By Novpreet Shoker
Defendant Ryan Case is now facing charges of vehicle theft, after the evidence against him was determined sufficient enough to carry on from a preliminary hearing to a jury trial. Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens brought in two witnesses to testify: the defendant’s partner, and the investigating officer for this case.
Deputy DA Couzens began by bringing up the alleged victim in the case, the defendant’s partner. However, when first asked what the status of her relationship with the defendant was, the complaining witness responded that she did not know as of now.
The complaining witness went on to explain that she has known the defendant for about four years, and in that amount of time the two have created a family, and they have lived together. The witness and the defendant are parents to two young children, with a third child on the way.
Mr. Couzens then asked her if their relationship experienced any hardships, to which the witness replied that it had and, because of that, she had asked the defendant to move out of her house back in June of this year. She continued explaining that, although he had left, he also returned as expected.
The witness was asked why she had wanted the defendant to leave. She explained that the defendant deals with severe mental health issues and, when experiencing an episode, he has put her and her children through mental and physical abuse.
After covering some background information, Mr. Couzens asked the witness to provide some context to the situation at hand. The witness proceeded to describe the events leading up to the action of the defendant taking her car.
On July 11, the witness and the defendant had returned home from one of the defendant’s psychiatric appointments, and the defendant was rather upset and was yelling at the witness. Once the witness realized that she and her children would be at risk around the defendant, she offered to drop the defendant off at his sister’s house so he could cool off.
After some arguing, the defendant agreed to leave their home, but he snuck off with the witness’ car while she was tending to her children. When she first contacted the defendant, Case claimed to be at the gym.
After a couple of hours, the witness called the gym and realized Case had lied and she started texting him to return the car. Over the next few days the witness texted the defendant to return her vehicle, which is in her name and is not shared property between her and the defendant.
On July 14, the witness called the police and informed them that her car was being hidden in the garage of one of Case’s friends.
During cross-examination, Case’s defense attorney asked the witness to clarify her relationship status with the defendant. The witness explained that she had little to no contact with Case, and that she is not sure where they stand.
The witness was then asked if she had called Case just yesterday, to which the witness admitted she did leave a voicemail. She was also asked if she called Case her “best friend” and if she had asked the defendant how he was doing.
The witness stated that the defense was taking her comments out of context, and that she called the defendant because she was told by a third party that Case was in a mental hospital. She explained that she had her children speak with their father as well.
The witness was asked to explain the situation with the restraining order she had filed against the defendant. She then clarified that she had modified the order to a no harassing contact order, so that the defendant could still speak with their children.
At this point the witness became emotional, conveying that the situation has taken a toll on her children, and she is stuck between wanting her children to have a father and preventing her children from seeing their parents go through negative situations.
The defense lawyer then asked the witness if the guidelines for use of her vehicle were more of an oral agreement between her and the defendant. She answered that yes, they were.
The witness was then asked to describe the defendant’s background in the military. She stated that the defendant had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, along with a mood disorder and severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which included waves of anger and outrage.
She went on to say that she went to every appointment with the defendant and proactively tried to help him deal with these mental health issues.
She went on to say she understood that he had developed a substance abuse problem, as well as other issues from the stress of being in the Marines, which included watching a close friend essentially die in his arms.
After she heard the defense continuously phrasing the situation as the witness “kicking” the defendant out of their home, the witness chose to correct the defense lawyer by stating that she never “kicked” him out, but rather asked him to leave when he had these episodes because she knew her family was at risk of abuse by the defendant.
The defense lawyer then asked the witness why she would ask the defendant to leave when he was in this unstable condition.
The witness responded defensively, claiming that she had not only hospitalized the defendant last year but also supported him during his hallucinations of his dead friends, episodes of severe depression, and explosive rage. When it came to her family being in physical danger, she saw no other option and began to ask the defendant to leave.
The witness also described the defendant’s substance abuse issue, which had also led him to being honorably discharged for bad conduct from the Marines.
The defense lawyer asked the witness if her vehicle was returned in the same condition as before it was taken. The witness answered yes.
Finally, the witness was asked, “What do you want to see happen in this case?”
The witness answered that she would like to see Mr. Case go through rehabilitation, and he might only be able to better himself if it is court-ordered. She also believed that Case should “have a consequence,” but not so much as to “ruin his future.”
During redirect, DDA Couzens asked the witness if a plea deal had been offered to Case. The witness said yes, that if Case pled to a misdemeanor and went to seek help from the Salvation Army, this would have been over.
Mr. Couzens then stated that the witness went so far as to call Salvation Army several times, making sure that the defendant could be accommodated.
Mr. Couzens asked the witness if the defendant had spoken to her about the status of this case, and the witness described how the defendant had called her about two weeks ago, and stated that “if [Case] got a felony, [he] would never speak to [the witness] again.” The witness admitted that the comment made her nervous.
The witness was then excused.
The next witness brought in by Mr. Couzens was the investigating officer, Officer Rudy Godinez. Officer Godinez described how the previous witness had contacted the police about her car being taken to an address in Woodland.
Mr. Couzens asked the officer what happened the day of July 14, 2017. Officer Godinez explained that he found the vehicle, hidden, in the defendant’s friend’s garage.
The officer described how Mr. Case was explaining that he was under the impression he was allowed to use it.
The officer also testified that Case went out of his way to mention his military background and the mental health issues he developed from it. Case reasoned that he took the car to “clear his head.”
During cross-examination, Case’s defense attorney asked the officer if Case had been cooperative and calm, to which the officer agreed.
Officer Godinez was then excused.
In closing arguments, the defense claimed that the credibility of the person accusing Case should be questioned. Building on that comment, Case’s defense attorney believed that the crux of this situation “seems to be a power thing.”
The defense also claimed that this case is “more of a family issue than a criminal issue” and that Case’s actions convey “misdemeanor conduct.”
DDA Couzens responded to the defense’s argument by making several points. First, he stated that the defendant does not contribute to the family’s income, and the vehicle was the alleged victim’s only.
He went on to explain that the alleged victim was not only the mother of three children, but also of a fourth on the way, describing Case as a “33-year-old child.”
Mr. Couzens defended the complaining witness’ credibility by describing her as responsible, supportive, clear-minded, and strong. He explained that the defendant was not only not taking responsibility for his actions, but this process is also putting this woman and their children through mental and physical abuse.
As a veteran himself, DDA Couzens expressed his disgust at Case for using his veteran status as an excuse to ask for leniency from the court.
The judge then determined that Case should be held to answer for the charges, and set his arraignment for September 27 at 8:30 a.m. in Department 13.