DA Turns Misdemeanor Assault Case into 8-Year Prison Sentence

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Yolo-Count-Court-Room-150On August 4, a story ran in the Woodland Daily Democrat entitled, “West Sacramento gang member sentenced in domestic violence case,” and once again it was a strange title for a case that had nothing whatsoever to do with gangs.  Instead it is a story about how a simple misdemeanor domestic assault turned into a nearly eight-year prison sentence.  And how once again, the Yolo County District Attorney’s office took a minor incident and turned it into a major criminal act.

The act itself was simply a misdemeanor assault charge, that would have netted him six months in prison at most, and most likely would have been suspended and turned into probation.  What really nailed him was the “violation of probation” which netted him 3 years, and the two felony counts of dissuading a witness, which turned what should have been a six-month sentence into a seven-year and eight-month sentence. The Woodland Daily Democrat inaccurately reported this sentence to be twelve years.

According to the police report, the victim Raquel Iniguez had been involved in a relationship with Jesse Garcia for a year when the incident occurred.  She had a four-year-old son Dominic.  She went to the suspect’s house to give him a ride the next morning.  Mr. Garcia “started acting stupid” so she told him she was going to leave.  The suspect told her he was going to take her car and drop her off at her house. 

As they were going to her house the suspect started accusing her of lying to him.  He told her that he was going to pull over on the freeway and beat her “ass.”  Then he pulled over on the freeway and made her get out of the car, started to leave her there, but her four-year-old son was still in the car.  He let her back into the car and told her that the next time she lied to him, he was going to “f-ing kill” her.  He took her to his brother’s house, he was still yelling at her.  He hit her twice in the left side of her face. 

That is the story that she told police. She then grabbed a kitchen knife, put it in her purse and left.  She went to the fire department and called the police.

However, the story does not completely hold up.  According to Mr. Garcia’s Attorney, Charles Pacheco, “There was a fireman who saw her which would have been within fifteen minutes of this thing occurring because the firehouse was only about a block and a half from where Jesse lived and where she got out of her car.  That fireman testified that he saw no bruises on her, he saw no reddening, nothing was seen on her as far as injuries, not even a red mark.”

Ms. Iniguez would deny this story once she got on the stand.  According to Mr. Pacheco, they never got on the freeway at all.  Instead they only got as far as Harbor and West Capitol Avenue when they made the u-turn to return to the house.  On the stand, he asked the arresting officer if he found out from her on which side of the county line the incident occurred.  The officer indicated that he had not asked her.  He was asked if he thought that was an important piece of information?

Mr. Pacheco told the Vanguard, “The officer didn’t test her story in any fashion.”

On the stand, Ms. Iniguez indicated that she was just angry at him because he wanted to take his stuff back from her car and they were breaking up.  They were fighting over some financial matters.  He had given her money and she had used it for other things.

According to Mr. Pacheco, “On the stand Ms. Iniguez claimed that she was hitting him with her left hand because she was angry at him and what he did was with his right hand, he pushed her twice in the cheek.  That was it.  It didn’t hurt.  It didn’t do any damage to her.”

During sentencing, Ms. Iniguez took the stand once again and indicated that she would give the same testimony on this day as she did when she originally testified.  During her victim impact statement, she was crying, begging the judge for mercy.  “This was taken way out of proportion,” she said.  She described Mr. Garcia as a good man who has been a good father to her son.  She said this was something that all couples go through.

Mr. Pacheco was angry about the verdict and the sentencing.  “It was a nothing, it was a misdemeanor nothing and they even got him on child endangerment because the kid was in the car when he supposedly slapped her.”

He continued, “But when you look at the evidence from the fireman, who is an EMT himself, he said there was no injury, she wasn’t hurt in anyway, not even red marks.  You take a simple misdemeanor and you blow it up to proportions that just spin my head.”

Four years of that sentence was based on threats to commit a crime and what they called attempts to dissuade a witness.  “When men and women get into domestic squabbles or arguments, they say things these have been determined by the police or the district attorney’s office as making criminal threats, but they have to credible,” said Charles Pacheco.

“The reason why they’re blowing it out of proportion is that they know that the federal government subsidizes the DA’s office, and maybe the police, in affecting domestic violence cases,” he continued.  “This has been the problem with regards to these DV cases, people say stuff, people don’t mean it when they say stuff – and the listener realizes that they don’t mean it because that’s the way they talk.  That’s the way that they live with each other.  They say stuff like that.  But the police love to hear the words because if the words come out, boom, you’re done, according to the law.”

Mr. Pacheco pointed to the jury instructions under Penal Code 422 which makes it a crime for any “person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person.”

