Couzens Backs Off Increased Bail Demand in Picnic Day Case; Prelim Set for July 27

A week after demanding to double the bail on Elijah Williams, one of the defendants in the Picnic Day incident, Supervising Deputy DA Ryan Couzens unceremoniously announced, “The People are no longer seeking an increase in bail.”

Mr. Williams is one of five co-defendants in the Picnic Day case, where the defendants are accused of assaulting police and resisting arrest.  Mr. Williams, along with Alexander Craver, Antwoine Perry, Iszir Price and Angelica Reyes, all pleaded not guilty.

Commissioner Kent O’Mara eventually set a preliminary hearing for July 27 – which would proceed assuming the prosecutor turns over discovery to the defense in a timely manner.

A week ago, Mr. 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, but an increase in bail might have meant he would be remanded to custody – in addition to his family losing the $10,000 bond they put up.

Mr. Couzens last week argued that the video shows probable cause to believe 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, he said.

Attorney Mark Reichel, representing Mr. Williams, maintained that he had viewed the video numerous times and saw none of this.

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.”

This week, Mr. Couzens declined to allow opposing counsel to view additional video footage, but then conceded the point that the defense needs discovery.

However, he was not done.  Mr. Couzens then informed the five defense counsel that the People were not waiving time in this case, demanding to put on a preliminary hearing on June 27 within ten court days of the arraignment.

This provoked a quick exchange from defense counsel.

Mr. Reichel argued that this was a complex case, it required the need for police experts, and probably would entail a number of motions.  He asked for a late July date.

Jeff Raven, temporarily at least representing Mr. Price for the purpose of this appearance, noted that it would be an inefficient use of the court resources and schedules for the five defense attorneys to set a date in two weeks for which Judge David Rosenberg, who was assigned to the case going forward, would then have to offer a continuance.

Mr. Raven argued that the incident occurred on April 22, it took police and DA investigators six weeks to investigate and come to court, and “now he wants to ‘jam us’ in two weeks.”

Mr. Reichel pointed out that they had no discovery and Mr. Price has not even formally retained counsel.

Mr. Couzens then read from Penal Code section 987.05: “In assigning defense counsel in felony cases, whether it is the public defender or private counsel, the court shall only assign counsel who represents, on the record, that he or she will be ready to proceed with the preliminary hearing or trial, as the case may be, within the time provisions prescribed in this code for preliminary hearings and trials…”

Then he read, “…except in those unusual cases where the court finds that, due to the nature of the case, counsel cannot reasonably be expected to be ready within the prescribed period if he or she were to begin preparing the case forthwith and continue to make diligent and constant efforts to be ready. In the case where the time of preparation for preliminary hearing or trial is deemed greater than the statutory time, the court shall set a reasonable time period for preparation.”

The statute further read, “The court may allow counsel a reasonable time to become familiar with the case in order to determine whether he or she can be ready.”

Commissioner O’Mara noted that counsel needs discovery.

Mr. Couzens responded, “I just conceded that point.”  He then submitted that this is a large and involved case and that he thought a delay here would be reasonable.

Mr. O’Mara set the preliminary hearing for July 27 in Judge Rosenberg’s court.

The defense made a discovery request for all audio and video.  Mr. Couzens reciprocated.

Mark Reichel told the Vanguard, in a phone interview following the meeting, that he has received no discovery in this case to date.

“It’s the first case I’ve ever heard of – and I have made my living in criminal law since 1984 – where the DA on the record asked for us to go out and find any video or audio tape evidence of what happened that day,” he said.  “We’ve always gotten it from the People that are charging (the defendants) with a crime.”

In response to the DA’s initial request for a preliminary hearing within ten days, he said, “I’ve also not heard that request ever before and it was strange.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will

    I have a question which is probably naive. It has been my understanding that the purpose of bail is twofold. 1) To ensure that the accused will return to court as directed. 2) To ensure the safety of the community by making it financially disadvantageous for further wrongdoing while out on bail. If this is the case, what additional benefit would be gained by charging additional bail for an additional offense related to the same incident ?  It seems to me, had Mr. Couzens persisted, this would have been a punitive act, costly for the taxpayers as well as the defendant with no corresponding benefit. What am I missing ?

    1. David Greenwald

      You’re not missing anything.  Couzens was trying to find a way to put the defendant back in custody (effectively) arguing that his crime was more severe and therefore he was more of a risk.  It was a transparently obviously punitive move and ultimately either he lacked the evidence for it or was talked out of it by his bosses.

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