By Teja Dusanapudi and Hannah Poploskie
Ortiz Case Resumes, Witnesses Called
By Teja Dusanapudi
The jury trial for Michael Anthony Ortiz reconvened Tuesday morning. On June 2 of this year Mr. Ortiz was involved in a dispute with his then-girlfriend, who later entered a local gas station in an agitated state, yelling and acting hostile. Local police officers arrived shortly after, detaining Mr. Ortiz.
The trial began this morning with Deputy DA David Green for the People calling in Mr. Ortiz’s girlfriend, whom Ortiz married in August of 2017. Mrs. Ortiz has a son and daughter with Mr. Ortiz, 18 and 14 years old respectively.
Mrs. Ortiz described the events that occurred on June 2 through her testimony, stating that her husband had gone to a tattoo shop to get a tattoo, and that she had arrived to support him. He had been drinking alcohol in order to cope with the pain.
After his tattoo was complete and the shop had closed, the two went outside, again drinking alcohol. Mrs. Ortiz stated that she drank more than her usual that night, and her husband had also imbibed a fair amount of liquor.
With Mrs. Ortiz in the driver’s seat of the car, Mr. Ortiz began to get very aggravated, accusing his wife of cheating on him and being unwilling to let him drive.
Mrs. Ortiz then claimed that she left the car of her own volition in order to try to comfort him, eventually calling her sister-in-law to try to mediate the situation.
After some time of ineffectively comforting Mr. Ortiz, Mrs. Ortiz said that she became frustrated and began yelling at Mr. Ortiz, prompting him to hug her in order to comfort her.
Mrs. Ortiz then walked to a local Chevron gas station close to her location, with no hindrance from her spouse. Upon arriving at the gas station, with Mr. Ortiz following her, she began to yell at the cashier and other customers inside the store, moving aggressively toward one larger man. Having been alerted by a previous 911 call, multiple police officers soon arrived on the scene and detained Mr. Ortiz.
Mr. Green asked Mrs. Ortiz about previous statements she made regarding the incident when talking with police officers, more specifically her claims of Mr. Ortiz “holding her down,” “pushing her to the side of the car,” and her “falling to the ground.” Mrs. Ortiz replied by stating that she did not remember making those statements.
During Deputy Public Defender Jose Gonzalez-Vasquez’s cross-examination, the witness stated that, despite her prior statements to the police on June 2, the only physical contact she had with Mr. Ortiz that night was with him hugging
her to comfort her.
The next two witnesses called to the stand were Officers Alexei Venikov and Ryan Fong, both of the West Sacramento Police Department. Officer Venikov has been an officer for two and one half years, and Officer Fong for nine months.
Both Officers Venikov Fong testified that Mr. Ortiz seemed intoxicated and slurred his speech.
When asked by Mr. Green if they identified any injuries on Mrs. Ortiz’s body, both officers responded negatively, while also noting the possibility of injuries underneath Mrs. Ortiz’s clothing.
The next witness called to the stand was “AS.” Earlier in the morning, Mr. Green filed a motion in limine to exclude AS’s prior convictions from being presented to the jury.
AS worked at the Chevron gas station for two years, leaving that day with a friend toward the parking lot. While walking, she saw Mr. and Mrs. Ortiz in the dimly lit parking lot, approximately 45 feet away from her and her friend.
AS claimed that Mrs. Ortiz was between the car door and the car, while Mr. Ortiz was on the other side of the car door.
She also alleged that she heard Mrs. Ortiz cry out, “Stop!” and, “Somebody help me!” Additionally, she also claimed to see Mr. Ortiz close the door on Mrs. Ortiz about three to five times.
AS then rushed to open the gate at the far side of the parking lot, hoping to distract Mr. Ortiz. When that failed to work, she went back to the Chevron and called 911. While she was on call with the dispatcher, Mr. and Mrs. Ortiz entered the gas station.
When asked by Mr. Green, AS admitted that she could not definitively say whether Mrs. Ortiz was pulling the car door in or Mr. Ortiz was pulling the car door out.
