Pretrial Coverage of Sexual Battery and Attempted Burglary Cases

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by Fabiha Zaman


Miranda Motion Heard in Sexual Battery Case

By Fabiha Zaman

On Monday afternoon in Department 8, Judge David Reed presided over a Miranda motion regarding defendant David Abraham. The defendant is charged with sexual battery.

Deputy District Attorney Frits van der Hoek brought in the first witness, Officer Andrea King, a sworn peace officer with the city of West Sacramento. Officer King confirmed that on November 12, 2013, she responded to a call at an apartment complex. The address of the apartment complex is 3405 Evergreen Circle in West Sacramento.

Officer King testified that she had spoken to the alleged victim and Mr. Abraham that night. She and her partner were in full uniform as they approached him. They stepped out of the car to speak with him and were approximately three to eight feet away from him.

Mr. Abraham was a security guard at the apartment complex and was on duty that night. When the witness and her partner interviewed him, however, the witness confirmed that they did not point a gun or put the defendant on his knees, did not search him, did not say he was under arrest or that he had to go to jail.

During cross-examination, attorney Rodrigo Mayorga, who is representing Abraham, asked questions regarding the description of the defendant. After Officer King refreshed her recollection by reviewing her report. She had written that the victim described Abraham as a Black male, medium build, and six feet tall.

Officer King added that she did not know Abraham’s name. She estimated the entire interview to be around 10 to 30 minutes, but prior to the interview she said she did not tell Abraham he could leave or that he did not have an obligation to answer any questions. She also confirmed that she did not read him his Miranda rights. She was also asked about a possible language barrier, but testified that she did not notice anything, as she was able to get a statement from him.

After Officer King was excused, the People called Michelle Tate, who is currently a patrol sergeant for the city of West Sacramento. In late 2013 around the time of the incident, Tate was a detective for investigations and was assigned to Abraham’s case. During January 2014, Officer Tate called Abraham and asked him to come down to the police office. When Abraham reported to the police station the day after the phone call, Officer Tate took him to an interview room.

During direct examination, Officer Tate said that if someone wanted to leave the interview room, they could as the doors were not locked. She also added that the interview was just under an hour, and, after the interview was over, she did not arrest Abraham or put him in handcuffs. She only told him that she would file the interview report with the DA’s office, and they would decide whether or not they wanted to press charges.

The interview was recorded, and the People played a short clip from the interview. In the clip, Officer Tate can be seen telling Abraham that he could leave if he wanted, and he did not have an obligation to answer any of the questions he was going to be asked.

Mr. Mayorga in cross-examination then asked about the interview. The witness revealed to him that Abraham was called to the station because she wanted him to tell the truth about what had happened the night he of the report. But she admitted that she did not tell him he was being investigated for a crime that alleged he touched a resident’s breast.

When asked if she had zeroed in on Abraham as the suspect for the crime, Officer Tate answered yes, adding that she did not read him his Miranda rights. Even after she got more details during the interview and started feeling that he might have committed the crime, Officer Tate testified that she did not read him his Miranda rights before or during Abraham’s statement.

The witness noticed during the interview that the defendant had an accent, but she did not notice any difficulty in understanding between them.

In closing statements, Mr. Mayorga argued that the interviews from all the officers placed his client in de facto custody. He requested that the court review his points of authority. He also cited the California case People v. Saldana, where the Court of Appeals declared that, based on the circumstances, the defendant Jose Saldana, was under a de facto arrest.

Mr. van der Hoek, on the other hand, argued that the defense used feelings and intent to support their case when this instance was about an objective reasonable test. He affirmed that Abraham was specifically told he was not under arrest and that he was free to leave at any point during the interviews. Abraham was not left to guess about the circumstances.

In his ruling, Judge Reed characterized Abraham’s situation as a temporary detention, which was not the equivalent of an arrest or custodial interrogation. Additionally, the Saldana case was distinguishable from Abraham’s because the defendant in that case was a Mexican native who had an education up to 6th grade, and the interviews law enforcement conducted on him were found to be extremely accusatory in nature.

Judge Reed denied the motion on the basis that the Miranda advisement was not required in any of the contacts law enforcement made with Abraham. Additionally, Judge Reed did not find any of the interactions to be fault-finding. The trial is scheduled for March 5 at 8:30 a.m. in Department 8. The trial is estimated to last three days, depending on jury selection.


Preliminary Examination for Attempted Burglary

By Fabiha Zaman

In Department 14 on Friday afternoon, Judge David Rosenberg presided over the preliminary examination of defendant Rochelle Lewis. Lewis is charged with two counts, including attempted burglary in the second degree and making burglary tools.

Deputy District Attorney Alex Kian, representing the People, called the only witness, Alexei Venikov. Officer Venikov is employed by the city of West Sacramento Police Department and has been working there for three years.

On October 13, 2017 Officer Venikov responded to a burglary and testified that he even spoke with Rochelle Lewis and another civilian. The civilian told Officer Venikov that that he had watched the burglary on his surveillance camera. He described a female who appeared to be breaking into the door of a shed. The civilian also told Venikov that he knew the shed housed a water heater and multiple gardening tools.

Officer Venikov added that the civilian had told him the person who attempted to break into the shed was the same person who had allegedly attempted to break into the laundry room earlier that day. The civilian had the footage since he was the owner of the apartment property, where he witnessed Lewis allegedly attempt a break in.

Upon further questioning, Officer Venikov revealed that he did not actually watch the security footage, however, when he observed the shed and the laundry room in October 2017, he found that the lock and the door of the shed had pry marks. Additionally he found that the laundry room door had purple paint transfer that matched the tools Lewis was carrying with her. These tools included a scissors, pliers, and wire cutters.

Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher, representing Lewis, conducted the cross-examination. During cross, the witness testified that he had never actually talked to the property owner in person, only over the phone. Furthermore, Officer Venikov never sent the civilian an actual photo of Lewis that led him to identify her. He only confirmed from the security footage that the officers were following the right person.

Ms. Fisher also asked the witness if he recalled whether Lewis told him that she was just trying to do laundry, and that even though she saw the window cage of the laundry room was loose, she did not try to break in because she did not want to damage any property. But Officer Venikov said that he did not recall Lewis ever saying that to him in her statements. He also did not recall that the pliers she had were from a beading set.

The People rested after questioning, but defense counsel, in their closing statements, argued that there was not nearly enough evidence to charge Lewis with larceny, and there is no way to prove that she was going to commit a felony when she just appeared to be doing her laundry.

Mr. Kian responded by pointing out that intent was very important, and that she had four other counts of petty theft. However, Ms. Fisher said that these were active cases, not convictions and thus proved nothing.

Judge Rosenberg, in his decision, stated that there was not enough evidence to charge her with felonies, and thus he reduced the charges to misdemeanors, but Lewis is required to answer to both of the counts in this case. The next court date for Lewis’ case will be on March 6 in Department 14.

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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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