Victim Speaks Out Against Prosecution, Prison Sentence in Gang Case

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It started in the early morning hours of June 19, 2013, when a couple was approached outside of the Cottonwood 7-Eleven in Woodland. According to prosecutors, they asked him if he had money. When he said no, he was asked if he “bangs,” if he was a “scrap” or a “DO.”  When he failed to respond, he was hit and attacked.

Four young Latinos ended up being arrested for allegedly beating and robbing this Woodland man, stealing his Cheetos, Pepsi and his bike. They were charged with second degree robbery, assault with great bodily injury, and a gang enhancement because someone yelled a gang slur.

However, the case suffered from serious witness identification issues from the start. Store video shows two of the defendants, Jose Jimenez and Juan Fuentes, run out of the store, but no evidence that they were involved.

It would go to trial three times, but only Juan Fuentes was convicted of the robbery. In February of this year, Judge David Rosenberg sentenced him to 16 years in prison.

Mr. Fuentes had a prior strike from a conviction when he was 15 years old and gang enhancements. Defense Attorney Bob Spangler, representing Mr. Fuentes, pled with the judge to disallow the previous strike during sentencing, but it was quickly denied, although Judge Rosenberg did not feel this conviction was worthy of second strike.

The other defendants were convicted of the gang charge alone.

But during testimony and in written reports, police identified these four men, alleging that on the night in question, both victims, Mr. Nichols and Ms. Beatty had identified them from a field line-up and even a particular haircut that one of the defendants wore at that time.

Although the two were reluctant to testify against the four young men each time, they both reiterated, “No, I am not afraid of retaliation,” during trial testimony.

Mr. Nichols at one point stated, “I do not want to see them go to prison, I would feel bad sending kids to prison. I could not see that night, I was too busy fighting.”

Ms. Beatty stated on the stand, “The cops put words in my mouth.”

The Vanguard talked to Ms. Beatty about the incident. She was incredulous that they could give Mr. Fuentes a 16-year sentence for what she described as a fight. “Here’s my concern, I felt like we were bullied,” she said.

“From the beginning when the guys were arrested to the end, there was so many lies,” she said. “I’m not sure if they got the wrong guys, I couldn’t tell you one way or another. And I told them that.”

“It was a fight,” she explained. “Nobody came to rob us. Whatever happened that night, nobody showed up to rob us.”

Ms. Beatty described coming out of 7-Eleven. Words were exchanged between Mr. Nichols, her boyfriend, and another guy. She looked up at her boyfriend because someone yelled “tweaker” and she said, “My reaction was to look at him because he’s a hot-head. He’s a fighter.”

The person then walked into the store. She was trying to get him out of there before the person came back out.

They got to the corner, and there were some kids (high school age) on the corner who were being rowdy and laughing. She tried to keep her head down but heard them talking about how they didn’t have any money. One of them said, “Well ask this b—- if she has a dollar.”

Ms. Beatty looked back to see if her boyfriend heard that, “because I knew if he heard that it was going to be not good.” She said, “One thing you don’t do is you don’t flirt with his girlfriend and you don’t disrespect his girlfriend.”

She said, “I looked back and there’s my boyfriend and he’s heated.”

At this point the fight started happening. She stayed next to him to keep them off him. “None of them turn on me and they could have because I was right in it,” she said.

Mr. Nichols, she said, had a shoulder injury and his shoulder came out of its socket. At that point, she knew they were going to gain the upper hand.

Mr. Nichols was not injured in the fight other than the recurring shoulder injury, which was not initially caused by this incident. “Anytime he gets into a fight, he re-injures that arm,” she said.

Someone from Taco Bell asked if they needed help and she said, “Yes, we need help.” The police were called.

She said, “There were enough opportunities that if it were gang and robbery, I exposed myself so much, that someone could have beat my a–. I felt confident enough to be alone on the corner in a fight without getting hit.”

“To this day, I don’t know how they went down the street and arrested these boys. I don’t know where they got their info from or anything,” she said.

Her boyfriend, seeing the police, took off running because he thought he had a warrant. She said, “I ain’t talking to no cops.” When he took off running, one of the police officers almost hit him with the car.

Ms. Beatty said the officer picked up the radio and said, “Yeah we’ve got them because they’re eating their groceries.”

At this point she said, “I was angry thinking those are the f- idiots who did this.” So after hearing the police officer state this, she said, “Yeah that’s them.”

But she said, “Anybody in that fight could never have identified anyone. It happened so fast and so intense.” She said, “I felt like they were not given a fair shake. I don’t want to see a boy going to prison for 16 years unless beyond a reasonable doubt they know that’s him. And on top of that there was no robbery.”

