By Jamie Moddelmog
The long-running burglary trial against Joseph Hernandez, Rakhem Bradford and Joshua Givens resumed Friday with the return of a key witness, “NQ,” to the stand. NQ had already testified Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The witness was grilled by both the prosecution and defense attorneys, specifically about what she had told police officers in previous interviews, and how much of what she said was the truth. The testimony revealed that much of what she had told the officers had been lies or, as she described in one statement, “half-lies.”
NQ met with UCD Police Detectives Nunez and Kevin Skaife at various times in late 2013 and early 2014, and was interviewed by Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin in 2017. Her statements from those meetings often clashed with her testimony, leading her to clarify frequently that she had lied about various things during those interviews.
Her testimony also shed new light on her role in the crimes committed and her relationship with one of the defendants, Joseph Kaleimanu Hernandez, whom she refers to as “Manu.”
NQ confirmed that she had been living at 1801 Drexel Drive in Davis, which she called a “party house,” for much of September, October and November of 2013. Video games were being played constantly at the residence and there were “an incredible amount of people coming through it,” and “a lot of new faces,” according to the witness.
She claimed that staying at the “Drexel house” was the first time she felt like she had belonged anywhere. She also confirmed what she had said in an earlier statement, that she “breathed, ate and lived for Manu.”
However enamored with Manu she was, she admitted she had over-exaggerated the hold that the defendant had on her. She claimed she had attempted to present herself as the victim who, as she told police, “became an accomplice without even knowing it.”
NQ told Detectives Skaife and Nunez in their December 23, 2013, meeting with her that she was “blind, deaf and in a coma” and that Manu was controlling her mind. She maintained in court that she did actually feel that way, however she acknowledged that she had willingly participated in burglary, diverging from previous statements where she claimed she was oblivious to the crimes being committed.
She told Det. Skaife in her first meeting with him on November 6, 2013, that she “wasn’t raised to assist a thief,” and denied that she had ever willingly helped Manu. In court, she admitted that she had “lied the whole time” in her first meeting with police. She had called the detective back and scheduled another meeting and said that she “wasn’t going to lie for (Manu) anymore.”
However, she now admitted that in her second meeting with police on December 23, she had lied again. She had claimed in that interview that she had “gotten calls from Manu in the middle of the night” asking her to come pick him up, and when she arrived, she would find him and several others hiding the bushes. She claimed that she did not know they were robbing houses.
On New Year’s Eve of 2013, NQ received a call from Detective Nunez, who confronted her about her lies. He said he didn’t believe her story and believed that she was actually the consenting getaway driver. NQ then admitted that she had lied, but only because she had been afraid.
NQ claimed in testimony that she was afraid of “everyone in the (Drexel) house, except for Josh (Joshua Givens).” She said she saw that Manu owned a shotgun that he hid in a dresser. During this part of her testimony the prosecution lawyer, Ms. Serafin, brought out a small shotgun and asked NQ if it looked like Manu’s, which NQ confirmed that it did.
What NQ made clear in her testimony was that she and Manu had a falling out, and lawyers from both sides tried to figure out exactly why.
In a previous interview with police, she had stated that Manu was going to marry her for money so that she could get her green card. In court, she testified that she and Manu were planning on getting married for green card purposes, but he didn’t want her to pay him for it. She had also said in a previous interview that she called off the marriage, because green card marriages never work out. However, in court she testified that she had called it off because he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. “Thank God,” she said when explaining the marriage had not worked out.
Manu’s girlfriend had been mentioned by her in a previous interview with police where she said that she was annoyed that Manu got himself and his girlfriend “matching grills” for Christmas and got her nothing. Initially, in testimony, she claimed that the Christmas gifts had meant nothing to her and she did not expect a gift from him, but she later changed her testimony, stating that she expected to be given “rent money” she was owed and that his treatment of her showed her that “he wasn’t really living in reality.”
She acknowledged this as what defense counsel called the “tipping point” in her relationship with the defendant.
The defense counsel for Mr. Hernandez went over several other inaccuracies in her previous statements to police. Two incidents were reviewed in depth and her current recollection was compared with what she had said in the past.
One incident involved the burglary of a house on Anderson Road. In her very first interview with Det. Skaife, NQ denied involvement with the burglary. Later on, in an interview with Det. Nunez, she admitted to having been involved.
However, she did not mention that she had stolen a skateboard from the house, maintaining that, although she was there, she did not steal anything. She went back on this claim in her testimony. She mentioned that the group had stolen little jars of marijuana form the house, but on the stand she could not remember them.
Also, in her previous interview with Detective Nunez, she declined to mention that another defendant, Joshua Givens, was involved. She acknowledged in testimony that Givens was in fact there as well.
There was another incident at what NQ referred to as the “track team house.” She denied in previous interviews that she had ever been inside the house, and claimed that she only knew about the house from Manu. She went back on this statement, testifying that she had in fact been inside the house and had assisted Manu in robbing it.
She was caught in another lie when she asked about her interview in May of 2017 with Ms. Serafin, in which she told the deputy DA that she smoked cigarettes, but did not smoke weed. “That’s kind of a half lie,” she admitted in testimony, conceding that she does smoke marijuana.
NQ testified that she had been experiencing lots of anxiety throughout the process and that may have contributed to her lying. She had taken anti-anxiety medication at various points, starting after her first meeting with Detective Skaife in 2013.
In between her first and second meetings with the detective, she told her parents about the burglaries. She claimed that they told her that they “regretted raising someone like (her)” and that “when they look at (her) they can’t smile anymore.” Shortly after speaking to Detectives Nunez and Skaife on the 23rd of December, she attempted suicide. She said “the whole process in general” was like having a panic attack.
The trial will break for a week and resume on Monday, July 24, at 9 AM in Department 8.