On November 9, 2017, the trial of Josh Cadenaz-Lopez and his co-defendant Ricky Hernandez ended after several weeks of testimony, with both men being found guilty of robbery, weapons charges, and gang charges.
According to the DA’s press release, they were part of a small crew of people who committed armed robberies at four different locations in Yolo and Sacramento Counties, including a Denny’s restaurant, a 7-Eleven in West Sacramento and two ampm convenience stores in Sacramento County over a 48-hour period in October of 2016.
The DA presented evidence that nine separate victims were robbed at gunpoint and at times ordered to the ground.
The DA’s press release notes: “According to the evidence, which included video surveillance, the defendants would enter each establishment, guns drawn, and demand money from the patrons and store staff. Although the robbers wore masks, the prosecution was able to establish identity of the perpetrators by comparing surveillance video to cell phone videos, photos, clothing, weapons and other items of evidence collected in the investigation.”
The stunning part, however, is that Mr. Hernandez now faces 85 years in prison. Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez faces over 100 years in prison.
However, the family of Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez believes that the jury erred in finding their son guilty.
One of the biggest issues is that Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez has an alibi for where he was at the time of some of the robberies. Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez had a tremendous drug problem, and his family believes he
was passed out on his couch at 11 pm on the night of the robberies.
The four robberies that took place on the night of October 19, 2016, were all 20 to 30 minutes apart, and at four different locations that were strategically spaced out.
“Videos show Josh’s heavy drug use (during) the day prior (to the robberies) which shows he was well on his way to oblivion, his mother told the Vanguard.
The mother added, “My roommate saw him about 10:30 or so out cold. Then in (the morning) Greg woke up to knocks at the door. Josh was in his room sleeping. He went and woke him up and Josh left. Josh had been partying heavy the day of the robberies and video from his phone clearly showed this.
“When he was passed out in the garage there was no way he was gonna be in any condition to do anything,” the mother stated.
During his closing arguments, defense attorney Jem Martin, representing Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez, played a video of the defendant smoking marijuana. He declared “this was all that needed to be considered.”
According to coverage by the Vanguard’s court watch staff, Mr. Martin told the jury that it was more than reasonable to believe that his client was passed out at the time of the robberies. He referenced other videos where Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez was seen taking drugs around the time of the robberies.
The defedant’s mother also questioned whether the surveillance videos actually showed her son. She does not believe they do. “My son was not there,” she said. “In surveillance shots of the robbery, the person they say is Josh, he is wearing shorts. This person’s leg is thick, white and hairless. My son has chicken legs and is totally hairy. He has a tattoo on his left chest area. The person had an open jacket with a tank top on which set low enough to see Josh’s tattoo. The mask he wore was a ski mask at Denny’s and where the mask goes around (the) mouth you see no facial hair.”
Mr. Martin pointed out that the physical features of the defendant did not match those in the video. In particular, he noted in the surveillance footage there was no discoloration seen where the tattoo was. The fact that the defendant had hairy legs was pointed out to the court, noting again the footage where the perpetrator appeared to have hairless legs.
Still the key evidence was the DNA in the green glove found at the scene. They found four different contributors, including one major contributor and three minor contributors. The glove, Deputy DA Kyle Hasapes said, matched Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez’s DNA profile and he was identified as the major contributor.
Cadenaz-Lopez’s mother points out that two other suspects were found to be minor contributors. However, they were in the truck when it was initially stopped and thus not arrested.
She pointed out that one of those individuals was taken in for questioning on a red light camera video that showed him with Mr. Hernandez just two hours before the first robbery. Detective Anthony Herrera of the West Sacramento Police Department testified that his parents and he had said he was not there, and they eliminated him as a suspect.
But there is video that shows another suspect wearing the same style of shorts and the same shoes worn in the robbery.
In addition, with one of the green gloves found in Mr. Hernandez’ vehicle trunk, there is video showing both Mr. Cardenaz-Lopez and this third suspect wearing (the glove) but the prosecutors never sent the DNA of the third suspect to a specialist, so they don’t know if he was one of the DNA profiles that showed he was a minor contributor.
Mr. Martin during his closing testimony had brought up another individual, an acquaintance of Cadenaz-Lopez, who was shown in another video, who had similar clothing to what was worn by the robber in the surveillance footage. He also was identified as being a minor, and hence more likely to have more hairless legs. When showing a photo of the minor’s face, he appeared to be clean-shaven, whereas Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez had facial hair. The robber appeared to have no hair on his face.
The defedant’s mother told the Vanguard, “I feel they know who the real person is but just wanted my son. I believe because the other kid is a minor they wanted to go for Josh.” She added, “It seems so strange that the obvious is not acted on and they just took the family’s word that it was not their son. I think the jury (convicted) my son because of the way the DA made him out to be as a gang member. But he was not at these robberies, gang member or not. It makes me so angry at the system.”
The mother described her son as “a very outgoing person.” She said, “He has a great heart and is very intelligent and wise. Josh has always been humble and puts others before himself. He is talented in many ways. He is super funny and has a great personality.”
At the same time, she said, “he has struggled with addiction since the young age of 14. He has had many challenges with sobriety.”
She pointed out, “Josh was not a validated gang member. Prior to his arrest Josh was taking care of his traffic violations.”
She told the Vanguard, “My son was not a participant in ANY way and was not present at any of them. He was also not guilty of the gang enhancements.”
Now he faces life in prison. She told the Vanguard, “I believe the lengthy sentence is ridiculous and absurd. We know there are worse crimes getting less time.”
She added, “It makes me so angry at the system.” She pointed out: “I think it is cruel and unusual punishment as stated in 8th Amendment. The total time for these crimes are ridiculous due to the gang enhancements put on them. We all know this is excessive and so many other people get less time for more serious crimes.”
The Vanguard made multiple attempts to reach and talk with the defense attorney, Jem Martin. He finally responded to an email over the weekend and indicated that he intends to file a new trial motion on Tuesday at the sentencing hearing, and is declining to talk to the press at this time.
The sentencing hearing will be held at 8:30 am on Tuesday in front of Judge David Rosenberg. As stated above, Ricky Hernandez faces 85 years in prison while Josh Cadenaz-Lopez faces over 100 years.
In his press release, DA Jeff Reisig rails against gangs: “Street gangs are a collective criminal enterprise that requires law enforcement agencies to work together, which was done and done well in this case.
“Holding victims at gunpoint in public businesses,” Mr. Reisig added, “is brazen, violent and terrifying conduct by street gangs, which cannot be tolerated.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting