By Syed Ali
Department 13 reconvened the preliminary hearing of the People v. Elmer David Rodriguez, with Judge Paul K. Richardson presiding. The defense began the morning by asking the victim, “DN,” to recall February 14, 2017. DN confirmed that she had gone with Mr. Rodriguez to deliver a package to “Lance” for Mr. Rodriguez’s work.
When asked what DN did the time she claims she was locked in Mr. Rodriguez’s office, she responded by saying she simply watched Netflix and waited. The defense then asked if it was true that she got what she wanted that night, referring to spending time with Mr. Rodriguez despite his having scheduled a date with another girl. DN denied that, saying that she had actually begged him that they not spend the day together.
Next, the defense recalled February 17, and the incident DN testified to in which she described having sex with the defendant followed by being assaulted by him for 45 minutes. The defense inquired why their plans of going to Denny’s afterward didn’t change as a result of the assault, and why she didn’t ask anyone for help there. DN acknowledged that their plans stayed the same, and that, although they saw a couple they were familiar with from high school, she chose not to approach them.
Moving forward, the defense requested DN explain why she had continuously slept over at Rodriguez’s place despite these assaults, and never confronted his mother or sisters. She replied by stating that she didn’t want to bring any more people into what was happening, and that both their parents didn’t approve of their dating.
The defense then asked the victim if she remembered what she had told the nurses when she arrived at the ER. DN testified that she initially told them that she had trouble breathing and she felt lightheaded, however, she eventually revealed that she had been physically injured. The defense then asked if she recalled telling the hospital staff that her boyfriend had locked her in a warehouse for three days, beat her, and threatened to kill her mom. DN testified that she hadn’t stated this, and if it is in the reports, was a mistake on the behalf of hospital staff.
The defense then established that the phone the defendant had broken was valued at $700 at the time – and he did offer to replace it, however, that was much later.
The People then called Detective Borara to the stand, who has been a detective with the city of West Sacramento for a year, after his police service for 11 years. The detective responded to a UCD Med Center call after being briefed, to speak with DN. A few days later the detective conducted an interview with DN’s mother, who was unable to contact her daughter during the days of the incidents.
Furthermore, the detective received screenshots of messages between Mr. Rodriguez and DN’s mother, who posed as DN in the conversation. DN’s mother sent the message, “you stomped on my stomach,” on behalf of DN while the victim was in UCDMC. To that he responded, “You don’t even know what you missed out on being a whore to me, if would have just been real women we would have had everything literally because no b– is a real b– just look to be whores for one second over a lifetime of happiness.”
Detective Borara also interviewed the man that would regularly drop packages to Rodriguez’s work, and testified he had said that he’d seen DN in the passenger seat on February 14 but didn’t get a good look at her. Furthermore, he said he would see her at least twice a week at the defendant’s workplace.
In speaking to DN’s housemates, Detective Borara learned that they would occasionally see DN with black eyes, split lips, and other injuries, although she would attempt to hide them. One roommate even talked to DN about the injuries and stated she would not be DN’s friend anymore if DN continued to see the defendant. That same housemate would ultimately drive DN to the ER.
In cross-examination of Detective Borara, the defense asked him to specify how long DN’s roommates knew her and how often they would see DN. He replied by saying he never asked how long they had been friends, but they did mention they would “only see DN a couple times a month.”
When the detective spoke to the man with whom the defendant would exchange packages, the man indicated that he never saw DN crying, fighting, or even looking upset. When Detective Borara spoke to the defendant’s other girlfriend, she stated he had no history of violence with her, and that she knew he was in a sexual relationship with DN at the time.
Detective Borara also testified that he hadn’t seen any bruises or cuts on Rodriguez’s hands or knuckles when he was asked about pictures he had taken of the defendant for evidence.
The People requested a holding order due to the evidence shown from the testimony of both the detective and DN. The People pointed to January 10, the first time DN was sodomized without consent and received an injury to her eyebrow. What followed were four other incidents of nonconsensual sodomy from January to February of this year.
