by Saghi Nojoomi and Patrick Shum
Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays from the Yolo County District Attorney’s office continued the preliminary hearing of People vs. Gomez on Monday, June 30, 2014, by calling upon Deputy R. Stevens to testify on the domestic violence case presided over by Judge David Rosenberg of the Yolo County Superior Court.
The deputy, who was called to the incident involving defendant Louie Gomez and his estranged wife on January 9 and 10 of 2014, was questioned by Ms. Hays. When asked to testify, the deputy correctly identified defendant Louie Gomez before continuing to claim that, on the scene of the incident, he observed several wounds on Helen McGinnis, the estranged wife. When he arrived on the scene the deputy observed several injuries on McGinnis including a six-inch injury to her left thigh from being hit by a wooden object and scars on her stomach from being repeatedly hit by defendant Gomez.
The witness continued his testimony by stating that McGinnis claimed to have been 12 weeks pregnant at the time of the incident, with defendant Gomez’s child. According to McGinnis, defendant Gomez was well aware at the time that he was the father after he apparently mentioned that he did not want the baby while he hit McGinnis. Deputy R. Stevens stated that he was told by McGinnis that defendant Gomez had threatened once to kill her and himself, forcing their children to be raised by their grandparents.
The deputy further testified that the defendant kept a gun safe in the house he shared with McGinnis. According to the deputy, McGinnis said she went to the bedroom when the defendant allegedly hit her with a piece of wood, described mainly as a make-shift sword for their 3-year-old child. During testimony, the deputy revealed that he had not seen that specific piece of wood on the night in question. McGinnis told him she thought the piece was one of the many around the house.
McGinnis has reported on two injuries caused by the defendant Louie Gomez: the injury to her left thigh inflicted by the piece of wood as well as one of the injuries on her stomach inflicted by the defendant who allegedly hit her. On the day of the incident McGinnis claimed that Gomez knocked down several bookshelves before throwing cold coffee on the bed where both McGinnis and their 3-year-old child were sitting. The deputy supported these statements by explaining that he had seen the coffee stain on the bed.
As testimony continued, Deputy Stevens began to refer to the gun safe in the hallway of the Gomez and McGinnis home. McGinnis claimed that she heard the keypad of the gun safe being hit, indicating that the defendant was opening the safe. To solidify her claim, McGinnis had explained that she saw defendant Gomez in possession of a gun in a holster. At that point, Gomez left the household.
According to the deputy, the two left tires of McGinnis’s vehicle were slashed and this prompted her to call her father, who contacted the police. When asked later on by Attorney Steven Sabbadini, defense for Gomez, about whether the tires were actually slashed, the deputy claimed, from his previous experience as a mechanic, that they were not in working order. In response, Sabbadini stated that the tires might have been able to function had they been filled with air.
The prosecuting counsel then brought forth the evidence. People’s Exhibit (henceforth PE)2 was a picture of Helen McGinnis. PE3 was a picture of the injury to McGinnis’s left thigh. Although the deputy did not take these two images, he was present when Det. Gonzalez did.
PE4 was picture of a bruise. McGinnis did not report knowing how she got that particular injury.
PE7 was a picture of the back of McGinnis’s head, showing a missing patch of hair from where Gomez had grabbed her. The deputy said that the pinkish hue of the picture was a consequence of the camera’s image quality and is not a reflection of McGinnis’s injury in any way.
PE8 was a picture of the left side of McGinnis’s face. PE9 was a picture of a bruise on McGinnis’s throat. The exact circumstances of how the bruise was obtained were not disclosed, but the deputy said McGinnis said it was from this altercation with the defendant.
PE11 was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy thrown at McGinnis’s left forehead. PE12 was the coffee stain that the deputy had observed earlier. PE 13 was a picture of an injury half an inch in size on McGinnis’s forehead.
PE1 was a picture of a landline phone used by McGinnis. Ms. Hays and Mr. Sabbadini had a previous discussion about whether the deputy could mention this was pulled out of the wall. The deputy was permitted to say that the phone was not working and it was not connected.
The deputy continued his testimony by claiming that he maintained later contact with McGinnis on the 10th, the following day, and McGinnis displayed yellow bruises and this indicates healing wounds. PE16 was a picture of McGinnis’s left thigh, which showed an injury in the form of a healing bruise.
According to the witness, the defendant was located soon afterwards. His car, a green 2011 Honda Accord, was spotted at Econo Lodge at approximately 7:05 a.m. on the 10th by Sergeant Davis. Defendant Gomez was seen with a pistol. McGinnis had also previously reported that a shotgun was missing from their shared gun safe. The deputy had previously noticed, while conducting an inventory of the gun safe for safety, that a side-by-side shotgun was missing.
Sgt. Davis claimed that the defendant’s car maintained an opened driver’s seat and trunk. When the deputy arrived, he testified that he saw the Accord in the same condition that Sgt. Davis described.
