Repo Case Wraps Up With Compelling Arguments For Reasonable Doubt

by Antoinnette Borbon

After what both prosecution and defense called a long four days of trial, the case against the three co-defendants concluded this afternoon, sending jurors into deliberation.

On May 11, 2013, Guillermo and Sandra Bonilla were at home when a man knocked on the door asking them if they wanted to remove their property from the vehicle he was there to repossess. The Bonillas asserted that the bank made an error and that they asked the driver to show documents proving he had authority to take it. But he did not. What happened next would later cause the three, Mr. and Mrs. Bonilla and his brother, to be facing criminal charges.

Guillermo Bonilla testified yesterday to the events that took place on May 11 of 2013.

He said that he did not have control of the family’s finances, only that, “I work, I give my wife the money and she pays the bills.” he stated. “I trust my wife.”

During much of the prosecution’s questions, Guillermo appeared to have trouble understanding what he was being asked. An agitated Deputy District Attorney Michael Favero had to repeat each question more than a few times.

DDA Favero did ask Mr. Bonilla if he needed an interpreter and if his attorney had ever asked him if he needed one. He replied, “I know he asked me a lot of questions, I don’t know…I don’t remember.”

Bonilla repeated the same answer for most of the questions posed by the prosecutor with, “I don’t know, I don’t remember, Sir…”

However, the defendant was able to tell DDA Favero that he called the West Sacramento Police Department at least four times on May 11, in an attempt to report the assault made on him by the repo guy who came to take the Land Rover.

Bonilla described to dispatch that he had been hurt by the driver of a repo tow truck as the man tried to take his vehicle. Bonilla asserted that he did not know why the man was there to take it.

He stated, “They [dispatch at West Sac PD] told me it was a civil matter…they couldn’t help.” But according to audios played today, dispatch was trying to explain to the Bonillas that they would need to return to their residence in order for the police to make a report. It was unclear whether the couple actually understood the difference between “civil peace and civil matter.

Jurors listened to audiotapes from the three phone calls to dispatch on that morning. In three separate phone calls, dispatch advises the couple to return so that police can handle it civilly, peacefully so that no one got hurt.

Bonilla told dispatch that he needed to go to the hospital because the driver hurt his back and face.

During one phone conversation between dispatch and Sandra Bonilla, Guillermo’s wife, she tried to explain that they have dealt with West Sacramento Police and did not trust them. The couple refused to go back to the residence to make the report.

So dispatch told them they could not do anything if they did not return home and speak to the officers who were waiting at their residence. Only the repo man had returned after calling 911 to report what happened.


Taking the stand for the defense’s case was Ms. Shannon Agee. Ms. Agee was allowed by Judge Reed to testify on a limited amount of information due to her expertise.

Shannon Agee is a skip tracer, repossession agent and bounty hunter. She has been working in the field for years under a private investigator, along with repo agencies.

She testified to orchestrating the repossession of hundreds of vehicles. Agee stated, “I have never known of a driver going to the door and asking someone if they would like to remove their property before they take the car, that is a dangerous thing to do, things can escalate.” Agee also pointed out that, on the video, you can see the Land Rover bouncing up and down as the driver tried to secure it. She said, “You can clearly see the car is not connected properly and that is dangerous.”

“I would have used a flatbed tow truck, it is safer and you don’t want to risk damaging the owner’s property.” she stated. No owner wants their property damaged, asserted Agee.

The prosecutor questioned her knowledge of “breach of peace” and a writ that permits law enforcement to take the vehicle after attempts are failed by repo companies. Ms. Agee said she understood the terms and what they entailed.

DDA Favero then asked her if by looking at the video she could see that the Land Rover was attached to the tow truck. “Um, if you call it that? I don’t,” she replied.

Agee was asked about being fired by the sister of the owner of the repo company, and said, “I was let go, yes.”


Mario Miranda testified to his encounter with Det. Fellows. He stated that Fellows came to the trucking yard looking for the Bonillas and Mario told him he did not know where they were.  Fellows then accused him of hiding the couple. He said, “He told me he would arrest me and call “ICE.” I don’t know what that means. I told him I was not hiding them, but he kept saying he would arrest and deport me. He finally left and my friend filed a report against him,” Mario explained.

In cross-examination by DDA Favero, Mario told the prosecutor that he had worked for the Bonillas as maintenance for about five years. But he said he had not seen the two until yesterday, when he was waiting to testify. Favero asked Mario if he had been questioned by investigators, but Mario answered, “Only what my name, birthdate and what happened on the day Det. Fellows came out.”

“Do you understand English well?” asked the prosecutor. “Yes, I understand it.” he replied.


Taking the stand for the prosecution was Mr. David Greenwald of the People’s Vanguard of Davis. David Greenwald is the Executive Director and was subpoenaed by the prosecution for the state’s case.

After a stipulation was reached between Defense Attorney Josh Kaizuka and DDA Ryan Couzens early in the morning, Greenwald took the stand to briefly answer a few questions about the article he published on the Vanguard‘s website.

In his article he stated, “Sandra Bonilla told the Vanguard that she had been chased at high speeds by Daniel Thomas, the repo man.” Mr. Greenwald had interviewed the defendant back in November.

DDA Michael Favero was allowed to ask if it were in fact true that Mr. Greenwald wrote that statement. Mr. Greenwald asserted, “Yes.” Favero asked Greenwald who was present during the interview but, before he could reply, defense objected and the question was sustained. Eventually he did identify Sandra Bonilla, Juan Carlos Bonilla and Guillermo Bonilla.

A question by Defense Attorney Anthony Palik was objected to, as well, when he asked David Greenwald what the Vanguard’s court watch does. Judge David Reed sustained the objection.


The prosecutor began his closing argument with, “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is almost done. Again, like in my opening, I told you, after closing you would have all the videos, transcripts and I encourage you to view them.

“This weekend I ran a relay race from Calistoga to Santa Cruz and during the time I was out there, at about 2 am, I asked myself, what am I going to say to these people?” he stated.

“First I want to talk about [jury] instruction [No.] 220, reasonable doubt. I have to prove this happened beyond a reasonable doubt. What is an abiding conviction? It is a belief that abides, a conviction that does not leave you tomorrow or in ten years.”

He explained to jurors that Mrs. Bonilla cannot be convicted of grand theft, as she was not seen taking the dollies in question. “So you cannot convict her on that charge, jurors,” asserted the DDA.

“But what we do know,” he stated, “is that it is more likely that the two defendants took the dollies after the tow truck driver left. He says there is no video showing who took them so we do not know but it is reasonable to say the defendants could have taken them. There was a period of ten minutes before cops arrived at the home, making it easy for the defendants to put the dollies in their garage.”

He described the jury instruction No. 252 that pertains to general and specific intent and told jurors, “We know the intent to commit grand theft was there, and we know it was there for the battery charge.” He told jurors, “You heard Daniel Thomas testify, you saw his demeanor, he is the one who called 911 and in the video you see him reach down and try to stop Bonilla from cutting the straps. The law states that if a vehicle is connected, it is in the possession of the repo agency.

“Mr. Bonilla testified that he could not remember, that he did not understand my questions but when defense counsel asked him questions, he answered them he understood perfectly, he lied!” the DDA said.

He said that Bonilla denied his own handwriting on the photos taken of his face and purposely tried to confuse Det. Fellows during a phone conversation about the incident. He asserted that the defendant changed his story many times, allegedly out of “guilt of conscientiousness.”

“You heard the testimony and you must decide whether or not it is credible.” said Favero.

“Now, I want to talk to you about expert witnesses. Ladies and Gentlemen, you have to judge them by their skills, knowledge and I will tell you in the few trials I have done, I have never heard a less knowledgeable witness than Ms. Shannon Agee. She works under another investigator and remember she was fired by Michael Pratt’s sister.”

He asked jurors to read the instructions carefully and decide on the charges. “How many things did Guillermo lie about from what he told dispatch, to officers and the news, the Vanguard?”

“We heard David Greenwald of the Vanguard testify that Sandra Bonilla was chased at high speeds for thirty minutes, she lied!” said the prosecution.

But he told jurors to keep an open mind and decide on the credibility of all the witnesses.


