Two Witnesses Questioned on Hearsay in West Sac Gang Case

GangBy Saghi Nojoomi

Monday’s preliminary hearing for People vs. Hernandez, Hernandez and Moreno continued on Thursday afternoon in Department 1 of the Yolo County Superior Court with two additional testimonies.

Defendants Alexander Hernandez, Abraham Hernandez and Joel Moreno were once again accompanied in court with defense attorneys James Granucci, Rodney Beede, and Christopher Parkhurst. Each defendant faces charges for alleged involvements in several altercations on February 1, 2014.

West Sacramento Police Officer Rinaldo Monterrosa continued the hearing by testifying as Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin’s sixth witness. Officer Monterrosa testified to taking statements from a Spanish-speaking man who overheard a female witness in English.

As testimony continued, the officer relayed what the witness told him before the defense counsel, spoken for by Mr. Granucci, claimed that the testimony relied on three strands of hearsay and asked for the officer’s testimony to be stricken from the record. According to the defense, the officer had taken statements in Spanish from a male witness that admits to only understanding profanity and certain statements in English.

His testimony heavily relied on the English words spoken by another female witness. Although Judge Richardson agreed that the defense counsel presented a reasonable point, he denied the motion to strike the testimony from the record and claimed that Officer Monterrosa served only as translator as he took the statements.

According to Officer Monterrosa, the male witness heard three individuals running away yet he could not distinguish the individuals and could not give specific descriptions. The male witness apparently heard the female witness take her children inside her home, but he could not recall if she spoke in Spanish or English.

During cross-examination, Mr. Granucci called into question People’s Exhibit 2. The photograph depicts the area of Simon Terrace on the day of the altercation. After Officer Monterrosa correctly identified where the apartments of each witness would be in the People’s Exhibit, Mr. Granucci asked if it were possible for the witness to see other apartments with two cars parked in between his apartment and the female witness’. Officer Monterrosa replied that he was not sure.

Following a fifteen minute recess, Deputy Sheriff Evan Alder took the stand to testify that the defendants posed no great immense threat from the observed two month history of each defendant. From the testimony, Judge Richardson agreed to unshackle the major restraints of all three defendants.

DDA Serafin continued the hearing by calling upon the people’s seventh witness, West Sacramento Police Officer Cody Coulter, who testified that on February 1, 2014, he was on duty when he received a call for 954 Simon Terrace.

While on the scene, Officer Coulter spoke to a female witness with two children who claims that she was outside of her home watching her two young children play when she saw what she described as “a white man [who had a laceration] with 3 males behind him,” walking with a knife. Officer Coulter testified that the witness and her children hid inside their locked home and called 911 as the man kicked their door 3 times while allegedly yelling, “I’m going to get you.”

When DDA Serafin asked about the state of the area, Officer Coulter testified that blood droplets covered the front of the door.

While testifying, Officer Coulter admitted to taking statements from a Spanish-speaking male witness using the female witness as an interpreter.

When Ms. Serafin asked the witness to recount the few statements made by the male witness, the defense counsel objected, claiming that two strands of hearsay, from the male witness to the interpretation by the female witness to Officer Coulter, cannot stand as a reliable source of information.

The court found the testimony reliable after Judge Richardson claimed that there was sufficient evidence that the female witness understood the Spanish language enough to translate.

According to Officer Coulter, the male witness saw what he described as a “white male with blood on his face,” coming up the driveway. The man apparently kicked the witness’ door three times and his neighbor’s once.

When Ms. Serafin asked if he mentioned previously that the female witness claimed that her door was kicked three times, Officer Coulter apologized and stated that he had mistaken the two and that the door of the male witness was kicked three times while that pf the female witness was kicked only once.

Officer Coulter continued his testimony by claiming that he responded to a call on Bryte Avenue following his arrival at Simon Terrace with Lt. Steele.

When he arrived at Bryte Avenue, the officer claims that Defendant Joel Moreno placed his hands in the air in a surrendering motion before pointing to Defendant Abraham Hernandez and claiming that he was only trying to get his friends away. When asked to identify Defendant Joel Moreno and Defendant Abraham Hernandez, Officer Coulter correctly described the position of each defendant.

During his testimony, the officer claimed that he detained both defendants after a witness identified them as involved individuals from the altercation on Simon Terrace. When Ms. Serafin asked the witness if he remembered a female or the sister of Defendant Abraham Hernandez being involved, the officer stated that he did not recall. Although he admitted to not remembering her direct involvement, the officer claimed that a female at some point approached him inquiring about her brother who had been detained.

Ms. Serafin continued the testimony by inquiring about the statements made by an attacked witness about the bicycle theft on Bryte Avenue. The witness claimed that the female did walk the bicycle back and apologized to the victim of the theft. According to Officer Coulter, the witness was also attacked by a male with a black ponytail who tried to swing a liquor bottle at him before he started to punch and kick the witness with two other males.

During cross-examination, Mr. Granucci led Officer Coulter to testifying that the bottle that was swung was never found. Mr. Beede strengthened his case when the officer stated that he did not recall any paramedics being needed for the attacked witness.

While inquiring about the state of the vehicle, Chris Parkhurst raised doubt about whether the gang-related statements allegedly made by the defendants in the police vehicle after they were detained were from the inside or outside of the vehicle.

To resolve this, Judge Richardson asked the witness officer if he usually keeps the detained individuals in vehicles with open or closed windows. Officer Coulter admits that he usually closes the windows but keeps a small crack open for air circulation.

After Officer Coulter was excused from the stand, Thursday’s preliminary hearing for People vs. Hernandez, Hernandez, and Moreno concluded. The hearing is scheduled to conclude on Monday, July 21, at ten.

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. Kit Westbrook

    I stumbled upon this article. I used to work with Chris Parkhust, ( ) on of the defense attorneys mentioned in this article. I have to say, that while it would be scary to face serious charges like these, you couldn’t hope to have a better defense attorney than chris.

  2. Kit Westbrook

    I stumbled upon this article. I used to work with Chris Parkhust, ( ) on of the defense attorneys mentioned in this article. I have to say, that while it would be scary to face serious charges like these, you couldn’t hope to have a better defense attorney than chris.

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