Plea Agreement in Taxi Cab Attack Remains in Place

hate-crimePedro Ramirez’s plea agreement will stand.  So ruled Judge Timothy Fall on Friday.  Mr. Ramirez, along with co-defendant Johnny Morales, had pled no contest to assault and a hate crimes charge.

Judge Fall ruled that there was no evidence duress, and thus no legal basis for Mr. Ramirez to withdraw his plea.



Mr. Morales went through with his no contest plea, despite denying taking part in the attack.  He was released from jail this week after serving his time.  He still owes a large amount in restitution to the victim.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ramirez attempted to withdraw his plea, citing ineffectual counsel, and Attorney J. Toney represented him on Friday.

At the last hearing, Mr. Toney argued that the plea agreement was invalid because they did not orally take his admission.  Judge Fall, however, ruled that the plea can be both oral and written, and on those grounds argued that the plea would stand.

The next question, however, was whether there was ineffective assistance on the part of Attorney Patrick McCarthy.  Since there was not technically a Marsden motion to dismiss counsel, Judge Fall denied the request to have a confidential hearing.  Instead, it was a question as to whether there was ineffective counsel, and Judge Fall ruled that would discussion would waive attorney-client privilege.

For the first time, we saw Pedro Ramirez speak on his own behalf.  He was calm and well-spoken.  He argued that he wanted to take back his plea due to the fact that he felt pressured into accepting it.  He argued that his attorney had failed to investigate and interview witnesses.

He said he had requested to waive time to think more about it, but he was pressured into the plea by his attorney and the Public Defender Tracie Olson.

He described the incident as a fist fight between two men.  He said that he knows he faces heavy charges, even life, if convicted.

He claimed that during the dispute the taxi driver assaulted him.  That he poked him in the face, and he responded by punching the man in the nose.

Mr. Ramirez told the court that he had told Mr. McCarthy that he had not wanted to take the plea.  He said that Tracie Olson had talked to his wife and brother-in-law and convinced him to take the plea to avoid life.

He said he had been under the impression that he only faced a year in county jail, and that he had only ten hours to consider.

Under cross-examination from Deputy DA Ryan Couzens, he described one witness, Ricardo Garza – the same Ricardo Garza who faces charges, along with his son, in the Memorial Park attacks.

Mr. Couzens pressed him as to whether he knew about these witnesses and information in advance, and argued that Mr. Ramirez was fully informed and had his “eyes open.”  He had a night to think about it, which is more than most people get. 

Mr. Couzens said this is simply a matter of buyer’s regret.

Judge Fall argued that Mr. Ramirez might rather want to proceed with this trial and put on a defense.  However, he said that several hours was significant time to consider the offer.

Once accepted, the offer is a contract.  None of the testimony shows duress.  All it showed was that there was a strenuous attempt to persuade Mr. Ramirez to take the plea.  That is not duress.

He suggested that merely looking back and saying I do not like the plea agreement is not sufficient for the court to rescind it.  There has to be a strong and compelling legal reason to do so.

Judge Fall found no legal reason why the contract should be invalid, so he denied the request.

Mr. Ramirez faces 13 years in prison as the result of his plea, and he would have faced 25 to life had the charges against him been proved.  He will be sentenced on June 3.

The Vanguard was informed that Mr. Morales was released from jail, having served his time.  There appears to be little evidence that Mr. Morales was involved in the assault, other than a statement from Mr. Singh indicating that Mr. Morales hit him from behind while both were seated in the cab.  That statement was contradicted by other witnesses.

However, the evidence of the guilt of Mr. Ramirez is overwhelming.  Even his own wife contradicts his claims that this was merely a fistfight.

Ms. Sanchez testified that her husband had leaned over and started punching Mr. Singh in the face about ten times.  She then leaned over Mr. Singh in an effort to protect him and yelled at her husband to stop.  Ms. Sanchez told the officer multiple times that she never saw Mr. Morales hit Mr. Singh.  She also denied that anyone had pulled her from the cab, and there were no injuries to her consistent with being pulled from a cab.

Questions remain as to whether this constituted a hate crime, but the fact remained that had Mr. Ramirez stood trial, he would probably have been convicted and served far more than the 13 years he is facing now. 

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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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  1. Tecnichick

    I am glad that Judge Fall made that ruling for a couple of reasons. It seems fair and the right thing to do. I also agree with your buyers remorse statement. I do not agree with his reason of ineffective counsel. He may have a chance to use that if he paid his own attorney but he is using a public defender. Ultimately, the public defenders do a good job in these serious cases. It’s all in the manner or what they have to work with. Hopefully as time goes on, he will have a chance to reflect on what exactly he did to that cab driver and be thankful that he didnt get more time.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Clarification: Tracie Olson represented his co-defendant, a private attorney represented him. Bottom line is that while he may have offered a defense, it was one at odds with all the witnesses including his wife. He got less time and will be out sooner now than had he gone to trial. In fact, he probably goes for life if he goes to trial.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    So why the sudden change of heart by Ramirez not to accept the plea agreement, when it appears to have been a reasonable one in light of the totality of the circumstances? The evidence against Ramirez was overwhelming, and the potential sentence he faced was stiff/substantial. Could it have been fueled by the Vanguard article opining Ramirez’s actions did not constitute a hate crime? Just food for thought…

  4. David M. Greenwald

    I think 13 years sounds like a lot of time and he convinced himself he could win. JMO. I was impressed with the fact that he was well-spoken, but the facts don’t support his account as far as I can tell.

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