“So, here we are ladies and gentlemen after four long days of the case, who stole the missing dollies? This is not about a stolen vehicle; the prosecution has a dog in this fight, that is the repo man. We don’t know who took the dollies – there is no evidence of it. There was no insurance claim made, why? There was enough time for the driver to have gone back and taken them but we don’t know, we have no video showing who took them. It is much like taking a back pack into Target and leaving it in the basket, it gets stolen and you blame Target but why?” he explained.

He said one of the most credible witnesses in this case is Officer Steven Godden who testified that there were no identifying numbers on the tow truck that would tell you he is from a repo agency. He said the driver escalated this event and it could have been handled differently.

Defense Attorney Palik went on to explain to jurors that the bank only took 26 days before attempting to repossess the car, but on the stand they testified that they wait until day 56. He said this case is about six cents (he holds up the coins) and it was a civil matter, not criminal, and even the dispatch repeated that to the Bonillas.

But he explained, “Det. Fellows, if he had been forthright, he would have had an interpreter during the interview but he didn’t, he took advantage of my clients’ language barrier. He used his disposition as dishonesty. “

Mr. Palik stated that the bank is in fact important in this case and to look at the statements and understand that the bank never contacted the Bonillas to tell them the payment was reversed.

Defense told the jurors that the driver of the tow truck escalated things and the video shows him putting his arm around the head of Bonilla. He said it is clear there is a language barrier and you can hear that as the defendant tries to explain what happened. He described Guillermo telling the dispatch that he had been punched because he could not describe the driver putting his fingers in his mouth in an en effort to stop him from cutting the straps.

Palik went over the laws of self-defense when telling jurors that Guillermo’s brother used a reasonable means of pulling the repo man off of his brother. He said he grabbed Thomas, the repo man, in a chokehold in an effort to get him away from his brother but released him without any continuing moves. “There was no intent to harm Thomas, that is clear.”

He asked jurors to use Shannon Agee’s testimony as credible, because her knowledge of how repossessions operate and experience makes her testimony credible.

“There has to be a unity of act and intent to prove a charge and there is no evil intent on any charge. But you are the judge of the facts and there is one person who saw it all, one being, if you believe in that. But there is no proof the dollies were taken by the defendants.” It leaves room for doubt.

Defense asked the jurors to think about the prosecution’s questions of Guillermo while he was on the stand – “they were hostile and accusatory.”

Palik concluded, “Reasonable doubt prevents you from making a conviction and I ask you to think about that when you go into that room, ladies and gentlemen.”

“I thank you for being here.”


“Remember I asked you to remember the Baltimore riots? I asked you if it was justified, could you convict. This case has victims and it doesn’t matter what injustices happened before the riots, it didn’t give people the right to loot or destroy, those are the victims. Palik talked about the bank, he wanted to take your eyes off the ball,” Favero asserted…

He said the bank called four times before sending out a repo man, but the defendants chose not to answer the phone. This case is not about six cents, and you will see in the documents from Travis Federal Credit Union that a payment was reversed from a returned check.

He asserted that Bonilla understood perfectly what Det. Fellows was asking him, but he is the one who purposely tried to confuse the detective.

Favero admitted there was no proof of who actually took the dollies but that it is more likely that the Bonillas put them inside the garage.

He told jurors that the video only shows Thomas reaching down to stop Bonilla from cutting the straps. He talked about the nine-minute window that could have given plenty of time for the defendants to hide the dollies in the garage.

“And it doesn’t matter what officers did in the search, it has nothing to do with the charges,” stated the DDA.

“Ladies and gentlemen this has been a long trial for these charges but it’s over, think about who the victims are in this case, this is not the Baltimore riots, think about the specific things, the victims, nothing else matters. I ask you to find the defendants guilty, thank you.”

Jurors were sent to deliberate at 3:40 p.m. and will resume deliberations in the morning.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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  1. sisterhood

    “How many things did Guillermo lie about from what he told dispatch, to officers and the news…”

    If lying is a crime, then the police should not be allowed to lie when they investigate a crime.

    “…this is not the Baltimore riots…”
    What the heck does Baltimore have to do with any of this??????

