By Syed Ali
On March 3, 2017, Judge Janene Beronio in Department 9 presided over the preliminary hearing for the People v. Ana Salazar Zamora.
The People called “MF,” the boyfriend of Ms. Zamora’s at the time of the incident, to the stand. The incident took place December 10 of last year around 10:30pm. MF reportedly called 911, according to him, in order to calm Ms. Zamora down in the midst of an argument that they were engaged in.
MF made it a point to specify that this was a strictly verbal engagement between the two, being asked whether the argument had become physical at any point. When asked to elaborate, MF repeatedly testified that Ms. Zamora only thought she had hit him, when in fact she hadn’t. He then testified that when the officer arrived, he did have a slight cut behind his ear – however, that was a result of shaving. MF asserted that there was no cut or redness on his upper lip when asked.
MF denied ever telling the officer that he had been scratched 20 times, and again asserted that he simply tried explaining that his girlfriend thought she hit him but didn’t. Additionally, he didn’t recall ever telling the officer that a Hispanic male was trying to hit him.
MF testified that three of four children resided at home at the time of the incident. When asked where they were exactly in the home, his response was that he wasn’t exactly sure, but he believed that the two youngest were in their rooms and a daughter was either in the living room, the scene of the incident, or in the adjacent kitchen.
When asked whether or not he wanted Ms. Zamora to get in trouble, MF claimed that such a notion was out of the question, stating, “How can it be a problem, because she didn’t hit me?” The People concluded their questioning by asking, “On December 10 do you recall telling the officer that you didn’t tell the truth because you didn’t want to get Ms. Zamora in trouble?” To that, MF responded, “Yes. I didn’t want any charges.”
During cross-examination, the defense began by reestablishing whether or not MF’s testimony was that they hadn’t hit each other, to which he established that they in fact hadn’t. The defense then asked if MF recalled being arrested October 8, 2016, for a domestic violence incident. MF stated, “Yes arrested, not for domestic violence. I had too much to drink and the officer said to be quiet and I didn’t listen.”
The defense then asked about the couple’s whereabouts the night of December 10 before the incident. MF testified that they were at a party, where he had one beer, while Ms. Zamora had six to seven shots of tequila. The defense then asked if there was a language barrier between the officer and himself when he was being questioned. MF denied that, however, he stated that “sometimes you get nervous – the reason I have an interpreter with me today.”
The defense asked if MF recalled being asked if he wanted a restraining order against Ms. Zamora. He said he remembered the question, but that he didn’t request a protective order because “she’s not an aggressive person, just a mistake that happened. We just didn’t understand each other at the time because of the alcohol.”
The People then called the officer who was dispatched the night of December 10, for an abandoned 911 call. MF initially told the officer that a Hispanic male wanted to fight him outside. The officer then spoke to Ms. Zamora, who said “she didn’t care anymore,” in a crying manner. MF then told the officer that Ms. Zamora hit him 20 times, signaling to his upper body and facial area.
The officer asserted that MF indicated he had lied to him about both the Hispanic male and that she hit him 20 times, and he didn’t want to press any charges.
The officer then spoke to the three children present in the household. According to the officer, Ms. Zamora’s daughter (referred to as Victim 2) “appeared to be distressed,” and she told the officer they had been fighting and that Ms. Zamora had hit MF 25 times and that he didn’t fight back.
The defense asked the officer if either Ms. Zamora or MF seemed under the influence, to which he responded, “She displayed signs of alcohol intoxication.” Furthermore, the defense inquired if the officer had specifically asked MF how he got the cut on his upper lip, to which the officer said he hadn’t.
With no further questions from either the People or defense, the defense stated that the evidence showed MF to be an unreliable witness and that there was no grounds for a holding order. In addition, that there wasn’t enough evidence for the case to be considered a felony, but rather it should be treated as a misdemeanor, adding that Ms. Zamora has had no prior convictions. Lastly, in regard to the second count, there was absolutely no evidence of child endangerment, so the court should dismiss it.
The People replied by pointing out that Ms. Zamora’s child (Victim 2) had a clearly disturbed mental state, as evidenced by how and what she had told the officer. Furthermore, MF could be considered credible, as he articulated exactly what the officer had testified to. Additionally, evidence of injury was sufficient for Count 1, corporal injury on a cohabitant. The People, in regard to Count 2, made a distinction between direct and indirect conduct, in which both should be treated as criminal conduct. In this case, indirect criminal conduct would in fact entail the mental suffering of the 12-year-old child, and therefore is sufficient evidence for a holding order in Count 2 as well.
Judge Beronio began by saying there was sufficient evidence that the defendant had had too much to drink, and therefore hit MF. He himself said so initially, the child said so, and the defendant had said so at one point or another. She pointed out that calling 911 to scare her wasn’t appropriate conduct for a 911 call. Judge Beronio concluded by saying that the evidence has “met the burden for both counts, however this was never felony conduct from the beginning.” The charges were reduced per Penal Code section 17(b). The pre-trial conference is set for the 17th of March.