Arguments Heard Regarding Character of Previously Convicted Davis Burglar
By Jenean Docter
Arguments regarding the character of Joseph Kaleimanu Hernandez were heard on the morning of March 16 in Department 8. Deputy DA Michelle Serafin represented the People, Deputy Public Defender Allison Zuvela represented Mr. Hernandez, and Attorney Ava Landers represented co-defendant Rakhem Romel Bradford. The Honorable David W. Reed presided over the matter.
The People filed a supplemental sentencing brief outlining statistics from the Davis Police Department regarding residential burglaries that occurred between 2012 and 2016, with a notable spike in 2013.
The defense argued that it would be improper for the People to bring in Officer “M” of the Davis Police Department to testify regarding these statistics. Ms. Landers described their relevance as “pure speculation” that is still “improper and irrelevant” even with relaxed standards.
All involved parties were arrested in 2014, and all remained in custody except Mr. Bradford. The People noted a 50 percent decline in burglaries occurring in Davis in the years following the arrests. The People described the alleged role of Mr. Hernandez as being “part of a conspiracy” to burglarize homes in Davis. The People maintained that the statistics could be used by the court if “persuasive circumstances” exist.
Officer M was called to testify. He explained that during April 2013, he and two crime analysts began to track Mr. Hernandez as a result of a significant spike in residential burglaries in 2013. By
2014, the group formed a full time-team called “the safe team.”
The defense argued that the court needed to examine priors (or the lack thereof), character prospects, background, and whether the defendant could be rehabilitated back into society, before making the decision to consider the statistics.
Ms. Zuvela emphasized that the burglaries were “crimes of opportunity,” and that the Mr. Hernandez was only 19 years old at the time they occurred. By the time he was convicted, he was 21 to 22 years old.
“He’s come a long way…and has many prospects,” she said of Mr. Hernandez, a former UC Davis student. She described him as having been “very immature” at the time of the burglaries, noting that he grew up in a “chaotic background when there was no real support for the family.”
Ms. Zuvela countered the People’s argument that deleting Mr. Hernandez’s strike would not be in the best interest of society because he is a “violent felon.” Although he did enter homes with people present inside, Ms. Zuvela argued, he was “not really violent at all.” Moreover, no one gave victim impact statements during his trial, invalidating the People’s argument that his actions caused significant emotional harm to victims.
Ms. Serafin claimed that “a challenging background is not terrible enough to justify striking a strike.” She noted that Mr. Bradford was placed into foster care with his relatives, and that his situation stabilized in high school. There, he earned good grades, and enrolled in UC Davis in the fall of 2009.
“By spring 2010, he was committing burglaries,” Ms. Serafin claimed. She mentioned a number of text messages between Mr. Bradford and other parties, which began on April 6, 2010. In particular, she cited a particular text message sent on May 12, 2010, which described intent to “hit a lick with a hammer”—apparently meaning that Mr. Bradford intended to commit a burglary with a hammer.
Furthermore, Ms. Serafin noted that Mr. Hernandez sold cocaine and oxycodone within the city of Davis beginning in May 2010. She mentioned a prior conviction he attained on May 31, 2010, in which she described him as “charismatic and manipulative,” and as “the mastermind, the instigator [of burglaries].” She added, “He got people to do his work for him, so he could keep his hands out of the mud.”
The People allege that by June 2010, Mr. Hernandez was selling methamphetamine, and talking about guns via text message with “J.C.” Ms. Zuvela objected to these statements, but they were permitted by the Court.
Additionally, Ms. Serafin claimed that Mr. Hernandez dissuaded a witness—when messaging J.C., he allegedly urged him “not to snitch on his friends.”
“Joseph Hernandez is given opportunities and he scoffs at them…he takes advantage of students he goes to school with and he gets in trouble for drugs during his first, second, and third quarters,” Ms. Serafin argued. She continued to characterize Mr. Hernandez as “ungrateful,” citing his being placed on academic probation as a result of low grades in March 2010, in addition to plagiarism charges levied against him by the university in August 2010.
“He royally squandered probation [after his first conviction in 2010],” Ms. Serafin claimed. She recalled that the People intended to send him to prison, a stance she had firmly supported. However, Judge Mock had placed him on probation. According to the People, Mr. Hernandez resumed his previous role as a “mastermind and leader” of serial burglaries within six months.
“He didn’t appreciate it [being placed on probation] for one second”, Ms. Serafin claimed. She noted that Mr. Hernandez was originally charged with 35 residential burglaries, 28 of which he was eventually convicted of.
“He was given the opportunity to be truthful to the police and to probation…but he lied at every opportunity, without batting an eye,” Ms. Serafin stated. “He said he’ll be oh-so-helpful to the police, but never once does he tell the truth,” she continued to allege.
“He has no insight…his background and character show us exactly what is in his future if he is not imprisoned for a significant period of time,” Ms. Serafin argued.
Ms. Zuvela held her stance regarding Mr. Hernandez’s good character. She maintained that she was not asking the Court to excuse his behavior, but rather, to grant a Romero motion to remove a strike on at least one count.
Additionally, Ms. Zuvela noted that the drugs Mr. Hernandez was “in trouble with the university” for using during his first year were actually cannabis, and that he was in possession of a legal use card at the time. “Mr. Hernandez volunteered, he gave back to his community and middle school,” she claimed.
“Nothing shows that he did not do the required community service,” stated Ms. Zuvela. She reasoned that if he had failed to do so, recorded consequences would have existed.
“What she [Ms. Serafin] calls squandering are hallmarks of a youthful offender,” Ms. Zuvela argued. “That’s immaturity, and immaturity you grow from,” she continued, noting that the adolescent brain does not finish developing until age 25. She maintained that Mr. Hernandez “does have the required character and background” to strike his strike.
The court noted that the history and variations in the burglaries will not be properly admitted, since they were not related to the crime and circumstances. However, the text messages sent between Mr. Hernandez and his associates proved admissible, since they were close in time to the crime that occurred on May 31, 2010, at 812 Anderson Road.
“Mr. Hernandez has yet to take any responsibility for the crimes he was convicted of,” the Court stated. According to Judge Reed, the evidence supports that the burglaries were sophisticated in nature, noting that no forensic evidence remained at any of the scenes.
Judge Reed characterized Mr. Hernandez as a “manipulative leader” who had a “tough childhood, but had educational opportunities many defendants do not.” He broke probation on numerous conditions such as with gun possession, drug use, and drug sale. In addition, Mr. Hernandez committed many burglaries with people inside of the homes, and thus demonstrated little consideration for their safety.
Judge Reed described the convictions attached to Mr. Hernandez over a five-month period between July and December of 2013 as a “crime spree” committed by a “serial burglar,” and asserted that to grant the Romero motion to strike his prior strike would be “outside of the spirit of the three strikes law.”
The matter reconvened that same afternoon, in Department 8, and Mr. Hernandez was sentenced to 93 years in prison.