Court To Hear Motion to Withdraw Plea by Hate Crime Defendant

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hate-crime.jpgOn a day when the victim in a shooting of an elderly Sikh man in Elk Grove saw the victim lose his life, six week after being shot, the scene in Judge Fall’s courtroom was unusual.  A cameraman from News 10 had set up to shoot footage while the back of the courtroom as stacked with family members of the victim of a November attack on a Sikh taxi driver in West Sacramento.

Two weeks previously, it appeared the case was over as Pedro Ramirez and Johnny Morales were set to be sentenced after taking plea agreements.  Mr. Morales went through with his no contest plea, despite denying taking part in the attack.  He’ll receive probation and a small amount of jail time.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ramirez attempted to withdraw his plea, citing ineffectual counsel, and Attorney Robert Spangler was appointed to investigate whether there was a legal basis for this claim.

Mr. Ramirez had previously accepted a plea agreement that would put him in prison for 13 years.  Judge Fall, in vivid detail, described the facts of the case.  He told the court that Mr. Ramirez, “beat the daylights out of the victim.”

Despite the news camera, the hearing on Friday was a public discussion as to what the law requires in these situations.  Attorney J. Toney, who heads up the conflict panel and has worked for forty years as an attorney, took the lead on the issue of withdrawing the motion. 

In fact, at times, Judge Fall deferred to Mr. Toney’s expertise on the matter.

The key question, before the judge can rule on whether to withdraw the motion, is whether the counsel was ineffective.

Unlike normal court hearings, a Marsden motion, which is required to dismiss ineffectual counsel, takes place outside of the public view.  Even the prosecuting attorneys are precluded from the courtroom during this time.

Judge Fall expressed concern that Mr. Ramirez may need legal assistance in order to make the case for effectual counsel.

J. Toney agreed to represent him during that hearing.

Adding to the complication was the status of private defense attorney Patrick McCarthy.  Mr. McCarthy indicated this was the first time he has had to deal with a Marsden motion.  He was under the impression he had been fired.

Given uncertainty, he will make a motion to withdraw from the case on April 22, where Judge Fall will also consider evidence of ineffectual counsel.  Disposition of the withdrawn plea agreement will be considered, along with the possible sentencing of Mr. Ramirez should the ineffectual counsel and subsequent motion to withdraw a plea be denied by Judge Fall.

Our reading of this case is that the evidence against Mr. Ramirez in terms of the assault is overwhelming.  While there is good evidence that Mr. Morales did not attack the victim, the evidence against Mr. Ramirez is strong, with all witnesses indicating that they saw the attack.

There is some evidence that he did not, in fact, commit a hate crime.  However, in accepting the plea agreement for 13 years, he still does better than facing a full trial.

There is no doubt that Mr. Ramirez was involved in a senseless and particularly vicious act.  There is very little doubt that Mr. Ramirez, even if he beat the hate crime charge, could well face charges for attempted murder and be convicted of those and therefore potentially face much more time than that he was to have been sentenced to.

The bottom line really is that he is probably lucky to get an offer for 13 years.  In our view, people who have done far less damage than Mr. Ramirez have received more lengthy prison terms.

He is not going to get a better offer than the one he has and if he goes to trial he will be convicted and his exposure is up to 26 years to life.

From that standpoint, the standpoint of punishment and the plea agreement, it is difficult to maintain an argument for ineffectual counsel.

That may not be the bottom line.  We are really not in the position to go beyond that analysis however, other than to proffer this. 

Patrick McCarthy was literally yelled at and called out by Judge Fall in multiple embarrassing ways during prehearing situations.  At one time, he made the mistake of talking to his client as Judge Fall came out of chambers and was announced.

Judge Fall interrupted the bailiff’s announcement and denigrated Mr. McCarthy publicly in a very condescending and unprofessional way.

I therefore would understand how Mr. Ramirez, who saw his attorney repeatedly denigrated by Mr. Fall, would believe his attorney failed to provide adequate representation.  That is something that Judge Fall, who is known for his temper and criticism of attorneys, may wish to think about.

However, when viewed in the totality and the final outcome, Mr. Ramirez got as fair a chance as he could and the best deal that was possible.

—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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11 thoughts on “Court To Hear Motion to Withdraw Plea by Hate Crime Defendant”

  1. Tecnichick

    I think Mr. Ramirez felt remorse and uncertainty for his original decision to take the plea agreement. He probably wondered and wrestled with emotion if that was in fact the best deal that he could get. I agree that this was a senseless act on his part. I think that he acted more on the alcohol than on the hate crime. If he wasnt drunk that night, do you think this would have happened? Probably not. The DA is going to put together the worst case scenario and add a bunch of inflated drama to the story for jury but I still dont see the attempted murder. Assault and Battery with GBI definetely but not attempted murder.

  2. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “On a day when the victim in a shooting of an elderly Sikh man in Elk Grove saw the victim lose his life, six week after being shot, the scene in Judge Fall’s courtroom was unusual. A cameraman from News 10 had set up to shoot footage while the back of the courtroom as stacked with family members of the victim of a November attack on a Sikh taxi driver in West Sacramento.”

