Defendants Reject Plea, Fourth Trial Set in Gang Case

Gangby Antoinnette Borbon

 The courtroom was packed with family and friends of the four young Hispanic men, waiting anxiously to hear the decision on the plea offer.

Attorneys Jeff Raven, Keith Staten, Bob Spangler and Ava Landers would express to the court that their clients were rejecting the plea deal offered by DDA Robin Johnson.

The offer given was for the young men to take a conviction on the assault charge, waiving their right to appeal.

Judge Rosenberg expressed concern about another trial. He asked DDA Johnson if she felt it possible to get a conviction.

But the allegations of a juror lying during voir dire would come to the attention of the court first. Johnson stated that the floor person told DDA Martha Holzapfel that the juror said he lied because he did not like the prosecutor.

It was understood, allegedly, that he only voted against the others because of the way he felt about DDA Johnson.

Johnson stated,”I think we can get a verdict your honor, we had a 10 to 2 split.”

Judge Rosenberg stated, “So I am concerned, we’ve had three mistrials.”

But the offer being rejected by all four defendants would mean another trial.

Defense counsel Ava Landers expressed her concern over the validity of the floor person’s statements to DDA Martha Holzapfel.

Both defense and Johnson decided on  a date of October 6.

If convicted, the four young men could face up to 15 years in prison.

But they decided to take the risk and reject the plea, opting for another trial.

 A juror, who wishes to remain anonymous, spoke candidly to the Vanguard about the mistrial involving the four young men accused of robbing and assaulting a Woodland man at the 7-Eleven.

The four young defendants – Jose Jimenez, Anthony Ozuna, Justin Gonzalez, and Juan Fuentes – have been charged with robbery, assault and added gang enhancements.

The mistrial concluded with only one conviction for robbery, on Juan Fuentes, who was also convicted for resisting/obstructing a peace officer, and with convictions of gang charges on all four.

Deputy District Attorney Robin Johnson contends that the crimes were committed to further promote the Woodland gang, “The Norteños.”

The juror stated, “I was never convinced by the prosecution of anything more than the four kids were possible gang members but that was about it.”

He said, “But I did feel some of the witnesses were lying. I felt some of the jury panel was biased because the boys may have appeared to be gang members but it never changed my mind of innocence or guilt.”

He continued that he felt jurors were tired and did not understand the law in deciding on a verdict correctly.

He told the Vanguard, “I feel bad for the young boys and was convinced, through the video and evidence presented, they were in fact innocent.”

The juror wishes them well with the outcome of their case.

DDA Johnson had offered a plea deal of 3.8 years if the defendants were to accept an assault conviction, which must accompany the gang charge to stick.

The four young Latino males were accused of robbing and assaulting a Woodland man in June of 2013. The jury hung on whether the four men assaulted and robbed the victim that evening.

For the third time, a mistrial was declared in this case.

The second trial in this case had been set to begin in January. It was continued to April, but on the day trial was to begin, a juror admitted to knowing one of the defendants; therefore, it too, was declared a mistrial.

The first trial for the young men took place in November of 2013. The jurors hung on all counts except for one for Juan Fuentes, who was found guilty of a misdemeanor evading police. But this time around, as stated above, the jury convicted all four defendants on the gang-related enhancement charges.

Juan Fuentes, as mentioned above, this time was convicted of robbery, as well as resisting/obstructing a public officer, while the jury hung on the assault charge. For the others, the jury hung on the robbery as well as the assault charges.

As the outcome sits right now, there is an inconsistency with the law. The jury found the defendants guilty of a violation of California Penal Code §186.22(a). Under that section, “Any person who actively participates in any criminal street gang with knowledge that its members engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity, and who willfully promotes, furthers, or assists in any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years.”

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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12 Comments

  1. D.D.

    If the fourth ends in a mistrial, do they go for a fifth?
    If the D.A. was truly concerned for the public’s safety, there are many ways they could protect us without this debacle.
    The D.A. gets as many chances as they like. While the defense only gets one shot.
    Are all of these young men using public defenders? Do they have to use any of their own funds? How can they hold down jobs, with all of these court appearances? What about the convenience store clerk, who has to miss time from work every time the D.A. needs him to appear? Can they at least video the witnesses, and just show the jury a video? Will the guy who’s the gang expert get paid again, to appear?
    What a colossal waste of the taxpayers’ money.

