Repo Man Case Wraps Up

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

By Jackie Snyder and Lauren King

People v. Bonilla concluded today after the testimony of three additional witnesses. Among the witnesses called were an expert witness on repossession and towing of vehicles, a past employee of the Bonillas’ and the Executive Director of the Davis Vanguard.

The first witness called to testify had extensive knowledge and background on repossession of vehicles. The witness was employed in the repossession industry for many years, locating and facilitating the repossession of vehicles. When asked how many vehicles she had personally towed she stated over three hundred, and claimed she had facilitated over two thousand repossessions.

While the deputy district attorney, Michael Favero, voiced that he did not believe she was qualified to testify as an expert, Judge Reed disagreed and allowed her to testify based on her knowledge, adding that it would be up to the jury to decide the weight of her testimony.

DDA Favero asked the witness several questions in an effort to discredit her, including if she had been let go from a particular job in the past and whether she possessed certain licenses in the area of repossession.

Defense attorney Anthony Palik asked the witness whether she was familiar with the Bonilla case. The witness stated she had read the preliminary transcript as well as viewed the video of the incident (captured by the repo man).

When asked what she felt the man, who came to repossess the Bonillas’ vehicle, did wrong, she stated that a different type of truck with a flat bed should have been used to repossess the vehicle, otherwise there is a risk of damaging the vehicle’s transmission.

The witness also stated that if repossessing a vehicle on a Saturday the operator should never go alone due to safety issues stemming from increased contact with the owner of the vehicle being repossessed.

In addition, the witness claimed that, before making contact with the owner of the vehicle, it (the vehicle) should be completely contained and out of the driveway of the owner of the vehicle, to decrease any breach of peace issues from taking place.

The witness claimed the repo man made a mistake by having continued contact with the Bonillas and that he should have left before a confrontation took place.

The witness then testified that, if the repo man had taken the vehicle completely off the Bonillas’ property before making contact, and a confrontation broke out, the operator could have contacted the police and reported an assault. However, because contact was initiated when the vehicle was still on the Bonillas’ property, a breach of peace resulted.

The next witness called to testify was a past employee of the Bonillas’. He testified that, while at work, a detective, Ken Fellows of the West Sacramento Police Department, approached him and asked about the location of the Bonillas’ home.

When he (the witness) claimed he did not know where the Bonillas’ home was, the detective asked if he was hiding them. The witness also testified that Detective Fellows threatened to arrest him and have him deported.

The last witness called to the stand was David Greenwald, the Executive Director of the Davis Vanguard. DDA Favero wanted to question the witness about an article he had written for the Davis Vanguard.

The article contained statements made by the Bonillas regarding the incident. Judge Reed only allowed questions to be asked about two separate paragraphs in the article, as he felt there was no basis to admit the rest of the article.

Prosecution’s Closing Arguments

The trial of Guillermo, Sandra and Juan Bonilla came to a close on the afternoon of May 5, 2015, at the Yolo County Superior Courthouse.  Deputy District Attorney Michael Favero presented a final closing argument to the court before the jury was instructed and sent from the courtroom for deliberation.

Mr. Favero argued from the standpoint that the vehicle, formerly possessed by the Bonillas, was the legal property of the repossession agent at the time that the confrontation took place on May 11, 2013.  The prosecution maintained that the agent’s property was under attack and that the Bonillas were trying to take it from him.  He also pointed out that the agent knocked on the Bonillas’ front door to allow them to remove any valuables from their vehicle before it was repossessed. “Does that sound like someone trying to steal a car?”

The agent spent much of the time locked inside his vehicle on the phone with his superiors and, had the Bonillas truly believed that their vehicle was being stolen, why did they not call and wait for law enforcement?  Rather than take peaceful action, the Bonillas took matters into their own hands.

Mr. Favero, essentially, also accused Guillermo of having a greater command over the English language than he would have the court and law enforcement believe.  Guillermo did not accept the assistance of an interpreter, however, he frequently told the court that he did not remember details of events and that he was having trouble understanding counsels’ questions.  “Why wasn’t an interpreter here?  Because he doesn’t need one.”

From video evidence, he said, it was clear that the Bonillas were not under physical attack by the repossession agent.  Due to this fact, and the fact that the agent was placed in a chokehold for trying to put straps on the vehicle, it is unlikely the Bonillas can successfully argue self-defense against the battery charge.

The jury was instructed by Judge David Reed and excused from the courtroom for deliberation.  Deliberations will resume on the morning of May 6, 2015.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

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