Yolo Man Held to Answer on Assault Charges

YoloCourt-10By Sidney Adebayo

The preliminary hearing for the People vs. Orlando Castaneda was conducted on Wednesday, October 19, 2016, in Department 7 of Yolo County Superior Court at 2:00 p.m. The judge presiding over the hearing was Judge Samuel T. McAdam.

Mr. Castaneda’s case was brought to court for a preliminary hearing after he was arrested for violating section 245 of the Penal Code by assaulting an alleged victim with use of force likely to produce great bodily injury.

Alleged Victim’s Testimony

The incident occurred at the alleged victim’s parents’ house, where the alleged victim and his niece also live. The defendant is the alleged victim’s soon-to-be nephew, since the defendant is engaged to the alleged victim’s niece. According to the witness, he and the defendant knew each other approximately 14 or 15 years prior to the altercation, and had a reasonable relationship, with occasional verbal arguments revolving around money.

This changed, however, on April 28, 2016, according to the witness (the alleged victim), when the defendant brutally assaulted him during an intense argument. On that day, according to the witness, they had already started verbally arguing with each other in the morning, as the witness felt the defendant had been rude to his parents, which the defendant usually does not do. The arguing continued again during a brief phone call about money the defendant owed him, during which they were both yelling and getting frustrated. The alleged victim admitted he probably even threatened to “kick his a–” if the defendant did not pay him.

Later on that day, when the witness’ niece drove up to park at home, with Mr. Castaneda in the car, the witness ran up in an angry and aggressive manner to where Castaneda was seated, yelling at the defendant to pay him. He may have again threatened to “kick his a–” if the defendant did not pay him. The car door then “flew open” in a harsh manner, caused by the furious defendant. The witness took a step back in response because, according to him, the defendant swung at him. He raised his arms to protect himself and received a “tap” on his elbow or arm, which had already been broken in a recent motorcycle accident.

They both went their separate ways, as the witness was worried about his then-numb arm. His arm was also bleeding and he had to call paramedics to get the arm wrapped up. The injuries were so grave he had to spend the night at the hospital and have surgery performed. The witness was released the next day from the hospital.

Issue with Witness Testimony

A recurring problem surfaced when the prosecutor was questioning the alleged victim during his witness testimony. The witness showed a surprising lack of memory of the incident. He was not able to recall any significant statements by either himself or the defendant, during their arguments – in person, over the phone, or by text messages, if any were sent between them.

The alleged victim, as a result, used language such as “probably” a lot in his testimony, even for vital details such as his tone and demeanor and that of the defendant, as they approached and spoke to each other. He could not recall if he threatened the defendant. The alleged victim could not even recall on this day in court what the defendant used to assault him, causing the prosecutor to suggest to the witness that the incident may not have been fresh in his mind. The alleged victim stated he was fearful about the extent of his injuries, which caused him to ignore details of the altercation – his injury was of more pressing concern.

Police Testimony

Deputy Matthew Wirick of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office was the responding officer to the altercation. Dispatch sent him to what was first reported to be a verbal dispute, which became physical as the deputy was on route to their location. When Dep. Wirick reached the destination, he saw the alleged victim, describing him as being agitated and wide-eyed. The defendant was not present. According to the officer, the alleged victim reported being struck with a black or blue bat. Another officer pinpointed what appeared to be the weapon the defendant used to strike the victim – a 24-inch steel pole or rod of some kind. Dep. Wirick then pointed it out to the alleged victim, who identified it as the weapon used to assault him.

Deputy Wirick, when later taking the defendant’s statement of what occurred, said he was told by the defendant that the alleged victim was “barking at him the whole day.” According to Dep. Wirick, the defendant also claimed the arguments that day were about miscellaneous issues that arose as a result of living together, and because the alleged victim felt the defendant was being rude to his parents. The defendant claimed to the deputy that, during the altercation, the alleged victim was agitated and ran toward him, aggressively threatening to “kick his a–”, and so he went out, grabbed the pole, and swung it at the alleged victim in self-defense. The defendant also, according to the deputy, felt bad about what had transpired and about injuring the alleged victim.

The Defendant

The defendant was not asked to testify as to his recollection of the events and views on what transpired, or to respond to the alleged victim’s and police officer’s testimony during this preliminary hearing.

Defense Argues

The attorney for the defense did not question that great bodily injury was inflicted on the alleged victim, but nonetheless argued that just because great bodily injury was inflicted upon a person does not make it a felony conduct. The defense argued that both the alleged victim and the defendant were arguing, and that the alleged victim threatened and ran aggressively at the defendant. Judge McAdam even admitted that the threats and running aggressively at the defendant during such an argument ironically make the alleged victim the verbal aggressor as well as the physical aggressor.

The defense also stated that the assault was in self defense due to the conduct of the alleged victim, and pointed out that only one blow was made by the defendant, not repeated attacks – as the defendant was not trying to hurt the alleged victim but only to protect himself. As police testimony indicates, the defendant was indeed remorseful about the altercation and did not intend for injury to be inflicted on the alleged victim. The alleged victim also admitted, during testimony, that after the blow was struck they both walked away.

The People Argue

The attorney for the People argued that the alleged victim suffered grievous injuries so severe that he was hospitalized and had to stay overnight. The alleged victim also had to go through surgery in order to heal the injury, which satisfies the standards for proving that great bodily injury was inflicted on him. Even the defense did not try to argue against acknowledgement by the court that great bodily injury was inflicted on the alleged victim.

The People further argued that, if the defendant was indeed fearful of death or bodily injury, he would not have gotten out of the car and engaged the alleged victim. Judge McAdam also acknowledged that such behavior is not typical of a fearful person acting in self defense.

Judge’s Ruling

Due to the nature of the injuries, and the behavior displayed by the defendant during the altercation, which Judge McAdam admitted was not typical for a fearful person, the judge ruled the People had satisfied the conditions for acknowledging that great bodily injury occurred to the alleged victim. This, according to the judge, is substantial enough for the case to be heard in court. The case shall be heard on November 3, 2016, at 9 a.m. in Department 7 of  Yolo County Superior Court.

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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