By Edward Garcia
The jury trial for Michael Anthony Ortiz came to a conclusion this Thursday afternoon, as the jury found the defendant guilty of simple battery against a spouse, cohabitant, or fellow parent.
This brings resolution to a domestic violence incident that occurred June 2, 2017, at a local Chevron in West Sacramento.
Mr. Ortiz was involved in a dispute with his then-girlfriend, who later entered the gas station yelling and acting hostile. Police arrived on the scene, and detained Mr. Ortiz.
The alleged victim made statements to the police which included the defendant “holding her down,” “pushing her to the side of the car,” and her “falling to the ground.”
The trial began with Deputy District Attorney David Green bringing to the stand Mr. Ortiz’s then-girlfriend, whom the defendant married in August of 2017. Mrs. Ortiz has a son and daughter with the defendant.
Returning to June 2, 2017, Mrs. Ortiz recalled joining the defendant at a tattoo shop. She noticed the defendant, while getting a tattoo, had been drinking alcohol to cope with the pain.
After the tattoo shop closed, both of them continued drinking. Mrs. Ortiz admitted to drinking more than she was accustomed, and also stated Mr. Ortiz had ingested a fair amount of alcohol.
With Mrs. Ortiz in the driver’s seat of the car, the defendant began getting aggravated, accusing her of cheating and being unwilling to let him drive. She voluntarily stepped out of the car and attempted to comfort Mr. Ortiz.
After her attempts were ineffective, Mrs. Ortiz became frustrated and started yelling at the defendant, which prompted him to hug her.
Ending her testimony, Mrs. Ortiz recalled walking to the Chevron gas station, as Mr. Ortiz followed. She began yelling at the cashier and customers, moving aggressively toward a large man. The
police arrived shortly after.
DA Green inquired about the statements Mrs. Ortiz made to the police the night of the dispute, but her reply was that she simply did not remember making those statements.
During cross-examination, Deputy Public Defender Jose Gonzalez-Vasquez questioned the physical contact. Despite her statements to the police, Mrs. Ortiz stated the only physical contact that night was when the defendant tried to comfort her by giving her a hug.
The two officers, Alexei Venikov and Ryan Fong, who reported to the scene, also testified.
Both officers testified to Mr. Ortiz appearing intoxicated and slurring his speech. In regards to Mrs. Ortiz, they did not recall any visible injuries.
The next two witnesses included a Chevron employee and her friend. They both testified to having been walking toward the parking lot when they saw Mr. and Mrs. Ortiz, approximately 45 feet away.
In the Chevron employee’s testimony, she saw Mrs. Ortiz in between the car door and the car, while the defendant was on the other side of the car door.
She heard Mrs. Ortiz cry out, “Stop!” and, “Somebody help me!”
The employee claims to have seen the defendant close the car door on the alleged victim three to five times.
Afterwards, she made an attempt to distract the defendant but realized her attempt was futile, and went back into the gas station to call 911. During her call, the defendant and Mrs. Ortiz walked in.
Upon further questioning from Mr. Green, the employee could not give a definitive answer to whether Mrs. Ortiz was pulling the car door in or if Mr. Ortiz was pulling the car door out.
The employee’s friend recalled seeing the victim pleading for help while attempting to get out of a bear hug by the defendant.
Additionally, she remembered seeing the victim bouncing off the car and sounding distraught, but the witness had a limited account of the alleged crime due to her reluctance to be involved.
Mr. Gonzalez-Vasquez inquired about the physical contact, to which the witness stated she saw no visible striking or shoving. The contact she did see was of the defendant giving Mrs. Ortiz a hug and of the alleged victim turning her body away from him.
Mr. Green finished by questioning whether the victim could escape, and the witness replied that she seemed unable to leave.
Judge David Reed excused the final witness, concluding the evidence for the case.
After Judge Reed read the jury their instructions, Mr. Green began his closing statement by emphasizing the difficulty of judging domestic violence cases, especially with the victim refusing to press charges.
In his closing, he highlighted how Mrs. Ortiz’s testimony cast the defendant in a positive light, excluding any acts of violence. The statements made to the police, however, mentioned contact that caused her to fall.
The burden of proof for spousal battery was declared by the People to have been met on both of the following points, specifically 1) the victim having a child with the defendant, and 2) a statement alleging the defendant caused her to fall.
Mr. Green went through the trouble of redefining simple battery, which he stated is clearly demonstrated by the victim mentioning contact that caused her to fall in her statements to police.
The testimonies given were restated as corroborating evidence.
Mr. Gonzalez-Vasquez began his closing statement by refuting any discrepancies with the victim’s current testimony.
He cast the defendant as a loving partner, preventing the alleged victim from driving under the influence.
Finishing up his closing statement, Mr. Gonzalez-Vasquez refuted the fact that simple battery even occurred. He claimed Mr. Green’s definition of simple battery allowed for any type of rude or unwanted contact to be sufficient in order to be tried as battery. Mr. Gonzalez-Vasquez finished by stating that protecting a loved one through contact should not be considered simple battery.
Mr. Green, in his rebuttal, simply reassured that simple battery did occur and that the defendant was guilty.
The jury was then sent to deliberate.
Some minor clarifications were needed before the jury would come to a decision but, ultimately, they found the defendant, Ortiz, guilty of simple battery.
Sentencing was scheduled for October 24, 2017, at 9 a.m.
Come see the Vanguard Event – “In Search of Gideon” – which highlights some of the key work performed by the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office…