“I’m going to keep it real with you, we’re tweakers, who wanted to rob anything from us?” she asked.

Ms. Beatty told the Vanguard, “I think that they took this opportunity because maybe the boys had a history. I think they took this and twisted it and turned it, and found a way to make an example out of them.”

She said, “I’ve lost complete respect for the justice system (at least in Woodland). I don’t trust it. I have seen awful things in the last couple of years and this is one of the most awful.” She said, “A kid is going to lose 16 years of his life.”

“They just used us to make an example out of them and I think its bulls–,” she continued.

As part of their efforts to coerce her to testify, she said she was put into custody for five days on a material witness warrant.

“They threw me in jail when I went to pick up my subpoena,” she said. She said when she was picking up the subpoena, she told the lady from the gang task force that she could not identify the individuals involved. The lady told her, “we have a warrant.”

Ms. Beatty said, “Up until I said I couldn’t identify the dudes, I was just going to be handed the subpoena.”

Following one of the trials, the Vanguard spoke to a juror. The juror said, “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.”

In the next segment of this story, the Vanguard spoke with Cindy Fuentes, the mother of 20-year-old Juan Fuentes.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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16 thoughts on “Victim Speaks Out Against Prosecution, Prison Sentence in Gang Case”

  1. Davis Progressive

    Ms. Beatty said the officer picked up the radio and said, “Yeah we’ve got them because they’re eating their groceries.”
    At this point she said, “I was angry thinking those are the f- idiots who did this.” So after hearing the police officer state this, she said, “Yeah that’s them.”

    i knew this was a questionable case, but i didn’t realize how bad it was until just now.  i mean, this witness’s original identification was completely contaminated.  and the da was operating under the guise that she identified the youths and then recanted, this suggests that she never even identified the youths.

    1. Antoinnette

      You have no idea how contaminated this case was, DP……stay tuned, as grandmother used to say, “it will all come out in the wash.” lol..

      Thanks for your support and feedback!!!

  2. hpierce

    Don’t know if y’all are concerned about the prosecution/adjudication part of this, or the convicted person.  My comment is about the convicted person.  He does not appear to be “factually innocent” of the crime he was convicted of.  He appears to be ‘guilty’ of “bad behavior”.  In my opinion, he should be punished, but in a manner that will encourage him to greatly modify his behavior.  16 years in prison, where he is likely to learn better to be a “hard-ass”, doesn’t work for me.  A year or two in “lock-up”, preferably locally, with counseling, but also the real threat that if he “repeats” he’ll do “serious” time, THAT works for me.  Getting a “walk” even with ‘errors’ on the prosecution/adjudication side, doesn’t work for me.  But, hey, I have no say in the matter.

    1. Davis Progressive

      how do we know he does not appear to be factually innocent?  all we know is that he was out there and there was a fight.  we have no idea if he was involved in the fight.

      1. hpierce

        Never said “we”.  “He does not appear…”  = “in my opinion, he does not appear…”.  I didn’t even say “I know…”.  Do I have to prove my opinion is ‘known’ to be true fact?  Geeez.

  3. Fight Against Injustice

    I think it is very troubling that the victim feels that the authorities put words in her mouth.  Why have a witness if she cannot say what she wants?

    Also, it is troubling that this witness feels she was put into jail because she said that she couldn’t identify the individuals.

    David, I would like to hear more about why the authorities put this witness in jail for 5 days?  Is there a way to get their story?

  4. hope

    I would like send a THANK YOU to The Vanguard for following this case…Mr. Greenwald and Antoinette…THANK YOU for all the articles posted since day one.

    I am the mother of one of the defendants. I still remember that evening before the incident. I was heading to work. I recvd a call from my son saying he had forgotten his house key. Not being able to turn back, i told him his Brother had a key and wait for his return. I told him to be careful and to text me when he was home. Throughout my shift, Something just didn’t feel right…It was a big habit of mine to call and text my kids..especially my oldest (defendant) to know their whereabouts. ..they were annoyed but I was being a mom. End of my shift comes around and as im heading home i receive a call from the jail. My heart pounded with worry as I heard my sons voice. He explained what occurred and all i kept thinking was…why didnt I turn back?!…could this have never happened?…being in the wrong place at the wrong time?!.. I wanted to know every single detail of the incident including the officers involved.

