By Ryan Gonzales
On January 25, 2017, Judge Daniel P. Maguire presided over the preliminary hearing of Joseph L. Stewart, who is being charged with a felony count of domestic abuse. Mr. Stewart is accused of beating his girlfriend on October 31, 2016.
The People’s first witness was the alleged victim of the incident, “JT,” and Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden conducted the direct examination.
During the direct examination, JT testified that Mr. Stewart and she were having a verbal argument over the assumption that he was doing drugs, since there was tension in their relationship. When asked if any physical altercation had occurred, JT responded no.
Mr. Linden then showed JT photos of bruises on her arms and a scratch under her right eye. However, JT affirmed to the court that her baby daughter had scratched her eye on morning of the incident and that she suffered from anemia, stating, “I’m anemic, I always have bruises.”
Mr. Linden inquired if she had ever told the investigating officer, Officer Wright, that Mr. Stewart had slapped her with an open hand, restrained her arms and bit her hand. JT responded, “No. If I did, it wasn’t brought up by me.”
Deputy Public Defender James Bradford, who conducted the cross-examination and represented Mr. Stewart, questioned JT about the meaning of “brought up by me.” JT testified that either Officer Wright or JT’s mother pointed out the bruises during officer’s investigation.
Mr. Bradford then asked JT to describe the events that led to the conversation with the officer. JT told the court that, after the argument with Mr. Stewart, she had gone outside to get out of the situation. Coincidentally, her mother and her daughter were in a car near the apartment complex.
When the defense asked what she meant by coincidentally, and why her daughter was with the grandmother, JT stated that her mother picked up her daughter that morning and she occasionally visits her randomly throughout the day.
“I was crying, I got in the car and told her to take me home,” stated JT, when asked what happened next. However, she then told the court that she just had her baby a couple months prior and may have had postpartum depression, thus it could be that she “blew up any argument.”
Nevertheless, JT’s mother had called the police and the responding officer conducted the investigation at her house. While Officer Wright took her statement, JT testified that she felt pressured by her family to answer yes to the statements being made, due to the belief that the family had strong negative opinions about her boyfriend. Now before the court, JT expressed that those statements were not true.
As JT was dismissed, the People called forth Officer Wright to take the witness stand.
Although Officer Wright confirmed that the mother was making statements and JT did not give a narrative during the interview, he stated that JT affirmed the statements being made.
Mr. Linden then asked Officer Wright if he had heard the story of JT’s daughter scratching her face, and he stated, “I don’t believe she said it, but when asked if Mr. Stewart scratched her, she affirmed it.”
Then Mr. Linden inquired about the notion that Mr. Stewart had slapped JT with an open hand, and Officer Wright responded, “The mother suggested it, but JT affirmed it.”
Furthermore, Officer Wright told the court that JT did seemed pressured and hesitant to answer the questions, because she kept repeating that she didn’t want Mr. Stewart to get arrested and deal with the court process. Also, Officer Wright stated that JT told him of past domestic abuse and that she has been hit before.
Officer Wright was dismissed.
As the preliminary hearing came to a close, Judge Daniel P. Maguire asked Mr. Bradford and Mr. Linden if they had any closing arguments.
Mr. Bradford argued that there was not enough evidence to sustain a Penal Code section 273.5, willful infliction of corporal injury, due to the notion that the testimonies of both JT and Officer Wright showed no true narrative of events given during the investigation. Thus, at the least, Mr. Bradford moved for the charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor.
Mr. Linden responded that “victims of domestic violence shade the truth,” and that Mr. Stewart has a history of domestic violence and crime such as misdemeanors involving theft, burglary and vandalism. Thus, Mr. Linden argued to deny the motion to reduce the charges. However, Mr. Bradford responded that the defendant’s criminal history of petty theft as a juvenile is not enough reason to deny the motion.
Although Judge Maguire recognized Mr. Bradford’s argument that Mr. Stewart’s past criminal history was not enough to deny the motion, the credibility of the witnesses and the possible history of domestic violence were the major factors in his decision.
Judge Maguire believed that Officer Wright had no reason to lie, and so remained credible. However, JT’s testimony and her statements to Officer Wright were inconsistent but, as suggested by Mr. Linden, she may have reasons to lie. Therefore, Judge Maguire stated that because of the possibility of past domestic violence, he would deny the reduction to a misdemeanor charge.
In conclusion, Judge Maguire found sufficient evidence to deny the motion and he set the arraignment of Mr. Stewart to be conducted on February 15, 2017.