioned a 2004 collision. “He had head trauma and had to have rods put in his legs.”
When the DDA asked Officer Krantz if he had spoken to any witnesses, he said he had spoken to a man who lived around the corner. The witness told Officer Krantz that he had walked up to the collision and had spoken to the defendant.
“Mr. Gonzalez wasn’t responding initially.”
“Is there anything you did to notify the DMV?” DDA Hasapes inquired.
“Yes.” Officer Krantz believed Gonzalez should not be driving for medical reasons.
“On August 29, 2011, did you respond to a traffic collision?”
“Yes…a two vehicle traffic collision.”
Officer Krantz stated that a green Honda Accord—registered to the defendant—had collided with a van. The Honda Accord had front damage.
At the scene, Officer Krantz spoke to a nearby witness driving northbound behind the Honda. The witness stated that, as the Honda made swerving motions and didn’t appear to be stopping, he tried to honk to warn the Honda driver.
Officer Krantz also spoke to the driver of the other vehicle involved in the collision. The woman had stopped at the stop sign and proceeded. As the woman entered the intersection, the Honda did not stop and collided into her vehicle.
DDA Hasapes asked Officer Krantz if the defendant had been drinking.
“I didn’t smell any alcohol again…he talked again about taking medications.”
When asked if he recognized the defendant from the previous collision, Officer Krantz said, “I don’t remember if I realized that immediately…his license was just reinstated by the DMV.”
As recalled by Officer Krantz, the defendant revealed a calm demeanor. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Did the defendant mention anything about being tired or sleepy?”
“That he may have fallen asleep…and he had been pushed by another driver.”
“Is there a form you filled out for the DMV?”
Officer Krantz declared he had requested a reexamination of the defendant’s driver’s license.
“Were there any language barriers?”
“I don’t recall…don’t recall needing a translator.”
“What time of the day did the collision occur?”
“In the evening around 5:30.”
After Defense Attorney Jimenez revealed he had no questions, Officer Krantz exited Department One.
Sergeant Frank Tenedora arrived as the next witness.
Sgt. Tenedora disclosed he had been a police officer for the city of Davis for twenty-three years.
According to Sgt. Tenedora, at 1400 hours, or 2:00 pm, he was dispatched to a collision with injuries at Pole Line Rd. and East Covell. He said initially he intended to get to Baywood and Covell, but Pole Line Rd and East Covell intersection was flooded with traffic.
Sgt. Tenedora testified that at the scene of the accident he spoke to the driver, Armando Gonzalez.
“He said he was the driver of the white sedan.”
“Can you describe the demeanor of the defendant?”
“Calm…a little disoriented…because he was in a crash…he was answering my questions slowly…just dazed…One of the first things I thought was he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol…I told him I was going to have medical personnel check him.”
“Did he say he didn’t understand English?”
“Did the defendant mention he was sleepy or tired?”
After speaking to the defendant, a Ms. Gibson approached Sgt. Tenedora and disclosed she had witnessed the accident.
Sgt. Tenedora further testified that Ms. Gibson had told him somebody else was injured in the other car. Ms. Gibson was facing eastbound on Covell when she saw a white vehicle, with damage in the front, throw a jeep into the intersection.
Sgt. Tenedora added that Ms. Gibson had noticed, “He tried to start his car up.”
“How did she know?” asked DDA Hasapes.
“She didn’t say.”
“No further questions.”
Next, the defense cross-examined Sgt. Tenedora.
Mr. Jimenez asked Sgt. Tenedora, “You would have noted in your report,” how Ms. Gibson knew that Mr. Gonzales tried to start his car, correct?
“Would you omit that from your report? Everything was still fresh in your mind.”
DDA Hasapes then spoke out during redirect, “Sergeant, sometimes you miss some things… Would your report be pages and pages long, if you added every detail?”
Sergeant Tenedora nodded his head in agreement.
Judge Richardson asked if the defense had any more questions and Mr. Jimenez said he did.
