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Judge Reduces Alleged Theft of $10.62 in Groceries to Misdemeanor

shopliftingby Saghi Nojoomi

Judge David Rosenberg of the Yolo County Superior Court, in a preliminary hearing, granted the defense’s motion, allowing the court to scale down the defendant’s felony charge into a misdemeanor.

Defendant Michael Stanley is accused of felony theft of $10.62 of grocery items from the Woodland Food 4 Less. While the deputy district attorney urged that the defendant’s past thefts warrant a felony conviction, the defense argued that the defendant had no criminal intentions and only committed the crime while homeless and for his pregnant girlfriend.

Deputy District Attorney Robin Johnson’s witness, Officer Ruben Esquibel, began his testimony by claiming that on May 14, 2014, he was dispatched to the Food 4 Less on 415 Pioneer Avenue. According to the officer, Food 4 Less had received such a large shipment that items had to be placed in a roofless closed enclosure behind the store.

When a loss prevention officer witnessed the defendant climbing over the enclosure and handing items to a woman nearby, he detained both individuals for theft before calling for additional support. Officer Esquibel claimed that the defendant took water, noodles, and soda pop from the closed enclosure, a total amount of $10.62. The witness correctly identified the defendant when asked.

During cross-examination, the defendant’s counsel questioned the witness about the statement he took on the night of the incident. According to the officer, the defendant explained in his statement that he and his pregnant wife were homeless and hungry on the night of the incident.

The two claim that they went to Food 4 Less, in an effort to gather thrown out food from backside dumpsters.

The defense continued their cross-examination by asking the witness to confirm whether or not the defendant had any money on him during the search. According to the witness, the defendant did not have any money with him during the search.

In regard to the motion, the defense argued that, while the people have the right to seek a felony conviction due to the defendant’s repetitive theft history, the circumstances of the crime should call for a misdemeanor.

The defense continued to claim that the defendant and his young family were out planning to seek food in dumpsters at one in the morning, with no initial intention to steal.

According to the defense, the special and human circumstances surrounding the case, along with the small amount of items taken and the small monetary value, constitute a misdemeanor and not a felony conviction.

In response to the defense’s appeal, DDA Johnson argued that, after glancing over the defendant’s past records, one can conclude that stealing is a “pattern with [the] defendant” because “he is a thief.” Johnson went on to explain that the defendant had once been convicted of Penal Code sections 148, 417, 459 and 653f, which represent resisting arrest, exhibiting a weapon, burglary and soliciting another to aid in a crime, respectively.

In addition to those, Ms. Johnson claimed that the defendant had several other misdemeanors from 2008 and 2009. According to Johnson, the defendant’s past should allow the People to seek a felony conviction.

When asked to respond, the defense claimed that the case was a “crime of opportunity” because his client never had the intention to steal until the opportunity presented itself. The special and human characteristics of the case involve a young family in desperate need with a spontaneous and tempting opportunity, the defense argued, and “some crimes are misdemeanors regardless of the past.”

After claiming that the defendant’s “conduct [was] criminal,” Judge Rosenberg granted the defense’s Penal Code 17(b) motion, using his discretion to reduce the alleged crime to a misdemeanor.

The case is set to continue in Department 8 of the Yolo County Superior Court.

People v. Jimenez Case Proceeded with Preliminary Hearing

By Justine Joya

Wednesday afternoon the case against Virginia Jimenez continued with a preliminary hearing in which two of the People’s witnesses testified.

Defendant Virginia Jimenez is being charged with a total of 6 counts, 4 felonies and 2 misdemeanors. The defendant was searched in her vehicle after two West Sacramento officers witnessed her driving in reverse in a parking lot. According to the officers, they found methamphetamine and MDMA in a Clorox container in her truck.

Serving as the first witness was Officer Alisha Slater. According to her testimony, she and Detective Anthony Herrera saw the witness driving a truck in reverse in a parking lot. When they signaled their emergency lights, the truck stopped and the two officers approached. Slater said that it was the defendant and three children in the vehicle.

