By Ruby Zapien
The tension was high in the courtroom as the complaining witness and her family sat on the opposite end of the room from the defendant’s family.
On February 17, 2017, the Honorable Paul K. Richardson presided over the continuation of the preliminary hearing of People v. Dathion Cardenas-Ruiz. Chief Deputy Public Defender Allison Zuvela is representing Mr. Cardenas-Ruiz and Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays represents the People.
The People resumed their direct examination of the alleged victim. Ms. Hays asked “VC” to describe the incident that occurred at the Bell Air parking lot. VC described an altercation between Mr. Cardenas-Ruiz and two gentlemen who appeared to be concerned with the safety of VC. Finally, Mr. Cardenas-Ruiz entered his vehicle as he begged VC to go home with him.
“I was worried about him killing himself or hurting himself,” stated VC.
The People then asked if VC noticed any markings on her body. Before the police showed up, VC saw a bruise on her temple that lasted about a week and, after that, she noticed bruises on her arm and abrasions on her neck.
After giving the police a statement, Mr. Cardenas-Ruiz returned to the scene. VC described Cardenas-Ruiz as erratic, screaming and braking his vehicle quickly and hard.
“I was scared for him and scared for what was going to happen next,” said VC when Ms. Hays asked if she felt scared that day.
VC was full of emotion as she explained why she wanted to continue to have contact with Mr. Cardenas-Ruiz after he was arrested.
Tears rolled down her face as she explained, “I felt bad, I felt like it was my fault.”
Just recently, VC had requested to change the protective order to no contact. She reasoned, “I need to get away from him and his family.”
Ms. Hays asked VC if anyone ever told her not to testify.
VC claimed Mr. Cardenas-Ruiz told her several times not to testify, that “this was going to ruin his life, if I cared about him, I wouldn’t do this.”
“Do you care about Dathion?” asked Ms. Hays.
“Yes I do,” answered VC.
With no further questions from the People, Ms. Zuvela began her cross-examination by asking VC how her relationship with Mr. Cardenas-Ruiz started. They had met when they were both sophomores in high school, but did not begin dating until June 6, 2015, after the two had both graduated. They initially lived together until their first break up and decided not to move back in with each other when they got back together.
On the day of the incident, VC and Cardenas-Ruiz were at his grandmother’s house, where he had been living. An argument arose over the internet. Ms. Zuvela asked VC if she was worried and if that was because of her anxiety.
VC affirmed that she was worried and that she has General Anxiety Disorder. When she is around someone who is angry about something that is out of his or her control, it tends to make her more anxious. The more upset the defendant became, the more anxious VC was and wanted to leave.
VC recalled attempting to leave twice. One of those times she stated, “I know for a fact that he pushed me to the bed, I don’t remember if it was the first or second attempt to the car.” Mr. Cardenas-Ruiz, at some point, mounted himself onto VC’s car by stepping on the running board and holding onto the handrail in an attempt to stop VC from leaving. He then continued to force her back into the house, where VC worried that he had become suicidal. He mentioned it inside the house, and it was not the first time he had done so.
Ms. Zuvela asked why VC had begun crying at the end of the questioning by the People.
“Having to testify, and the fact that any of this had to happen, to begin with,” said VC.
“What do you want to see happen?” asked Ms. Zuvela.
VC hesitantly responded, “I honesty think he needs help. I think he needs to go away to a psych ward. I think he really needs some kind of help.”
“Do you want him to go to prison?” Ms. Zuvela asked.
“I don’t want him to go to prison, but I don’t want to be in danger anymore, by him or his family.”
Suddenly, VC approached the judge. VC claimed to see the mother of the defendant signing “crazy” at VC in the middle of her testimony.
Judge Richardson was appalled and clarified, “ If I see that it’s happening again, I’m going to make you wait outside.”
VC and her family were permitted to leave the court soon after VC’s testimony.
The court found Dathion Cardenas-Ruiz liable to answer on both counts of infliction of corporal injury and false imprisonment.
Mr. Cardenas-Ruiz’s next hearing will be on March 2, 2017, at 10:00 A.M. in Department 13.