    1. David Greenwald

      I think defense really went after Detective Fellows – and I believe Antoinnette will have a follow up story focusing on Detective Fellows.

  2. Miwok

    the Bonillas sure left a trail of evasion and confusion: Previous article – Ms Bonilla says her husband “Forgot” to pay the bill, in court he says SHE does it all. Detective could not identify which guy he was talking to. Checks bounce, bank’s fault. Wow.

    Not sure why the Vanguard is in this at all. There are stories like this every day, and I cannot figure if this is a hit piece on the DA, the Police, or the Bonillas. So I guess a good job by the court reporter!

    “…this is not the Baltimore riots…”
    What the heck does Baltimore have to do with any of this??????

    I like the smug “I was jogging at 2AM from Calistoga to Santa Cruz, and this came to me…”

    1. suga2381

      you need to understand that what you read in the article is just a portion of what really happened,I’m not gonna go in details right now but the only times that my husband needs to take the responsibility to pay bills is when Im out of the country.

      1. Antoinnette

        True Suga

        Now that trial is over you can give your full story.  David or I can write a separate follow up if you’d like?

        During trial only what we hear can be written.  I hope you understand.

        But I am working on a follow-up,

        This case has been worth covering for a few reasons.

        I’ve been waiting to see if any bells are rung when they read a couple names….


        Thank you, Miwok…I’ll take that as complimentary.


        Thanks for reading. ..appreciate your feedback.

        1. suga2381

          Yes I will like to give the full story and i want you to know that we are very thankful to you and Mr.Greenwald that has given us the opportunity to let everybody know how corrupt the system is ,specially the WSPD. God Bless the Vanguard for doing such an amazing job and for standing up for the Peoples right !

      1. Miwok

        Ms. Bonilla said she usually pays the bills, so Guillermo forgot to pay on her car.

        In court he said SHE pays bills, he never does.

        He said that he did not have control of the family’s finances, only that, “I work, I give my wife the money and she pays the bills.” he stated. “I trust my wife.”

        I thought I read these dissimilar statements correctly, what part am I missing?

        1. David Greenwald

          I don’t see anything that’s dissimilar, it’s all basically the same message – she is the one that handles the finances, he’s the one making the money.

        2. Miwok

          Maybe it will sink in if you read it again. First they blame each other, then the bank.

          Sorry Sir, I fail to see how since she blamed him for not paying the bill he never pays, she had to blame the bank next because nothing is her fault.. Just ask her.

      2. Frankly

        Before we get to this “blame the banker” narrative which is very popular with some people these days (pat on the back for not using partisan language?)… please note that it is government regulations that push banks to demonstrate adequate collateral recovery (i.e., repossession, foreclosure, etc.) procedure as a result of non-payment of debt.  Government regulations also demand that the procedure is carried out the same for all cases (or risk being charged with redlining or other unlawful discriminatory lending practice).

        So while you bemoan the “bad” bank for going after these “poor” people just because they forgot to make a couple of payments, don’t forget to point your finger at that very same government that you demand drops the case because of the “unfair” business practices… practices that are largely unfair because you previously demanded that they be equal.

  3. Napoleon Pig IV

    Perhaps the headline of this article should be modified to “Repo Case Wraps Up With Compelling Arguments For Reasonable Doubt. . . About the Competence of the Yolo DA Office.”  Oink!

    1. Davis Progressive

      how about the chilling effect that the da has on the fourth estate.  they ignore the vanguard, they refuse to allow them into press conferences, now they try to force them to become witnesses rather than reporters.

      1. Frankly

        The Vanguard has proven significantly hostility toward the DA.

        Based on this comment you should be incensed about how many lefty events Fox News is blocked or denied from attending.

        Just pointing out that your outrage has a political bias.

        1. Antoinnette

          Frankly, I didn’t feel this article showed any hostility towards the DA?

          And I agree, some will blame anyone or anything for their actions but I don’t believe that was what they were trying to explain or do.

          I wouldn’t deem them as, “poor,” either, this case did not appear to beg sympathy? I am sure things could have been handled differently on both parts but the raw emotion  of fear and anger often causes you to lose sight of any civility.