“You have a little note pad… Would you have written it down if they heard the engine?”
“I don’t know… I don’t know what she was assuming… Maybe.”
“If somebody is trying to start the car, that’s something worth noting right?
“Trying to talk to her I would have missed some things.”
“Are you saying you probably missed some things?”
“I’m saying I wrote down what I thought was important at the time.”
With no further questions from counsel, Judge Richardson asked Sgt. Tenedora if Ms. Gibson had seen the defendant’s car swerve.
“That I don’t know. She didn’t say.”
Judge Richardson dismissed Sergeant Tenedora.
After a short morning, the next witness walked in to Department One. DDA Amanda Zambor prepared to examine the witness.
Mr. Afante testified that he focuses on traffic and collisions; he also worked fourteen years in the fire service as a senior captain, and worked as an EMT.
On February 1, 2014, Mr. Afante said he got a brief from Officer Tendora about the incident. The first collision occurred on Covell and Baywood where lots of debris lay on the road.
“What was your role?” DDA Zambor asked.
“Overall scene supervisor.”
On the scene, Mr. Afante directed Officer Jesse Dacanay to take photographs.
“Did you speak to anybody on scene other than officers?”
“The defendant…had a brief conversation with the defendant…he hadn’t had any seizures in a while.”
“Did you communicate to the defendant in English?”
“Yes…No English or language barrier.”
Mr. Afante testified that he requested West Sacramento police to respond. And then, he responded to the UCD Medical Center; Mr. Afante walked in as the doctor sat down with the family to notify them that Ms. Morales had passed away.
Upon learning about the victim’s death, Mr. Afante responded to the defendant in jail— Mr. Gonzalez nearly posted bail.
“I informed him that he was under arrest for vehicular manslaughter.” Mr. Afante then added that the defendant didn’t seem to care. “Other people are a lot more emotional.”
“Did you speak to him in English?”
“Yes. He responded in English.”
Mr. Afante also declared that on February 4, 2014, he arrived at the back lot of the Davis Police Department. He planned to retrieve the crash data record—the black box for the Chevy Impala and the Toyota. According to Mr. Afante, the crash data record indicates the position of the passenger; a rapid change in velocity that would indicate a crash; a signal sent to the airbags to prepare to deploy and to the seat belts to pull back the passengers.
Mr. Afante said he considers himself a collision reconstructionist.
“Have you had training in the downloading of the black box?” asked DDA Zambor.
“Yes, I have…a twenty-four hour course.”
From the information downloaded from the Chevy Impala, Mr. Afante deduced that the Impala traveled at 38 mph when the collision occurred.
“Was there also a black box in the Toyota?”
Yes…every vehicle reports their data differently…doesn’t give you the actual speed. Only change in speed, a rapid change, reduction in speed, coming in contact with another vehicle.”
“Do you know if the airbag deployed in the Toyota?”
“I don’t recall.”
“Was the information downloaded consistent with the Toyota and Impala at the first collision scene?”
Mr. Afante stated that there was a rapid increase of speed from the Impala. He knew this by the scuff marks and the position of the vehicle.
“Was the damage to the front end of the Toyota consistent with the back end of the Impala?”
Mr. Afante also indicated that the Toyota rode over the top bumper of the Impala, into the trunk. “This indicates there was no breaking applied the Toyota.”
Using the paperboard positioned by the witness stand, Mr. Afante then drew his portrayal of the collision.
“The one with the higher velocity is going to push the one with the lower velocity.”
Mr. Afante disclosed that they talk a lot about human behavior in collision reconstruction and then went into detail about his reconstruction of the accident.
“The vehicles separated with such force…the Impala first continued to go…hit the curve on the left wheel…a light pole sits here… looked like it brought the vehicle to a complete stop…spun around…there was a tree here…the Impala ended up facing East… made a 180…. the Toyota continued West…can’t tell what lane.”