While Slater dealt with the children in the car, Herrera conducted the search of Jimenez and the vehicle. Slater told the court that Herrera showed her the Clorox bottle that was found in the vehicle. When opened, the officers discovered that it was a “stash container” holding a digital scale, glass pipe, and four small bags of methamphetamine.

Detective Anthony Herrera’s testimony was brief, summing up Slater’s previous account of the arrest.

When both counsels concluded their examinations, Judge Rosenberg scheduled the next court date on September 11.

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About Vanguard Court Watch Interns

The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

21 comments

  1. Thank you for the article on the shop lifting episode. This story makes me very sad. Consider the circumstances and how we as a society are choosing to spend our funds. How many packages or noodles, or more nutritious food needed by a growing fetus might have been supplied to these people by the amount of money spent on the salaries of the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney and all their support staff and building maintenance for the time it took to hear this case ? While Judge Rosenburg definitely got this right, in my opinion, it should never have come before him in the first place. How have our priorities become so incredibly warped that we would rather prosecute someone for a felony over
    $10.42 than to offer them something to eat and drink ? Who was helped here ? Who was protected ?

  2. First, this was a preliminary hearing, so Mr Stanley has not been convicted yet. I believe what the author meant to write was that he was held to answer on a misdemeanor charge of theft with prior convictions.

    So, next concerning this prosecution. I am a member of a few Facebook neighborhood watch groups and I attend several community meetings. The chief complaint, I’d estimate at around 80%, concerns theft and homelessness; Mr Stanley hits both of these. Are we not to hold people accountable for their actions? To get to the point where Mr Stanley is charged with petty theft with priors he has had to have at minimum 3 theft related convictions. So he has not learned from past mistakes and the ensuing slaps on the wrist. Wouldn’t Mr Stanley’s time be better spent seeking out assistance or programs to help his budding family? But instead he scales a fence to steal instead of help himself.

    As far as the cost of his prosecution….there was none. The salaries for the DA, Judge, support staff, and building maintenance are paid not matter what they are doing. So if they are at this preliminary hearing, or sitting in their offices, or leaving early to play golf, the cost is the same.

    • theotherside,
      Sorry that i was late in getting to this article this morning – unavoidable. Please let me point out that our current volunteer system puts the articles up early and i try to get to them immediately to do any edits…sometimes i am proofreading while you are reading, so i recommend refreshing page. Please feel free to post a comment if I missed something – which happens!

  3. theotherside

    I believe that people should be held accountable for their actions. I also believe that we as a society need to be held accountable for the full consequences of our own actions. So let’s look at the consequences to the society of not helping to feed the innocents involved. Let’s suppose that the end result of this case were to result in a felony conviction. Would that mean jail time which is very expensive to the community ? Would that mean that this individual would be restricted in the future from certain types of jobs which might be needed to support this family ? Will the ultimate consequence be that the completely innocent baby will be less healthy and have a lesser chance of succeeding in its own life ?

    As for the last point about this not resulting in any cost, I completely disagree. If we did not choose to handle these non violent crimes in this manner, we would reduce the need for lawyers and judges and thus would have less expenditures on their very expensive salary and benefits whether spent in court, or sitting in their offices or leaving early to play golf. Do your really believe that there is “no cost” to our extremely expensive legal , judicial , jail and prison system even if those costs are “hidden” in the way your are citing ? Fewer members of the judiciary, lawyers and support staff would definitely lead to a reduction in cost and in my opinion the talents of these very smart and productive individuals could be better spent on activities that actually strengthen our communities rather than punishing our poor.

    • “I believe that people should be held accountable for their actions. I also believe that we as a society need to be held accountable for the full consequences of our own actions.”

      The society cannot force this man to go to a homeless shelter and ask for help… That is on him! This famnily could have as easily went to Fourth and Hope for food and shelter but chose not to… That is not societys fault!

    • Hasn’t President Obama dramatically increased the food stamp program? Aren’t there homeless programs in Woodland? I think we might make more progress with our analysis if we drug tested these two individuals.