In the jury instructions, in order to prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, they have to show that “the threat caused the witness to be in sustained fear for her own safety…” 

However, as Mr. Pacheco argued, look at what the police are claiming, that he said he was going to pull over on the freeway and beat her.  “Well he pulled over on the freeway and made her get out, according to her.  But then she got right back in, so she’s not in sustained fear,” he said.

“It’s a manifestation of both because what happens is that things are said in anger, people react in anger, and then they realize that they were just angry.  In the majority of domestic violence cases that is where it ends.  What I told the Judge is that we in the business, we don’t take those letters seriously, some place in between there’s the truth, and most of the time, the wives or girlfriends react, ‘what’s the big deal I just wanted the cops to come over and cool things down,'” he continued.

Jesse Garcia has had a rough life.  He was born into a large family where the father was described as a mean alcoholic.  His mother was a heroine addict and the kids were taken away and shuffled from foster home to foster home.  Mr. Garcia spent his youth in and out of the California Youth Authority.

He had always watched over his younger sister, he was a hero and a father figure to her.  The violation of probation occurred in a case where he beat up a man who he had believed had raped and beat his sister.  Later he realized that this had not occurred.

The DA’s office called it a “gang beating,” which he was on probation for.  He had pled no contest to a count of PC 245a which gave him no prison time.  The District Attorney, in arguing for a tougher sentence, argued that the he had been found guilty of the gang enhancement and was required to register as a gang member..

However, the record shows otherwise.  There was no gang enhancement that he pled to nor was he required to register as a gang member.  This was confirmed by his Attorney Mr. Pacheco both in court and in our interview.

“Every time anyone from the DA’s office opens their mouth: ‘West Sacramento gang member,'” Charles Pacheco told the Vanguard.  “Jesse Garcia doesn’t have one gang tattoo on him at all.  My opinion is that they’re trying to scare the citizens of West Sacramento by tacking a ‘West Sacramento Gang Member’ label on people.”

Indeed, Mr. Garcia is a defendant in the gang injunction case.  While he was on the stand, he was asked to read his gang admission papers when he was in the California Youth Authority.

In one humorous exchange with Deputy DA Jay Linden, he was asked what he checked off when he filled out the form.  He said, “Crip.”  Mr. Linden did a double-take, and in surprise said, Crip?”  Mr. Garcia’s response was yes.  When asked why he thought he was a crip, he said he was in his mother’s custody in North Sacramento and that’s what was there so that’s what he thought he was.  He said he saw people wearing blue and black faces.  When asked how he knew that blue was the Crip color, he said that he figured it out when he was in CYA.

A month later still in 2003, he filled out that he was a Norteno.  Why?  “There was only northerners at that facility.”  He explained that they classified people based on where they lived so that there would not be problems with different prison gangs battling over territory.

At one point he filled out that he was a Broderick Boy, but again he said that he was told how to fill out the gang forms.  In fact, he had lived in West Sacramento less than a month when he went back to CYA.

As his attorney pointed out numerous times, he neither has a gang record, he has not been convicted of a gang crime, and he has no tattoos on his body at all.  Indeed, on the stand, he was witty and quick on his feet.  He has clearly lived a tough life and he has no doubt made mistakes.  However, this is a case where the DA’s office appears to have blown a simple domestic dispute and perhaps a misdemeanor assault charge into an eight-year prison sentence.  And once again, they have turned a non-gang case, as there were never any gang enhancements into this case, into more evidence for the public to believe there is a gang problem.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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23 thoughts on “DA Turns Misdemeanor Assault Case into 8-Year Prison Sentence”

  1. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “The act itself was simply a misdemeanor assault charge, that would have netted him six months in prison at most, and most likely would have been suspended and turned into probation. What really nailed him was the “violation of probation” which netted him 3 years, and the two felony counts of dissuading a witness, which turned what should have been a six-month sentence into a seven-year and eight-month sentence.”

    I suspect what really “nailed” the defendant for the jury was endangering a child and putting his wife out of the car – in the middle of the freeway.

  2. Miwok

    Was this a jury trial? Sounds like it was not. But a “quick and witty” mind would know that any arrest would violate his probation.

    Too bad many people are in this situation, DV is a problem, and people try to play the system. When drugs and alcohol get involved, or the people like these are foster home kids with tough young lives, they do not do the logical thing. That woman would have entered the car because her kid was in there, not because she felt no fear. they think they can be tough, talk tough, and it will settle down. Then they cry to authority to help them and recant what they said at the time. Why was she not sanctioned for perjury?

    One of those things is, the tough talk that makes these charges tough matters to decide. Are they parroting the music they hear, the movies they watch, or their own peers and relatives who have limited vocabularies?

  3. JustSaying

    [quote]Three days later, Garcia was recorded, while in custody, talking to the victim and telling her to write a letter to the court saying that the events of that night never occurred.” (County press release[/quote]) If this was played in court to support “the two felony counts of dissuading a witness, which turned what should have been a six-month sentence into a seven-year and eight-month sentence,” that too might have influenced a jury.