AS’s friend “RT,” who was with her when she witnessed Mr. and Mrs. Ortiz in the parking lot, is expected to give her testimony when the testimony continues.
Afternoon Testimony in the Ortiz Case
By Hannah Poploskie
The trial of defendant Michael Ortiz returned to court on Tuesday afternoon, resuming witness testimony.
Michael Ortiz is charged with simple battery against a spouse, cohabitant, or fellow parent in a crime that allegedly took place in June of this year at a Chevron station in West Sacramento.
Deputy District Attorney David Green continued questioning the first witness of the afternoon, an employee at the service station. She recounted seeing the passenger door of a car open with the alleged victim between the defendant and the vehicle. She then heard banging from the direction of the car with the vehicle visibly shaking. The witness remembered hearing the victim shouting for help while appearing to have the vehicle door being shut upon her.
In the cross-examination, Deputy Public Defender Jose Gonzalez-Vasquez asked the witness why she had approached the scene. The witness replied that her intent was to distract the couple, but they did not appear to see her.
The next witness called to the stand was a friend of the service station employee. Upon questioning by Mr. Green, the friend recalled seeing a couple, with a man appearing to force a woman into the car. The witness recounted hearing the alleged victim ask to be let go of what appeared to be a bear hug by the defendant.
The witness remembered observing what seemed to be the victim bouncing off the car and sounding distraught. The witness had a limited account of the alleged crime due to a reluctance to be involved.
Mr. Gonzalez-Vasquez further questioned the witness on the physical contact between the defendant and the alleged victim. The witness stated that there was no visible striking or shoving occurring, and she only recalled seeing the victim in an embrace while trying to turn her body away from the defendant. The witness again emphasized that she was not consistently watching the incident unfold.
Mr. Gonzalez then asked if the witness saw either member of the couple after the initial incident. The witness replied that she saw them both in the service station later. The witness stated that the victim was asking for a phone. Mr. Gonzalez stated he had no further questions for the witness.
The final questions to this witness came from Mr. Green, who asked if the victim seemed to be able to escape. The witness replied that she seemed unable to leave. The counsel then rested.
After Judge David Reed read the instructions to the jury, Mr. Green gave his closing remarks. He reviewed the testimony of the morning from the alleged victim, Mrs. Ortiz. He stated that domestic abuse cases are complicated to judge, especially with the victim refusing to press charges.
He continued by saying her testimony differed from the statement she gave to the police the evening of the incident. While her court statement cast the defendant in a positive light without any act of violence, the statement Mr. Green said was given to the police mentioned contact that caused her to fall.
The burden of proof of spousal battery was declared as met on both points. The first point required it to be proved that the couple did have a child together, which Mr. Green declared as being met as there was no argument to such a stipulation. The second point to be met was that an act of simple battery did occur. Simple battery was then redefined to the court and it was alleged that the victim falling proved it had occurred. The statements of the two afternoon witnesses were then recounted as further corroborating evidence to that fact.
Mr. Gonzalez-Vasquez approached the stand to refute that there were discrepancies in the current testimony by the alleged victim. He further cast the defendant as a loving partner, preventing the victim from driving under the influence. Mr. Gonzalez remarked that the defendant was telling the victim that he loved her as he tried to prevent her from operating the vehicle in an inebriated state.
His closing remarks continued by questioning the claim that if the victim did indeed state something at the time that was contradictory to her testimony, why was no body cam footage presented to substantiate the claim.
Attorney Gonzalez-Vasquez then refuted the fact that simple battery occurred, asking the court to question at what degree does unwanted or rude contact turn into simple battery. He claimed that, from Mr. Green’s definition, a parent throwing dirty socks at their child could meet that burden. He implied that, while rude, since that act would hardly be tried as simple battery, protecting a loved one through contact should not be tried as battery either.
In his rebuttal, Mr. Green insisted once again that simple battery occurred in this case and that indeed Mr. Ortiz was guilty.
The jury was then sent to deliberate. They are expected to return with a verdict on the morning of October 18, 2017.
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