      Why do homeless people get pregnant? If your employment is that tenuous, use birth control, and / or go to Planned parenthood.

      Maybe we need to start a work program like during the Depression, but we’d have to have a no drugs police, which progressives would be against.

      • I didn’t mean to sound so callous. I do have empathy for this couple and child, but there are likely hundreds of poor decisions that lead up to this event, and simply not prosecuting this crime is not going to stop the continued chain of poor decisions.

        • Completely agree with you!!!! Fourth and Hope is a mere 2 miles or so from Food 4 Less!!! It sounds as if this man has a history of theft and ignoring this one will not solve the problem……..Fourth and Hope would have provided them with food and shelter…..

          • It sounds to me like there are additional problems here beyond just poverty and crime, none of which are likely solved by overcharging the base crime.

    • “So let’s look at the consequences to the society of not helping to feed the innocents involved. Let’s suppose that the end result of this case were to result in a felony conviction. Would that mean jail time which is very expensive to the community ? Would that mean that this individual would be restricted in the future from certain types of jobs which might be needed to support this family ? Will the ultimate consequence be that the completely innocent baby will be less healthy and have a lesser chance of succeeding in its own life ?”

      Yes, absolutely. This is what keeps us, non-criminals, from breaking the law. Not just the legal consequences, but the long term effects of these bad decisions. These things you cite should be what is going through Mr Stanley’s head when he is deciding whether to steal or not. Then he makes the decision to commit the crime and face these things you say are detrimental to him. It’s called being an adult.

      I have a child. When I felt I was in a position to care for and afford that child is when I went forward with that ultra serious decision. So if Mr Stanley and his significant other are eating from dumpsters and cannot care for themselves, why are they so negligently bringing a child together? It is not my responsibility to ensure their “welfare”.

      And TBD is absolutely correct in his assumption many if not most of homeless have substance abuse problems.
      They are hungry and steal food because what money they do get from either recycling or theft goes to their substance of choice. Feeding them is actually negligent.

  4. TBD

    There may or may not be hundreds of bad decisions that led to their current situation. We simply do not know the circumstances of these two people and the unborn child. What we do know.
    1. At least one of them is completely blameless and there may be life altering consequences for that individual.
    2. Prosecuting the crime will most likely also not stoop the chain of poor decisions. At best, if incarcerated, it
    gives one them food and shelter and does absolutely nothing except potentially make circumstances worse for
    the other two, at least on of which we surely must agree is innocent of anything except existing.
    3. While we cannot save every one, perhaps we could help to get this one particular couple on a better track.
    I do believe that we have at least that responsibility.

    As for the use of birth control, I could not agree more. I have made it a corner stone of my career to prevent unintended pregnancy. I recommend that the government provide free long acting reversible birth control in the form of intrauterine devices good for 5 and 10 years respectively or the implantable rod good for 3 years to anyone who has any contact with our social service or justice system for the asking, and would recommend that we ask them prospectively, not wait for them to happen to think of it. There is much that individuals can do in terms of good choices There is also much that our society can do to help them by making those choices more
    readily available.

    • My understanding is that a high percentage of the “homeless” have drug / alcohol and mental health issues. Am I right? I guess the 60s mantra of drugs being cool and harmless wasn’t correct, though some argue these folks are self medicating.

      • and bringing a baby into this environment……. You have to be careful what you wish for! A baby on the streets or in a foster type home? What is in the best interest of the child???

      • TBD wrote:

        > My understanding is that a high percentage of the “homeless” have
        > My understanding is that a high percentage of the “homeless” have drug / alcohol and mental health issues..