The People said a corporal injury charge per Penal Code section 273.5(a) was sufficiently demonstrated from the evidence of the incidents on January 24 and onward, where there were injuries or burns to DN’s arms, chest, thighs, and face. Furthermore, there was loss of consciousness and swollen hips, sufficient for a 273.5. The People claimed that the two incidents with the hammer were sufficient for a PC section 245(a)(1) charge, or assault with a deadly weapon.
The occurrence on Super Bowl day was sufficient for a PC section 243(e)(1), battery on a spouse or cohabitant, and the one on Valentine’s Day was sufficient for another 273.5(a). Count 4 added an enhancement for bodily injury (from repeated kicks to the ribs) in hospital records showing fractures.
Additionally, the defendant is charged with Count 6 for taking DN’s keys and locking her in his office – false imprisonment. The People requested a PC section 136.1 charge, dissuading a witness, as evidenced by DN’s testimony of the defendant making sure to remind her what would happen if she were to involve the police department. Rodriguez had specifically told her that he had two strikes already and that if she said anything he would go to jail, according to DN’s testimony.
The People also requested a PC section 422, criminal threat, for Mr. Rodriguez’s comments about sulfuric acid – that it would burn and that he would only have to get rid of teeth. Also, per DN’s testimony, she feared for the safety of her family because of comments the defendant made.
The defense responded by saying the comments about sulfuric acid occurred before February and therefore couldn’t be considered an immediate threat, and, furthermore, DN couldn’t even recall exactly when they were said. In addition, the defendant saying he had the social security number of DN’s sister wasn’t a threat to someone’s life, but rather to their bank account.
The defense also held that there wasn’t enough evidence that DN was ever unconscious. The defense additionally asserted that DN was never falsely imprisoned because the doors of the office were glass and she had access to a computer/phone – so she could have broken out or called for help if she truly felt threatened. The defense held onto the belief that this was a normal occurrence, that DN consented to waiting for Rodriguez in his office, and that DN willingly agreed to clock him out that evening.
In regard to sodomy, the defense indicated that DN in her testimony mentioned she was curious, and there’s no proof that she really told Mr. Rodriguez she didn’t want to continue with it. Regarding the cigarette lighter burns, swollen hip and face, multiple bruises, and cut lips, the defense asserted they were hard to believe, considering she was able to go to work everyday. The defense held that, therefore, DN’s testimony wasn’t credible.
The defense concluded by saying DN’s housemates assumed that she was going to see Rodriguez all those times, when in actuality it could have been anyone. “It’s her word that it was David, and her word alone.”
Judge Richardson began by saying “this was a relationship that evolved and turned negative. Terms were put on the relationship itself but also according to testimony DN was willing to do certain things while not others.”
Regarding Count 1 there was description of rape by force on February 17, a Friday, and, considering there was corporal injury, there was sufficient evidence for a 273.5(a). The incident on February 14 also showed sufficient evidence for another 273.5(a), according to the judge, who additionally mentioned that with this history of violence there was a strong suspicion for Count 3.
Regarding Count 5, during the month of January and into February, culminating on February 14, there were numerous incidents where Rodriguez dissuaded the victim from going to the police, one of which was the threat of the use of sulfuric acid. Judge Richardson strongly entertained suspicion of the 422 charge. Judge Richardson also believed there was sufficient evidence for Count 6, where DN was falsely imprisoned at the defendant’s workplace.
Count 7, assault with a deadly weapon, was also seen by the court as adequate, referring to the incidents of violence using a hammer. The court also saw evidence for forcible oral copulation and sodomy. The description of being hit with a hammer, coupled with being burned by a lighter, and the description of being kicked in the ribs merited two separate 273.5(a) charges, despite their occurring on the same day. The injuries on the 25th of February, the next day, were sufficient for a 245(a)(1). Judge Richardson considered the phone damages to be misdemeanor vandalism. Lastly, the court found sufficient evidence for violation of Elmer David Rodriguez’s probation.
In conclusion, Judge Richardson found DN’s testimony credible, when combined with other evidence, and therefore was satisfied with his rulings.
The arraignment date is set for Friday, March 24, at 9:00am in Department 11.