As testimony continued, the witness claimed that both Sgt. Davis and he knocked on Room 116, the reported room of the defendant, and according to the witness the first words spoken by the defendant were, “I don’t have a gun.” When Ms. Hays asked the witness if the defendant was told about the missing weapons beforehand, the witness replied with a firm, “No.” This clearly indicates that the defendant would not have had previous knowledge of the missing weapons.
Although the deputy did not report to seeing a gun, he did find .22 ammunition and a piece of cellophane in Gomez’s car. PE14 was a picture of Gomez’s driver side door.
Using his law enforcement training, the deputy reported that inside the cellophane appeared to be crystal methamphetamine.
When defendant Gomez was handcuffed, the deputy testified that the defendant made a spontaneous statement before being read his Miranda rights. According to the deputy, defendant Gomez said he had not hit McGinnis and that, “if you see bruises its 2 months old, I haven’t been home in 3 days, I threw things around and if they hit her it was not my freaking fault.” Presenting his side, the defendant claimed that McGinnis had an injury on her left thigh from remodeling the house. Gomez also said he took the guns out and hid them on the barn on the property.
The deputy went back in his description to say that, on the 9th, he told McGinnis that she could get a protective order barring Gomez from contacting her. However, the deputy said Gomez got this order before being booked and that after booking he was put in a jail where he had access to two phones.
The deputy testified as follows: McGinnis reported two phone calls from an unknown number. She did not answer these phone calls because she said she thought they would be from Gomez. She also heard a voicemail from Gomez. The two phone calls were determined to be made from the Yolo County jail.
At this point, the deputy was cross-examined by Mr. Sabbadini.
Sabbadini asked whether there were other people there. The deputy confirmed that Gomez’s grandfather and grandmother, his father, and members of the Fire Department were present at the house on the 9th.
Mr. Sabbadini asked about guns. The deputy testified that he couldn’t find guns on Gomez’s person. When asked about the timing of the incident, the deputy testified that the incident came to pass at around 2 in the morning. According to the bailiff, this was when Gomez went to the house. Sabbadini asked if Gomez was living there. The deputy said Gomez had not been living there for a few days and that when he did show up he did so in order to salvage his relationship with McGinnis.
Mr. Sabbadini asked if the defendant said he kicked McGinnis out of the house. The deputy said he did not remember that being said. There followed some more discussion about the exact amount of days as well as Gomez and McGinnis getting each other out of the house. The deputy conveyed the notion that Gomez did want McGinnis out of their house.
When asked by Sabbadini if there were other records, the witness deputy said that there were cameras in the police car.
Regarding the remodeling, Sabbadini and the deputy discussed whether Gomez’s statement that McGinnis’s injuries were from the remodeling, as well as that Gomez’s words about not throwing objects and having guns. The deputy replied in the affirmative to the former but was not sure about the latter. But the deputy did say that the guns were missing.
Mr. Sabbadini created doubt about the true motives of the defendant when he asked the deputy if defendant Gomez had merely taken the guns to secure them from McGinnis. Going from this, Sabbadini asked the deputy about the defendant’s father who, according to the defendant, maintained the guns. In an effort to continue the doubt placed on the deputy, Mr. Sabbadini questioned why the police department only called the defendant’s father once about the guns.
Sabbadini also asked about the statement of another woman, Jennifer C, who was with Gomez at the motel. The deputy said he did not talk to her. He did agree with Sabbadini’s statement about Jennifer, in saying that there were no firearms at the motel.
Sabbadini also asked why McGinnis waited 4-5 hours before the police were contacted. The deputy explained that McGinnis only wanted transport, and had called her father. It was her father who put in the call.
The discussion then moved to McGinnis’s car, which the deputy remembered as a possible grey Chrysler Sebring. Sabbadini asked the deputy if he saw slashes. The deputy said no. Sabbadini said the tires were low, not flat. The deputy denied that, saying unequivocally that the tires were flat. Sabbadini asked why, at which point the conversation devolved into minutiae regarding how much sidewall a tire can exhibit without being flat or not. Without the exhibit, it was impossible for a court observer to make an observation about whether the tire was flat or merely low on air.
However, Sabbadini did get the deputy to admit that he could not say whether the tires were damaged or slashed or defaced. The deputy said he did not follow up on this matter because the tires were not worth enough money to be a felony, and the issue was a misdemeanor one.
At that point, the preliminary trial largely ended. The discussion then turned to the matter of the next court date. Sabbadini stated he still had about an hour’s worth of questioning. Judge Rosenberg, Ms. Hays and Mr. Sabbadini all discussed the issue. While this was not a matter of court record, it can be summarized by saying that all parties agreed to resume on July 28. One condition imposed by Judge Rosenberg was that Gomez present evidence that he is in a drug treatment program by the next court date.
Although her testimony would provide groundbreaking details to the case at hand, Helen McGinnis refused to testify. Judge Dave Rosenberg found her in contempt of court, while her defense lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke, claimed that his client has been involved with a treatment program.