    This is very confusing – did the taxi driver beaten by Ramirez die? Because that is what it sounds like here… When reading the rest of the article, I assumed that I misunderstood, so went back and reread what was written. What does the Elk Grove victim who died have to do w the Ramirez case? I’m just not following the logic here…

    dmg: “I therefore would understand how Mr. Ramirez, who saw his attorney repeatedly denigrated by Mr. Fall, would believe his attorney failed to provide adequate representation. That is something that Judge Fall, who is known for his temper and criticism of attorneys, may wish to think about. However, when viewed in the totality and the final outcome, Mr. Ramirez got as fair a chance as he could and the best deal that was possible.”

    Now let me get this straight. There is quibbling over Judge Fall’s minor criticism of a defense attorney – an attorney who doesn’t even know enough about courtroom process to know whether he has been removed from the case or not, nor when to keep his mouth shut (proper courtroom decorum); juxtaposed against a begrudging admission the defendant, who beat the living daylights out of an innocent member of the public just trying to do his job, probably got what he deserved. Is there a determination to find fault w the justice system in Yolo County no matter what, so that any and all sense of proportion is lost?

    So the judge got irritated at a defense attorney who wasn’t following proper courtroom ettiquette. Big deal. The defendant could just as well have changed his mind about the plea deal not bc of what the judge did or didn’t say, but bc the defendant got wind of the Vanguard article, that insisted this was not a hate crime, and figured he was wrongly charged. Something to think about…

  3. medwoman

    Tecnichik

    I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but do want to take exception to a point that I think is implied in your post. The outcome of this crime is the same whether the actions were fueled by racial hatred or by alcohol. In terms of taking responsibility for our actions, the decision to drink is one that is completely within our control unless one is addicted. Having seen the devastation of the irresponsible use of alcohol to individuals, families and the entire community from the viewpoint of a medical professiona,l I cannot justify the ” influenced by alcohol” argument as a mitigating circumstance whether considering the actions of the judicial system from the public safety or individual punishment points of view.

  4. hpierce

    Ok.. David wrote, [quote]While there is good evidence that Mr. Morales did not attack the victim, the evidence against Mr. Ramirez is strong, with all witnesses indicating that they saw the attack.[/quote]So Mr. Morales gets jail time and probation, and Mr. Ramirez wants a “do-over”? All at taxpayers expense?

  5. Mr Obvious

    Wait a minute. Why isn’t Reisig going for the attempted murder charge. Isn’t he supposed to overcharge every case for grant funding and to increase the costs of the system? The suspects in this case are Hispanic and committed a crime in W Sac; why aren’t they facing a gang enhancement?

    Reisig must be up to something.

  6. Tecnichick

    Medwoman~

    Im not trying to use alcohol as a defense – either way, he deserves to be held accountable. I am merely stating that I believe that it is more likely that alcohol contributed for the behavior more so than hate driven. At least I didnt say “the devil made him do it” lol

  7. Themis

    It seems to me that a person should be able to withdraw a plea bargain just because they change their mind. After all, most people do not understand the legal system in this country and are reliant on some attorney they don’t really know.

    I also find it very troubling that Judge Fall seems to lose his temper in the court room. This has to effect the outcome of trials. Especially when he shows contempt for a defense attorney or witness in front of the jury.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    “So Mr. Morales gets jail time and probation, and Mr. Ramirez wants a “do-over”? All at taxpayers expense?”

    He would have to show that he indeed got ineffectual counsel to get to withdraw his plea. I’m not sure I would call that a do-over.

  9. bachha

    “I also find it very troubling that Judge Fall seems to lose his temper in the court room. This has to effect the outcome of trials. Especially when he shows contempt for a defense attorney or witness in front of the jury.”

    Is this ever so true. The way he was with the defense attorney and the defense witnesses during the Ajay Dev trial was simply horrible. His behavior certainly influenced in Ajay’s WRONGFUL CONVICTION. If only his behavior could have been recorded with a video, one would certainly come to the same conclusion as those who witnessed during the trial. I am glad that others are noticing it as well now. Thanks mostly to the Vanguard for watching the courts and bloggers like Roger Rabbit putting issues in the limelight. To fight for the truth and get real justice is unimaginable at Yolo County Court mainly due to the tactics of Judge Fall.
    http://www.advocatesforajay.com

  10. Sanity Defense

    [quote]ERM: Is there a determination to find fault w the justice system in Yolo County no matter what, so that any and all sense of proportion is lost?
    [/quote]

    That’s a near perfect summary of the Vanguard’s goal – it would be improved only by acknowledging the Vanguard’s view that defense attorneys do no wrong, intentionally or otherwise, and that the full story is of no interest to David.

    Everything authored here by David and his interns must be viewed as having passed through that filter and having the goal of propaganda.

    The more the argument leans toward county-wide conspiracy theories, the more certain you can be that what you’re reading is serving a political purpose, not a factual one.

    Perhaps it is unwise to try to steer the veneer of these “reports” toward something that looks more objective in order to gain more credibility as some have suggested David should do. That objectivness would be no more than an appearance. Better if the bias and underlying motives are plain for readers to see.

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