Two Domestic Violence Prelims, including One Where Victim Refuses to Testify

by Hannah Poploskie and Alexandra Quilici

Alleged victim refuses to testify in preliminary hearing

By Hannah Poploskie

The preliminary hearing for Luis Contreras in his domestic violence case was heard on November 16. He is facing charges for a crime against his girlfriend, stemming from a 2015 incident.

The alleged victim was the first person called to the stand to testify. The judge informed the court that she had an immunity agreement signed in exchange for her testimony.

The People began the questioning by asking the complaining witness if she knew the defendant, to which she replied she did not want to testify. The question was again repeated, with the witness replying again that she was refusing to testify.

The judge informed her that she had immunity and nothing could happen to her legally if she did testify in the case. When she again declared her refusal to testify, with her lawyer standing by her side, the judge informed the witness of the possible negative ramifications for her if she refused to answer the questions of the court.

Once again, the People asked her a question with the same result. The judge found her in contempt of court and discussed with the lawyers how to proceed. After some discussion, it was decided she would have to attend counseling and come back to court at a later date.

The People called to the stand a peace officer to testify about the incident. He told the court that he was dispatched to a hospital in March of 2015 after a nurse reported a possible domestic
violence incident. Upon arriving at the hospital, he encountered the alleged victim, who was there with her aunt and her sister.

The officer said that the victim told him that this was not the first incident of violence by the defendant directed toward her. She further told the officer that she had received death threats from the defendant in the past. She was allegedly pregnant at the time of this incident and told the officer that she was attacked earlier that day.

Describing the incident as was explained to him at the hospital, the officer told the court that it occurred at a mobile home where the alleged victim and defendant cohabitated. After being dropped off by her aunt and her sister, the victim walked toward the residence, thinking that the defendant was walking out to let her in. When they met, separated by a chain link fence, the defendant started to raise his voice at the victim.

The officer continued, saying that, as described to him, the defendant was asking the alleged victim where she had been, as it was dark, and he was angry at her. He then stuck his hand through the chain link fence and punched the victim in the nose. Fearing that her nose was broken, as it was swollen and bloody, she got back into the vehicle with her relatives and they later went to the hospital.

The officer said that after her took her statement at the hospital, he talked to her relatives. Both corroborated her story, saying that when she was talking to the defendant, things reportedly got heated and they saw the defendant reach through the fence. When the victim left the fence, she had blood on her face and her nose was swollen.

After completing his questioning at the hospital, the officer left to go to the residence to see if Mr. Contreras was there. He saw that the fence was locked as the victim said, and after shouting for someone for a little bit, the officer received no response and left.

A few days later he received a call from the alleged victim, who said in a voicemail she was recanting her previous statement. She said she made up the attack out of anger and it had never occurred. When trying to reach the victim to discuss her decision further, the officer was unable to reach her.

Upon cross-examination, the officer was questioned about whether either of the alleged victim’s relatives knew of any threats against the victim by the defendant. The officer replied that neither had any knowledge of any threat. He then was asked to elaborate on the phone call requesting the recanting of her previous statement. The officer said that he did try to reach the victim, but was unable to. He said he assumed that she was recanting the statement due to pressure from her boyfriend.

The officer was then excused from court. The judge asked the attorneys what they wanted to occur in this case. The defense counsel asked if the felony charge could be reduced to just a misdemeanor, as it was allegedly only one strike to her nose, which ended up not being broken. The prosecuting attorney argued that, due to a previous domestic violence case, the charge should remain a felony.

The judge, reviewing the photos of the victim, agreed that the charge would remain a felony, although the damage was minimal, and that it was not a first offense. The next court date was scheduled for December 1.

Man held to answer for assault against wife

By Alexandra Quilici

Judge Timothy Fall found there to be enough evidence to hold Sergey Lodzhansky to counts of injury against his wife and an attempt at dissuading a witness. The first witness was the alleged victim of this case, his wife, who used a Russian interpreter to help communicate her testimony.

The wife stated that the two had been married 12 years, but separated the last two, and had two children together. One night, after her work shift and picking the kids up from daycare, she came home and the defendant showed up shortly thereafter after being dropped off.

Once he was dropped off, he began talking with their children, and the witness testified that he was drinking. She became upset (and she even started crying on the stand) when she heard him laughing with his children about how he changed her name in his contact list to “chicken.”

The children went to bed, and he began antagonizing her. She described it as doing anything to “get into a verbal argument.” When she insisted that he leave her home he began to choke her to the point where she couldn’t speak.

The witness estimated that the altercation took about 10 minutes. Afterwards, she called her friend and the friend called the police, and they subsequently arrested Mr. Lodzhansky.

There was some tension surrounding the interpreter and the judge. Judge Fall felt she was not doing a good enough job translating everything that he and the attorneys were saying, and that she was not clarifying when it was an interpreter remark as opposed to a witness remark. He questioned her qualifications and asked if it was her first time on the stand, to which she replied she had done hundreds of testimonies before.

However, the witness was then dismissed and the interpreter was no longer needed when the next witness was called.

West Sacramento Police Officer Andrew Ha was the officer who arrived on the scene, and he said the victim had distinct red marks around her neck and that she was very distressed.

Officer Andrey Kinda, also of West Sacramento PD, translated phone records between the defendant and his brother. In the phone conversations, the defendant talked about how they needed to convince his wife not to testify in court, and that everything would be fine, so long as she did not come to court.

With this information, the judge decided there was enough evidence to move forward with the counts of abuse and dissuading a witness. Lodzhansky will be held to answer on November 30 at 9:00 am.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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