During cross-examination, Mr. Jimenez had a few questions for Mr. Afante.
“You talked about human behavior… You had the opportunity to observe drivers’ behavior?”
You don’t actually see these accidents, you reconstruct them, correct?”
“You said there was no breaking of Toyota. Is it a natural reaction to break? But, that’s not what happened here, correct?
After Mr. Afante was dismissed, Judge Richardson and counsel discussed several exhibits.
Mr. Jimenez objected to some exhibits. He argued that there were a couple of documents that had nothing to do with the matter before the court: exhibit 56, the jail medical records and exhibits 57-58, the employer paperwork.
In the employer paperwork, Mr. Gonzalez had checked English as his preferred language.
Judge Richardson stated that there was relevance to the jail medical records and the employer paperwork. And Judge Richardson believed the Swift Dodge paperwork had some relevance as to his comprehension of the incident on February 1, 2014.
“Objection overruled,” Judge Richardson announced.
Judge Richardson then informed everyone that the argument from counsel and the ruling would happen after the lunch break.
After the hearing, the defense counsel continued to emphasize that Gonzalez was in an accident and he could have done nothing about it, emphasizing Dr. Haseet’s testimony that the defendant was low risk, and that the DMV had said Gonzalez was able to drive. Those prior traffic incidents did not change the fact that Dr. Haseet testified that Gonzalez was not a risk.
Also, Jimenez pointed out that Gonzalez had a seizure, so there was no malice. According to the statutes, implied malice had to be probable. But the doctor had said Gonzalez was no threat, with Jimenez implying there could be no malice if the defendant did not think he was a threat.
As to the manslaughter charge, Jimenez said the defendant did nothing illegal, and that Gonzalez should not be charged with the fleeing enhancement because he did not know an accident even occurred. Also, the hit-and-run should be dismissed because there was no evidence that Gonzalez knew of a collision, so driving away would not be running.
Jimenez thus asked for a complete dismissal of all charges against Gonzalez.
Unsurprisingly, the prosecuting counsel disagreed with Jimenez’s suggestion and raised a few more issues. First, Zambor said defense counsel was misinterpreting the prosecution’s argument, saying that it was not their intent to show Gonzalez drove with intent to kill. Rather, she focused on the four incidents before, Gonzalez’s previously suspended license, his suspected seizure impairment, and the fact he was lying to the DMV. Zambor next said that Gonzalez was lying to the doctor and the DMV, and also not reporting facts, to raise the suggestion that the doctor did not know all of the facts about Gonzalez’s condition.
Also, Zambor pointed out that if Gonzalez does not know when a seizure will come, that means one could come at any time. Gross negligence and manslaughter would fall under this category. And Zambor said the fact that Gonzalez sped up after the accident means he must have been responsive.
Under Judge Richardson’s questioning, Zambor said that Gonzalez must have been conscious after the first collision, and then he went to the second collision. When the judge asked if it seemed like concealment for Gonzalez not to change lanes, Zambor said the defendant still knew what was going on.
When asked if this were an inconsistency, Zambor said no: choosing to drive when he knew the danger was Gonzalez’s first crime, and the second is when he regained consciousness after his seizure and fled.
Jimenez spoke again to say that the previous accidents were of no consequence here, that the doctor said Gonzalez was no more of a threat than an everyday driver, and that the defendant had no control over his seizures.
But Zambor said that the defendant had a choice because he was lying and driving. Also, she said that Jimenez would just as easily argue Gonzalez didn’t have a seizure, so the charge should still stand.
Judge Richardson ruled that the defendant had difficulty driving, and had other problems like getting little sleep and gazing off while driving. He thus ruled that the defendant’s driving fell under implied malice. He held Gonzalez to answer on the murder and vehicular manslaughter counts. However, he dismissed the enhancement and the third charge, saying that Gonzalez’s running into another car was better explained as a seizure and not an attempt to flee. He lastly held Gonzalez to answer for perjury charges relating to the last two counts.