There are now five defendants in the Picnic Day case, where some of the defendants made their second appearance – but for Iszir Price and Angelica Reyes, it was their first appearance after being arrested and charged last week. Not currently facing charges is Romeo Lopez, who was arrested and questioned late on Thursday.
The five are facing charges stemming from the highly publicized incident from April 22 on Picnic Day, where the defendants are accused of attacking and assaulting three plainclothes police officers who exited from an unmarked van on Russell Boulevard at College Park.
The court read the complaints against the five defendants: each is facing two counts of felony assault likely to produce great bodily injury against a police officer, and two counts of Penal Code section 69, resisting arrest with force.
All five of the defendants remain free on $100,000 bail, but a dispute over Elijah Williams’ bail amount ended up postponing the entering of formal pleas.
Deputy DA Ryan Couzens argued that, under current law, the judge is required to set bail at schedule unless there are unusual circumstances. In the case of Mr. Williams, he is charged with assaulting two separate police officers and therefore the bail should be $100,000 for each crime. Mr. Williams was able to post bond on his initial $100,000 bail and was out of custody represented by attorney Mark Reichel.
Mr. Reichel argued that Mr. Williams was arrested and has made both his appearances, he is a long-time local resident currently living with his mother, he has gainful employment and no prior criminal record. He argued there was no need for an increase in bail.
Mr. Couzens responded that Mr. Williams was arrested on the spot before the evidence came in this case. Further investigation should probably show that Mr. Williams punched a police sergeant (Steve Ramos) in the face and then punched another officer and beat him to the ground. Those are two separate strikes.
Mr. Reichel maintained that he had viewed the video numerous times and saw none of this. He believes his client’s due process rights are being violated.
Commissioner Kent O’Mara, who presided over the arraignment, said, “I’m troubled by the fact that counsel has seen the video and didn’t see this.”
He agreed to have an in-court viewing of the video to determine whether there is visual evidence and probable cause to support the increase in bail.
The hearing is set for next week, Tuesday at 1:30. Following the setting of this hearing, it was determined to postpone arraignment for all defendants until that point.
Commissioner O’Mara did state that “if it (the video) supports your position then the bail’s going to be increased.” Mr. Williams would be expected to provide the additional bond or be remanded to custody.
Mr. Reichel believes that the available video demonstrates that in fact “no charges should have been filed against Mr. Williams.”
Mr. Reichel noted, “The witnesses all recount that the unmarked van, which made a strange u-turn, was not in their field of vision. It appeared suddenly, and it was not in the lane for the passing cars, but rather, aiming right for some of the bystanders in the bike lane.”
He stated that the officer in the passenger seat began yelling obscenities and the van simultaneously “hit the horn and held it down for a long blast which would not stop.”
Mr. Williams was not seen on the video, as he was in the middle of the crowd standing at the corner. The witnesses recount that “at no time did the van passengers say they were police officers; indeed, as the fights developed, none ever made that identification.”
“This was the scenario my client, Elijah Williams, encountered,” Mr. Reichel argued.
The video, he said, shows that at the immediate point of conflict Mr. Williams “was not involved.” A few seconds later, Mr. Williams appears in the video “in the crosswalk, walking rather calmly.” He is “not running, not agitated.”
He noted, “The van passenger is engaged in a fight with the woman. A 3rd person exits the van – behind Elijah, and he cannot see this person – who is wearing a vest. The video clearly shows Elijah never seeing this man who is wearing a vest because he is behind Elijah. This occurs at 48-52 seconds…”
Mr. Williams becomes involved when he “starts to break up the fight between the van passenger and the woman.”
Mr. Reichel stated that the passenger has the woman, Angelica Reyes, in chokehold from behind, and Mr. Williams “can be seen on the video going behind the van passenger and trying to pull him away from the woman. He is shown trying to break up a fight.”
Later, “the pest control employee/van driver grabs Elijah and starts to fight with him. The video shows them thereafter engaged in mutual combat. Elijah had no idea this person was law enforcement. As, well, he had been quickly grabbed by a man in a pest control shirt, a man who had jumped from an illegally parked van that had appeared bent on violence, and the man in the pest control shirt was pulling Elijah away from what he was doing. Elijah had no role in the assault; he was trying to remove the man from the fight with the woman. He was in fear for his safety at that moment, as anyone would be.”
Mr. Reichel argued, “He was defending himself and others from people he did not know were police. He would have never done any of this had he known that they were the police.”
The hearing on bail, as stated, will occur next Tuesday at 1:30 in Department 1.
—David M. Greenwald reporting