          That being said, it does not excuse the bad behavior on Law enforcements part, the tow truck driver or the Bonilla brothers. But you could put yourself in their (Bonilla’s) shoes for a second and imagine what your response would be, perhaps?

          It is easy to say what we would have done, but we don’t know until it is in our face, do we?

  4. Davis Progressive

    He said one of the most credible witnesses in this case is Officer Steven Godden who testified that there were no identifying numbers on the tow truck that would tell you he is from a repo agency. He said the driver escalated this event and it could have been handled differently.

    this is the smoking gun here.  remember the family asks for id, he refuses to show it.  the car has no identifying marks.  the repo man is actually the guy who escalated the situation.  he could have stopped the efforts and simply waited for the police.  he could have allowed the family to sort out with the bank.  but no – he wanted to get paid, so who cares, he thought he was in the right.

  5. Antoinnette

    Yes…Now that you mention it,  DP…we were banned from one press conference but I was allowed to be present in another?

    It may have had to do with the family in that case though, unclear but I don’t know what David heard from the response on that issue?

    It doesn’t bother me that they don’t recognize us as actual press..I still believe in the greater purpose of our work.  I feel a difference is made on many levels which most can appreciate,  perhaps even our DA?

    We press on…no pun intended.

    1. Davis Progressive

      well all that’s fine, but everyone got an upfront and personal view of how this da’s office operates.  unfortunately, the mainstream media doesn’t seem to care.

  6. ryankelly

    Hopefully these people changed banks.  Chase bank is a nightmare, in my experience.   I believe that they will be a little more attentive on making sure their bills are actually paid by their bank and that, even if they are out of town, their bills are paid.  For this loan, I would walk into Travis Credit Union with cash every month and get monthly written verification that the loan is current, as the credit union has demonstrated that it doesn’t follow its own policies regarding collections.

    I still don’t understand why the tow truck driver left the scene without his dollies.  It seems like the police were on site.  I think he would be in a great deal of trouble to have abandoned them and this is his way to cover himself (by saying that they were stolen).

    I don’t understand the Baltimore reference either.

    I understand the lying and misinformation on both sides.  People will do that when faced with a difficult or embarrassing situation.  Especially, with police that they don’t trust.  However, it is not a crime to lie and that’s not what they were arrested for.


    1. Antoinnette



      Interestingly enough, the tow truck was never searched for them? not to my knowledge? and they never reported to the insurance agency? I would think if you are fully insured, they would have been replaced by their insurance but instead they bought news ones?


  7. David Greenwald

    *** VERDICT ***

    Juan was acquitted of battery

    All three were convicted of vandalism – for cutting the strap (which they did)

    Jury hung 6-6 on grand theft (taking the dollies)

  8. Squirrelfriend

    After thinking about all this, and just how this ended up in criminal charges – the Bonilla’s never admitted that they did anything wrong at all. Everyone else is to blame – the bank, the repo man, the police. I think their continued combativeness is what snowballed from a somewhat ordinary situation of financial difficulties to ending up in  jury trial for multiple criminal charges. Even after the circus of events when the repo man showed up, I can’t help but wonder if there would have been any charges at all if when the detective showed up, Mrs Bonilla had invited him in for coffee and she apologized for the crazy events of the other day and by the way here are the dollies. By the way, the Baltimore riots thing  referred to what the DA asked the jury in the very beginning – basically, during the riots, some people committed criminal acts, but would you agree that those criminal acts were wrong regardless of the riot atmosphere the events that led up to the riots and that those who committed those criminal acts don’t get a free pass because of the circumstances.

    1. Napoleon Pig IV

      I’d say she had every reason to be combative. When minions of the state show up on your property flexing their muscles and acting like scum, one has a few choices. One choice is to kowtow and be submissive; another is to exercise one’s right to be combative.

      I’d say the verdicts demonstrate the idiocy of the DA’s office in bringing all these trumped up, tax-wasting charges in a clearly misguided attempt to enforce “respect for the law” not to enforce the “law” itself. The judge should never have let the trial go forward – or are modern judges as lacking in spine as the state seems to want its citizens to be. Oink!