  4. Roger Rabbit

    [quote]
    Mr. Pacheco told the Vanguard, “The officer didn’t test her story in any fashion.”[/quote]
    Of course the officer did test the story, the police have been trained and put on notice not to look for information that makes a criminal case worse. If a cops asks the “wrong” question and find info that make a case worse, then the cop has to hear all kind of negative comments from the DA. Things like, why did you that, you made my case worse, don’t be helping the defense, it is not our job to do the Defense’s job, who are you working for us or the Defense, your job to make our (DA) case better not make or case worse, and many others comments that imply cops should worry about convictions and helping the DA get big prison terms.

    If any one steps up and speaks out the DA will go after them, start a unfounded criminal investigation on them, tell his department that your cop is not working well with the DA, it is a shame the way this DA has corrupted the criminal justice system in Yolo. Things like would never have happened under the previous DA Dave Henderson.

    People need to take note, this DA is bad for the people of Yolo.

  5. Alphonso

    “The reason why they’re blowing it out of proportion is that they know that the federal government subsidizes the DA’s office, and maybe the police, in affecting domestic violence cases,” he continued. “This has been the problem with regards to these DV cases,”

    Justice should stand on its own, without incentives to prosecute certain types of crime. Also, Juries should get full disclosure about the incentives – they should be told how much incentive is being paid to the DA for a particular type of case. The jury should get all of the information so they can make an informed decision.

    As a taxpayer, what benefit are the taxpayers getting out of an 8 year sentence – the excessive sentence is costing us roughly $500K that would be better spent on education. Perhaps the counties that abuse the System should be required to pay all of the related incarceration costs- do what you want to do but pay for it yourselves.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    [quote]If this was played in court to support “the two felony counts of dissuading a witness, which turned what should have been a six-month sentence into a seven-year and eight-month sentence,” that too might have influenced a jury. [/quote]

    This is the problem with the DA’s press releases, the conversation was spun by the DA to mean that, but if you listen to it, it was more a conversation with Garcia telling her how to help him.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    [quote]I suspect what really “nailed” the defendant for the jury was endangering a child and putting his wife out of the car – in the middle of the freeway. [/quote]

    She said on the stand that that didn’t happen.

  8. valerie

    Well said Roger Rabbit. The DA’S of yolo are a joke. They need to stop using “Gang” affiliation with every case that happens with a hispanic in Broderick. Can anyone tell me why the DA is pushing so hard for this injunction so bad? Is there a personal gain?

  9. Mr Obvious

    [quote]This is the problem with the DA’s press releases, the conversation was spun by the DA to mean that, but if you listen to it, it was more a conversation with Garcia telling her how to help him. [/quote]

    The YJD watch spin is that he was explaining how to help him.

    It is VERY common for victims of domestic violence to recant on the stand. Have you spoken to the victim advocates about this phenomenon. Victims of domestic violence gravitate towards violent relationships. It doesn’t make a lot of sense but it happens.

    Part of the problem is a lot of women victims are controlled emotionally, physically, and financially buy their abusers. Often the victims find out after the suspect is arrested that they have no source on income and want the suspect back home to provide for them. Sad cycle.

  10. David M. Greenwald

    Mr. Obvious: I agree with all of that. And frankly I would have been fine if they had put him into prison for six months based on the offense. She was not seriously injured as the firefighter testified, so it does not to me rise above that. I agree with Mr. Pacheco here however on the threats charges, when people have a fight things get said in anger that probably are best not criminalized.

    So I really have two problems here:

    1. Criminalizing and charging the threats when the crime itself was minor and she was not injured.

    2. Again raising the gang issue in every case even cases where it clearly has no bearing.

  11. indigorocks

    As they were going to her house the suspect started accusing her of lying to him. He told her that he was going to pull over on the freeway and beat her “ass.” Then he pulled over on the freeway and made her get out of the car, started to leave her there, but her four-year-old son was still in the car. He let her back into the car and told her that the next time she lied to him, he was going to “f-ing kill” her. He took her to his brother’s house, he was still yelling at her. He hit her twice in the left side of her face.

    David, you ought to be ashamed of yourself for making light of this situation. This may be okay for your, or not a big deal that this man abused this woman and her son, but it’s not okay. these situations actually turn bad really fast, and it’s not okay for what he did, and i’m glad the DA threw the book at this asshole.
    He deserved it!@!!!

  12. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “It’s not okay if he abused this woman. But that’s far from clear from the evidence.”

    To you perhaps?

    dmg: “1. Criminalizing and charging the threats when the crime itself was minor and she was not injured.”