  2. Tia Will

    D.D.

    I share your concerns and from the way past cases have been handled, and from my experience at Citizens Academy, I honestly do not believe that the current DA cares about any of these folks at all. From what I have seen, the view from the DAs office ( with the one exception of promotion of restorative justice) is a “good guys vs
    bad guys”, winner take all philosophy. And yes, “good guys vs bad guys” was a phrase commonly heard at Citizens Academy where the stated goal is to educate citizens about the functioning of our judicial system. Hardly a strong endorsement of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” !

  3. D.D.

    Maybe some readers thought I was joking when I suggested any attorney, judge or police officer working for our public should be a minimum of twenty five years old. I also believe the military enlistment age should be twenty five.
    I might give a pass for firefighters because they are easy on the eyes, and have less ulterior motives. Now let’s get into a big firefighter debate again. Not.

  4. Davis Progressive

    the da really believes they can get a conviction? rosenberg has the power to throw out a case in the interest of justice, i’m surprised he didn’t.

  5. Antoinnette

    @DD….many questions unanswered. Yes, agree, waste of time and money. Its the attorneys from conflict panel.Except for defendant Justin Gonzales, Keith Staten is his attorney. Believe hired.

    I believe they have good counsel, just don’t understand the focus on these young men. Yes, the two out of.custody are doing well..working hard and remaining lawful. Sure it’s a hardship losing time from work.

    Rosenberg was concerned about going a.fourth time but the DDA convinced him to give it another try.

    The store clerk doesn’t work there anymore and not sure if same witnesses will testify, more than likely though…

    This just isn’t the big “gang case,”

  6. tribeUSA

    Are the defendants out on bail, or have they been in county during and between all these trials?
    They may be suffering from ‘trial fatigue’ by now–it seems they’ve been punished pretty good having to sit thru 3 trials that determine their fate (somewhat stressful for most people, I imagine) and the time already served (that is, if they have not been out on bail); it does seem to me that since the victim was not seriously injured and the alleged theft(s) were petty, this was not too serious of an incident & perhaps the stress they’ve been under so far is sufficient punishment and deterrent!

  7. D.D.

    I do not under any circumstance condone fist fighting but how many twenty something males do we all know that have once or twice in their lives got into a physical brawl when one idiot insults another idiot’s lady friend? Do all of them have the book thrown at them, if they are white and rich?
    And that’s saying law enforcement even caught the “right” brown skinned people. Who knows if the cops even arrested the “right” brown skinned person? I don’t have the confidence in law enforcement that I had as a child….

  8. tribeUSA

    D.D. When I was in high school in a small town in 1970s; police did not get involved in fistfight disputes except maybe if there was a serious injury (which were rare) and the police were called; however if it was many people against one person and the police happened to be driving by and saw it; they would certainly have stopped and broken it up. As long as no serious injuries; likely no arrests; regardless of skin color. But if a theft was also involved (i.e. robbery); then police would definitely get involved and arrest people; black, brown, or white.

  9. Antoinnette

    @Tribal…two are out of custody…but yes, thesee kifs and their families are being drug thru a proverbial fire, over and over again…and for what? A fistfight they can’t prove they were in? A pesi and chips?

    What a shame!

    I’m hoping Someone will Do the righteous thing..and let these kids be done from this tribulation…

    I’m all for cleaning up our streets from gangs and their activities but they’ve got the wrong case….it’s time for this nonsense to halt!

    I will not stop reminding the public.of this til they are exonerated….

    1. tribeUSA

      Antoinnette–yes, it does seem to me that given there were no serious injuries, that the alleged robbery was of a petty item, and that the evidence seems inconclusive, dragging everyone thru 3 trials may be enough punishment. Hope the defendants are able to find a way out of the gangsta lifestyle, if they are so involved; sounds like if they are working jobs they are on the right track.

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