DA Declines to Refile in Repo Man Case

Image from a video surveillance taken by the repossession agent
Image from a video surveillance taken by the repossession agent

by Antoinnette Borbon

The Vanguard learned that Mr. and Mrs. Guillermo Bonilla had an eyewitness who took the “notorious dollies” in the recent Yolo County case about an incident surrounding a vehicle repossession, but the potential witness was never allowed to testify due to his criminal record, they stated.

This evidence, if allowed, could have led to the dismissal the grand theft charges on all three defendants, upon which the jury hung.

But the only time another suspect was mentioned was during defense’s closing, as counsel stated, “Maybe the tow truck driver took them, it is likely.”

However, prosecutor Michael Favero responded in his rebuttal closing with, “Isn’t it more likely the Bonillas put them in the garage? They had a ten minute window to do it before police arrived.”

In the beginning, Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Palumbo had offered the three Bonillas a plea deal of $1000.00 restitution for the dollies plus a disturbing the peace charge.

But Sandra Bonilla refused to take it, stating to this reporter, “We did not take them, we knew who took them, why would we accept that plea?”  She said she discussed it with her husband and brother-in-law and they decided to take the risk of going to trial.

It was a great risk, she said, but asserted that “it was worth it.”

However, the couple says that they cannot understand why some very important pieces of evidence were never introduced to the jurors.

“We were so angry as we sat there, so many things were kept out from jurors, so many lies told and we had to sit in silence,” Sandra Bonilla said.

“At one point I wanted to lash out because I was so upset over the lies but I kept thinking of my son, they threatened to take him,” Ms. Bonilla stated.

“Det. Fellows went to his superior and told him that we refused to talk without our attorney and his boss said, ‘It’s okay, after booking ICE will deport them,'” explained Ms. Bonilla. She said, “I was crying, I couldn’t believe it was happening.”

Beside the eyewitness not being allowed to testify, the Bonillas explained to the Vanguard that in one of the police calls to the West Sacramento Police Department that day on May 11, 2013, they reached a sergeant who told them the case was a civil matter and that he could not help.

That particular call log and audio was never brought to court. It was never allowed into evidence.

Along with the allegation of the dollies being stolen by the Bonilla family was information about the allegedly cut straps. Mr. Guillermo Bonilla showed the Vanguard a picture that had a brand new strap kit priced at under $30.00. Yet, the handwritten bill from the repo company put the cost at $400.00 for the exact same item.

The bill was allowed into evidence.

Further, the video was unclear as to exactly what damage was done to the straps, and when the Bonillas asked to be shown a picture of cut straps, neither the district attorney nor the defense had any evidence, or pictures, of cut straps. The dollies themselves were estimated by the repo company at over $1000.00 but an advertisement of the identical same type, brand new, showed about $900.00 dollars.

This new evidence raises a few questions about the grand theft charges.

To date, we know the dollies were never reported stolen to the insurance company. However, there is a possibility they were claimed but not mentioned in court.

Missing Items Never Recovered After Warrant

According to Sandra and Guillermo Bonilla, during the arrest they told officers they had $39,000.00 in cash and about $25,000.00 in jewelry in the home and wanted to make sure the house was secured. One of the arresting officers told them, while at the station, not to worry because their home had been secured.

But when the couple returned after posting bail, the items were gone. To the Bonillas’ knowledge, there was no one allowed at their home during their time at the police station. The items have not been recovered as of yet, but a report was filed.

The West Sacramento Police Department has no inventory list of those items or the couple’s cash.

On Monday,  Deputy District Attorney Michael Favero declined to refile on the grand theft charge and, in July, the couple will face the felony vandalism conviction. However, there is at least a possibility that the vandalism will be reduce to a misdemeanor.

After a two-year battle, five different attorneys, a private investigator and an expert witness on the case – and several thousand dollars later, the Bonilla family says, “We are trying to put this behind us, although it has traumatized us and our son.”  Ms. Bonilla said, “But we are still grateful for what we have.”

The couple is glad it is over and wishes to thank the Vanguard for allowing them to share the details of their case in the hopes their story will not fall upon deaf ears.

Sentencing will be held in July.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Miwok

    Along with the allegation of the dollies being stolen by the Bonilla family was the allegedly cut straps. Mr. Guillermo Bonilla showed me a picture that had a brand new strap kit priced at under $30.00. Yet the handwritten bill from the Repo Company put the cost at $400.00 for the exact same item.

    Just because Mr Bonilla says it doesn’t make it so. Just like guns, California has a list of equipment that sometimes must be purchased from an approved vendor. As an owner of a trucking company he should know this.

    With all the cash and jewelry they had, it is inconceivable they could not afford a safe to put it in.

    1. David Greenwald

      I exchanged texts with their attorney yesterday – they are going to context the value of the equipment. He believe he has strong evidence that their value does not exceed $400 and that would not only reduce restitution but put the offense into misdemeanor status. Obviously the prosecution disagrees and the judge will have to make a determination of it.

  2. Davis Progressive

    so this case in the end may end up being a misdemeanor vandalism case – probably where it should have been from the start.  the result is justice, i’m not sure i would say that the process was just.

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