    My son has made mistakes in the past when he was younger. He’s been a victim of police harassment ever since. Anywhere he went or was, gang task force confront, detain, harass or make threats to him. How can someone be expected to change their lives for the better when they arent given the opportunity to do so?. Thats why many give up!…they give up hope for themselves.

    This trial didnt just affect all defendants involved…it affected the families too. Everyone who followed this trial knew from the very beginning…it was falsified by police and illegal. The person who was found walking w my son that night was also arrested. He was stripped of his clothing in the street with only his boxers and photographed while handcuffed. This boy was later released due to the clear..clear view of the video proving he had never left the store.

    How can we ask for justice when they are who are against us?.why did the initial officer neglect to ask to view the video the night it happened?! Or ask the clerk questions? Or ask for any other potential witnesses like the woman who was seen smoking outside when it was happening? They never proved the stolen items. How could the judge have allowed all of this?. FALSE statements by police, no video or sound recordings..NOTHING.

    My son and the other remaining defendants had no choice but to accept the gang enhancement.  What really just bothers me is…a few days before accepting the plea to gang enhancement,  my son was detained by a WPD officer while he was outside talking on the phone. The officer refused to give reason for the detention and ran his name through the system. I saw what was going on and asked the officer why he was detaining my son…he said he didnt have to tell me. My son then replied “he doesnt want to tell me either..im out here talking on the phone not doing anything wrong. Hes just harassing me bc of the trial”. After the officer refused again to give reason for the detention, he said “things are going to get ugly”. I stepped away and we started recording the incident. My son is then approached by two officers in civilian clothes who were in an unmarked vehicle. One of the officers, raising his voice and pointing at him happened to be officer Perez who happened to be the gang expert and had part in the investigation in my sons trial. Perez attempted to intimidate my son n out of no where he tells my son he knew what happened that night and knew he had nothing to do with it. So why did they still get the gang enhancement? !

    Our family has suffered throughout this trial and aftermath…

    1. Miwok

      Hope and Lijnda (below).

      Good comments, but it sounds like if your kids were in trouble once, they would stay away from it a second time. Are they still hanging with the same people? Same Places? That just turns it into a contest for the PD to catch them.

      I know  a young lady who has been around the wrong people all her life, and after getting in trouble with them, they continue to see each other and do the wrong things, because “no is going to tell them what to do”. Just a matter of time for the next episode, except for the ones who are dead now.

      If this sounds like you or your kids, RUN to get him out of this town and away from these so called friends. Forever.

      I won’t speak to the law deals you are making, but if you are already Plea Bargaining for a 16 year old, see the paragraph above.

  5. Antoinnette

    Thank you, Hope,  it has been our privilege and thank you for sharing your story, hopefully it does not fall upon deaf ears…

    It has also been a privilege to get close to a lot of you. I remain optimistic that this case will bring some changes. We will continue to write any updates.

    Again, this case has been problematic from the beginning and with the statements from Ms. Beatty, it bothers me even more.  I am glad we followed it…

    I want to personally thank Ms. Beatty for coming forward, that took courage and conviction. I am proud of her for speaking out as I am of all of you! I know it has been a heartache.

    Stay tuned….stay strong….:)

     

     

     

     

    1. Lijnda

      I am a family member of one of the defendants in this case, I was present at every court hearing and every trial ,( all three of them!) There’s a lot I could say and maybe will later, but at the end of day I believe the real victims here were the four young defendants and  their families, o’h and let’s not forget the tax payers dollar because that counts too, such a travesty of justice! I also do believe that the alleged “victims” in this case were also indeed the “victims”, but not of the accused defendants  but  of the Yolo county’s  DA’s office and the way they bullied them onto the witness stand, and then after they testified the DA dismissed most of their testimony as untrue. The Yolo county justice system is broken, this case is first hand evidence of that. My question is what can we as citizens of this county do to change the injustice that is being served to our youth? Most of us are  just down to earth people with no formal education, especially in matters of the law, and I just feel like we need to take some kind of a stand against this moral injustice, or immoral justice however you want to phrase it. Any suggestions?

      1. Davis Progressive

        “My question is what can we as citizens of this county do to change the injustice that is being served to our youth? ”

        a lot.

        1.  speak out and bear witness.  most people don’t know what is going on and in most cases the line between justice and injustice is blurred to the point where it becomes a debate.

        2.  support efforts like this one to expose what is going on

        3.  organize – there is power in numbers

        4.  help find people to get elected to office who will support your efforts including the district attorney

        1. Tia Will

          DP

          Do you have any suggestions for candidates to run for district attorney ?

          i would be strongly in favor of some competition for this position !

           

           

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