Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens and Defense Attorney Rodney Beede continuously objected to “badgering” questions by defense attorneys, Dean Johansson and James Granucci, during cross-examination of an in-custody witness.
Defendants Anthony Simonetta and Joaquin Galvan face human trafficking charges and are currently being held in custody. On Monday, both defendants appeared at the preliminary hearing that continued with the cross-examination of the prosecution’s in-custody witness.
Before beginning, DDA Couzens urged the court to ban deliberate questions involving the juvenile past of his in-custody witness. Questioning their relevance to the case at hand, Rodney Beede, attorney for the in-custody witness, aided Couzens in his effort to ban inquiries of the past. While the prosecution objected to the past inquiries, the defense argued that they revealed the intentions and state of mind of the witness. Catering to the needs of a preliminary hearing, Judge David Reed allowed the defense to proceed with caution.
With a camera placed in front of the prosecution’s witness, Deputy Public Defender Johansson began by asking if she had ever lied about a financial transaction or sold drugs. After the in-custody witness claimed that she had never sold drugs, she inquired about what “financial transactions” meant. Mr. Johansson clarified “financial transactions” to be false IDs, to which the witness answered that she had not been so involved.
Mr. Johansson continued the testimony when he asked the witness if she ever “lied to get a ride” to which the witness uttered, “Oh,” and glanced at her attorney, Mr. Beede, before admitting that she had. Questioning the defense’s inquiries, Judge Reed claimed that lying to a friend to get a ride somewhere is not a foundation for moral judgment. In an effort to continue the testimony, Mr. Johansson asked the witness if she had ever met an “Esteban.” The witness claimed that she only knew Esteban from the online social networking website Facebook and that he would occasionally send her private messages that she never replied to. Although she had minimal contact on Facebook, the witness claimed that she never met Esteban in person. When asked what time Esteban was supposed to pick her up on March 23, the witness stated, “45 minutes after” their arrangements were made. After Johansson asked for the approximate time of the conversation, the witness estimated 8:00 P.M., marking the time of their arranged pick up at 8:45 P.M.
When Mr. Johansson asked the witness if she ever told Esteban how old she was, Mr. Couzens and Mr. Beede objected, citing the lack of foundation and relevance of the question. After Judge Reed overruled the prosecution’s objection, the witness explained that she had not revealed her age, then Mr. Johansson asked if she had ever said she was older than she actually was, drawing even more overruled objections.
It wasn’t until he asked if the witness had ever worked as a prostitute that the prosecution’s fierce objections were called into question by Mr. Johansson, causing all counsel to approach the bench.
Continuing the testimony after the call to the bench, Mr. Johansson asked the witness if she had experienced any threats in juvenile hall. According to the witness, a fellow inmate had once told her that “money [was] on her head” for speaking out and testifying. When Johansson asked if his client ever directly threatened her, the witness answered, “No, not directly,” before glancing at her attorney. Johansson continued by inquiring if she was “snitching” at that moment by testifying, to which the prosecution and Mr. Beede objected. When the witness glanced at her attorney, Mr. Johansson asked why she continuously glanced at him and if she did so for answers. After admitting that she was nervous, the prosecution’s witness asserted that she did not glance at Mr. Beede for answers. After admitting that “money [was] on her head,” the witness elaborated that several people had advised her not to testify.
James Granucci, the defense attorney for Anthony Simonetta, began his cross-examination when he asked the witness if she goes by the name, “Monica Martinez.” When the witness confessed that she did so, about a year and a half ago, Granucci inquired if she used the name at a time corresponding to when she began prostituting and if that was a name she went by in the streets. With no objections preventing her from answering the question, she admitted that the name was employed a year and a half ago, but the witness denied ever using it on the streets for selling purposes.
The witness admitted that while she was on probation a year and a half ago she was banned from taking part on the social networking website Facebook, and as a means of communication and connection to friends and family she employed the alias name and created a fresh account. Aside from “Monica Martinez,” the witness admitted to using various other names for Facebook accounts, including one name with her mother’s last name and her first.
Mr. Granucci then proceeded by inquiring about the website MyRedbook, which the witness described as a “website where working girls go on to sell their bodies.” Upon its mention, DDA Couzens objected, claiming that questions involving the sexual history of human trafficking victims are prohibited. When Judge Reed advised Granucci to rephrase his question, Granucci asked the witness who introduced her to MyRedbook and if she ever used the website for selling purposes. While the witness admitted that that she was introduced to prostitution in November of 2013, she denied being the one that used the website. According to the witness, the same person that introduced her to prostitution was the one that used the website and received all the proceeds.
When Granucci inquired about the witness’s arrest in March of this year, the witness admitted that while she was in Las Vegas she was arrested for being underage and in a casino.
Mr. Granucci continued his cross-examination of the prosecution’s in-custody witness when he asked about the continuous messages the witness received on Facebook from Esteban. According to the witness, Esteban had contacted her about 30 times. When Granucci asked under which name the witness was contacted under on March 24 of this year, Mr. Couzens objected and argued that the defense had questioned the witness over these details and the court had heard it about five times already, deeming them unnecessary. In an effort to neutralize the situation, Judge Reed asked Granucci to continue, if he was planning on asking if both fake accounts were open at the same time. When the witness stated that she had “told [the] other lawyer” the exact details, Mr. Granucci claimed that he wanted it for his clarification only and “not others’.” The witness claimed that she lost the password for her “Monica Martinez” account and that she did not have access to it in March of this year.
By asking what the messages contained, Mr. Granucci once again caused objections from the prosecution. According to the witness, Esteban would often write, “Hi beautiful,” and, “Write me back,” while occasionally she would answer with a simple, “Hi” back.
Mr. Granucci elicited further testimony when he asked the witness how old she was when she “went out” with defendant Joaquin Galvan. The witness claimed that she was only 14 when she began going out with the defendant. After calculating the year, the witness stated that, as a 14-year-old in 2011, she was in juvenile hall for running away from home, skipping school, and fighting. When Mr. Granucci pushed further and asked how many times she skipped school and fought, Mr. Couzens exclaimed that he honestly could “not imagine any lawyer under any circumstances” in any courtroom asking those questions.
After weighing the arguments, Judge Reed exclaimed that the preliminary hearing was not a trial and that under a trial setting the circumstances would be extremely different. Mr. Granucci carried on the theme of the hearing when he inquired about the living situation of the witness prior to the end of March. When the witness admitted to running away from a group home, Granucci questioned if her uncle, with whom she had been living for two weeks, knew of the circumstances, to which the prosecution once again objected.
The witness claimed that she wanted defendant Joaquin Galvan to drive her home on March 24, but he “drove for a while” and what “seem[ed] like hours.” After she denied that he drove to Yuba City, Mr. Granucci asked if it truly “seem[ed] like hours that he drove around [just] West Sacramento?” In a defensive response, the witness uttered that she “was scared” during the incident. “You weren’t scared,” Mr. Granucci loudly exclaimed, “you got into the car!”
When Mr. Beede accused the defense of “badgering” his client, Judge Reed called for a definitive recess. The preliminary hearing is set to continue tomorrow afternoon.