    You want to wait until this defendant actually carries out his threats before you are willing for him to do serious time? I don’t want to wait that long…

    dmg: “erm: “I suspect what really “nailed” the defendant for the jury was endangering a child and putting his wife out of the car – in the middle of the freeway.”

    “She said on the stand that that didn’t happen.”

    As a previous commenter pointed out, victim’s of domestic violence often recant. Obviously the jury believed the defendant did in fact endanger the child, put the woman out of the car in the middle of the freeway, and threaten to kill the victim if she spoke to anyone about what happened. The DA represents the people, and that includes protecting victims of domestic violence even when they don’t want to be protected. The DA was also trying to protect a child here…

  13. wesley506

    You want to wait until this defendant actually carries out his threats before you are willing for him to do serious time? I don’t want to wait that long…

    Yea! Let’s get an initiative where anybody who dare to utter “I’m going to kick your ass” or something similar gets a one strike your out, 25 years to life in prison!!

    Death to the cheese thieves! Life in prison for all who dare break windows! Cut off the right hand of everyone who sucker punches somebody!! 500 lashes for all who possess drug paraphernalia! 50 years mandatory sentence for gang membership!!!

  14. David M. Greenwald

    “You want to wait until this defendant actually carries out his threats before you are willing for him to do serious time? I don’t want to wait that long… “

    Yes, I think people need to be punished based on the actual crimes they commit, rather than because they might commit a crime. In terms of waiting, I think in the more ideal world however, we put a lot of the resources that we are wasting on these long jail sentences and invest them into preventative programs, including job training and psychological help that people really need. That way we aren’t simply waiting for someone to commit a crime, we give them the tools to get out of their current predicament.

  15. Primoris

    DMG said: [quote]1. Criminalizing and charging the threats when the crime itself was minor and she was not injured.

    2. Again raising the gang issue in every case even cases where it clearly has no bearing. [/quote]

    David, crminal threats IS a felony offense.

    “in every case….” Come on; you know that’s not true.

  16. Primoris

    W506:[quote]Yea! Let’s get an initiative where anybody who dare to utter “I’m going to kick your ass” or something similar gets a one strike your out, 25 years to life in prison!!
    [/quote]

    Err, there’s more to the elements of the offense that that which you suppose, per your less than substantive statement.

  17. E Roberts Musser

    wesley506: “Yea! Let’s get an initiative where anybody who dare to utter “I’m going to kick your ass” or something similar gets a one strike your out, 25 years to life in prison!!”

    You are conveniently forgetting that the threats were followed by putting the woman out of the car in the middle of the freeway, and endangering a child.

    dmg: “Yes, I think people need to be punished based on the actual crimes they commit, rather than because they might commit a crime.”

    The sad fact is that the end result of domestic violence that is allowed to escalate is the death of the victim. Here, the defendant not only made criminal threats, but coupled it with placeing both the victim and child in danger in the middle of the freeway. I’m quite comfortable with the sentence…

  18. wesley506

    [quote]“On the stand Ms. Iniguez claimed that she was hitting him with her left hand because she was angry at him and what he did was with his right hand, he pushed her twice in the cheek. That was it. It didn’t hurt. It didn’t do any damage to her.”[/quote]

    [quote]“There was a fireman who saw her which would have been within fifteen minutes of this thing occurring because the firehouse was only about a block and a half from where Jesse lived and where she got out of her car. That fireman testified that he saw no bruises on her, he saw no reddening, nothing was seen on her as far as injuries, not even a red mark.”[/quote]

    So lets see, the EMT/firefighter who is very skilled at assessing people for for even the slightest injuries evaluates her immediately after the “assault” and sees nothing. My guess is that it happened as she said. She was hitting him and he pushed her.

    Now this young man by all accounts should already be dead or in prison by now(alcoholic father, heroin addict mother, already did time in CYA).

    What he should have received is a restraining order to stay away from this young woman, mandatory anger management class attendance, some sort of charge for child endangerment, and more probation. She in turn seems to have been the one who started the hitting, and as such should also receive mandatory anger management class attendance, simple assault charges.

    Now he will be in prison for a minimum of 4 years which will cost a minimum of $200,000. While in prison he will face a 1 in 6 chance of getting raped, and will therefor have to really join a gang for his own safety. He will get out with a felony/ ex-convict history and be pretty much unemployable, with the odds of being on some sort of social welfare program at further cost to taxpayers for the rest of his life.

  19. David M. Greenwald

    [quote]“in every case….” Come on; you know that’s not true. [/quote]

    You are taking my comment literally where it was not intended to be literal. And quite clearly so.

  20. Primoris

    [quote]…

    “in every case….” Come on; you know that’s not true.

    You are taking my comment literally where it was not intended to be literal. And quite clearly so.
    [/quote]

    Well then, Mr. Greewald your solution is to write it that way.

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