        Years ago I was working with Fr. Joe Carroll and a guy was talking to us “and” his friend from another planet. I asked Fr. Joe what percentage of homeless he thought had “drug / alcohol and/or mental health issues” and he said “over 99% but we help them and feed them anyway”

        P.S. Fr. Joe is probably a good guy to ask about the homeless (the article below popped up when I did a Google search to make sure I spelled his name correctly).

        http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/mar/11/father-joe-carroll-award/

  5. I would hazard a guess that none of us actually knows anything factual about Mr.Stanley other than what was reported here. A problem in making judgments of others, is that we tend to extrapolate from our own lives and knowledge base and basically think “I managed, why can’t he”. The problem with this thought process is that there may be many different reasons. For example, do we know what Mr. Stanley’s IQ is ? Do we know that he is even capable of advance planning ? Because we know the location of Fourth and Hope or could easily find the information, does that automatically mean the Mr. Stanley has this ability ? We don’t even know whether or not he and his partner are literate. An estimated 14% of the native English speakers in my practice are not. Can we not even imagine that perhaps Mr. Stanley keeps breaking the law because he cannot formulate, for what ever reason, a better plan for organizing his life ?

    I would not be too quick to judge about the “decision” to bring a child in to the world. 50% of pregnancies in this country are unplanned. This cuts across socio ecumenic groups and except in the teen population has not changed significantly in the past 30 years. Birth control is not as easy and straight forward to obtain and use as some would like to believe. So, since this happens to the doctors, lawyers, community leaders of all types, how much more likely might it happen to someone whose circumstances do not even allow for a roof over their heads. How much easier just to separate ourselves out into the law abiding and the law breakers and choose not to look at any of the potential underlying factors, how this situation might be prevented, and how we could contribute to the solution rather than just pointing our fingers and demanding punishment that will likely be costly and not improve anyone’s situation.

    • Tia:

      none of us actually knows anything factual about Mr.Stanley other than what was reported here.

      Yes, and here is one of the things that is reported here:

      one can conclude that stealing is a “pattern with [the] defendant” because “he is a thief.” Johnson went on to explain that the defendant had once been convicted of Penal Code sections 148, 417, 459 and 653f, which represent resisting arrest, exhibiting a weapon, burglary and soliciting another to aid in a crime, respectively.
      In addition to those, Ms. Johnson claimed that the defendant had several other misdemeanors from 2008 and 2009.

      You go on:

      How much easier just to separate ourselves out into the law abiding and the law breakers and choose not to look at any of the potential underlying factors

      In this case, the label of law breaker seems to fit. It may be reasonable to treat this as a misdemeanor, but I do wonder how you propose to get this individual to make better choices in the future if theft isn’t sanctioned in some manner.

  6. Don

    I certainly agree that since there is a history of law breaking, the label is accurate. My question is does it move us any closer to a solution either for this couple who are obviously in need of help in organizing a safe life for themselves, or as a society. My answer to this is “no”, Labeling whether accurate or not is not proving useful.
    I would suggest a different approach. I would suggest that someone’s role be dedicated to finding out what the underlying issues are that are preventing this couple from doing better and helping them to address those. Some examples:
    1. If the problem is low IQ, perhaps some type of protected living environment would be most appropriate.
    2. If the problem is mental health, a treatment program would be most appropriate
    3. If the problems is illiteracy, providing education and skills development would be most appropriate.
    4. If the problem is drugs or alcohol ( which by the way is just a drug in liquid form) then a rehab program might
    be best.
    5. If the problem is inability to get a job because of homelessness, perhaps a “Housing first” approach would be best.
    I just think that we are too quick to label and not consider how an individual got to such a point in their life. Maybe they could be helped, maybe not, but our current system does far too little in my opinion to sort out who could be helped.

  7. Tia wrote:

    > our current system does far too little in my opinion to sort out who could be helped.

    In San Francisco they spend about a half million a DAY (about $15 Million a MONTH) “helping” the homeless, but most (but not all) don’t really want “help”.

    Unless we lock up the homeless and “force” them to get help (I am not in favor of this) it is really hard to “help” them.

    I’m wondering what Tia wants to do with people who can’t be bothered to get “help” (or free food) and keep stealing and/or breaking in to people’s homes with weapons?

  8. Don

    This makes the assumption as you have noted that it presumes rationality. It also presumes that the individual perceives cause and effect in the same way as you and I. From dealing with thousands of patients through the years, I am aware that many, many people do not share my assumptions about how the world really works and have minimal understanding of cause and effect.

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