  9. Squirrelfriend

    With all due respect, it is not okay to have cut the straps. You don’t get to destroy other people’s property. It is indeed an option to be combative against the bank, the repo man and the police – But it’s not in your own self interest or your family’s interests to do so. Might be best to try to work with the bank and accept that you may have to give up the Landrover and d cheap used car until financial conditions improve. Then the rest of it would never have happened. But that requires accepting responsibility.

    1. David Greenwald

      A few quick thoughts here:

      First, I agree with you it’s not okay to cut the straps, they were convicted on that will have to pay for reparations.

      However, accepting responsibility when you’re in the middle of a criminal case is tricky.  The system itself precludes it for the most part.  So I don’t think it’s reasonable while charges are still hanging over the family (the DA could refile on the hung charges still) to call for accepting responsibility.

      Moreover, we have the conduct of the repo agent and the police to consider – both were clearly over the top.

      As one of the officer’s testified, the repo agent knocks on the door, refuses to provide identification or his order, the family believes that they have paid up to date, and the agent is the one who escalated the conflict rather than taking clear steps to potentially diffuse.

      So we are where we are – this case was massively overcharged from the robbery charge that was dropped to the battery charge (that was minimal even if he did it) to the grand theft.  In the end, this should have been charged as vandalism, it would have been settled two years ago, reparations paid, and everyone would be done with this.  Instead, we are here.

  10. Tia Will

    One further point that I have not heard commented on in this thread:

    she tried to explain that they have dealt with West Sacramento Police and did not trust them.”

    It is easy to be civil ( invite him in for a cup of coffee) and and completely honest when you trust that the police are there to help you as so many of us who have never had a significant brush with the police may do. However, once you have been lied to ( as I have been) by the police, or once you have been threatened ( as Mario apparently was) it is no longer natural to simply “trust” that the police will do the right thing. I think that what is being over looked by some is the impact that the element of trust vs distrust in our police and legal system may have major impacts on how one responds in turn.

    1. David Greenwald

      That’s a critical point because while the police complained about their lack of cooperation, the conduct of particularly Detective Fellows, is such that why would they trust the police?

      1. Squirrelfriend

        True – they may well have had very good reasons to be mistrustful of the police. However, to be uncooperative would only work against their own best interests. Nothing to be gained by it.

        1. Davis Progressive

          at the same time there are laws and processes that should be followed.  people have rights, particularly in their homes.  and from what has come out here the bank, the police, and the repo man all violated these rights – why do you continue to focus the blame on the family?

  11. Squirrelfriend

    I was referring to accepting responsibility in the beginning before the repo man was ever involved. Work with the bank, maybe get rid of the Landrover for a cheap used car until financial conditions improve. Isn’t that what people do?

    1. David Greenwald

      Possibly, except that they still own the car which means their payments are up to date. It’s possible that the bank erred. When the repo man was asked to show his id and orders, he refused. So I think you’re pushing a lot of the blame on the family when the bank and repo man made errors.

      1. Squirrelfriend

        They may still have the car bc they declared bankruptcy – which would protect their house and car. Mr Palik is a bankruptcy attorney from SF – not a Yolo county public defender.

        Re the repo man, I believe the DA established that the repo man was not required to show them ID or orders. And if it’s true that they were behind on their payments and that the bank called their house four times to tell them about impending repossession, it should not have come as a surprise when he showed up. And article from April says that the car had dealer plates on it and obscured VIN number, which, if true, also suggests they were well aware of impending repossession.

        1. Davis Progressive

          palik is a criminal defense attorney and civil rights attorney.  i don’t think he’s a bankruptcy attorney.

          another point that is interesting, according to the Federal Trade Commission, they may not “breach the peace” through violence or force.  the battery charge apparently was a contested because the agent may have made first contact, that’s an interesting question that i’m not sure has come up.

          ” And article from April says that the car had dealer plates on it and obscured VIN number, which, if true, also suggests they were well aware of impending repossession.”

          that was what the agent claimed, but never presented proof of.

    2. Davis Progressive

      your account here seems at odds with the evidence – for example, they got a letter from the bank in april stating that they weren’t behind.  then according to their attorney the bank initiated the repo process two weeks too soon and they did so over $.06.  this is a cluster-f.  such incompetence.

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