By Teja Dusanapudi
The preliminary hearing for Justin Thaddeus Chenier began and ended on Thursday afternoon, with Judge David Rosenberg reducing the initial felony charge for infliction of corporal injury to a misdemeanor.
The hearing began with a false start as the victim, “Ms. R,” took the stand, responding to the People’s first question before asking for legal advice. After a brief conversation with both sides, the court decided to have Ms. R confer with counsel before taking the stand after other witnesses.
Following Ms. R came Officer Nazariy Yakimchuk, an officer of the West Sacramento Police Department. Officer Yakimchuk testified that on January 31, 2018, he responded to a call from Ms. R at approximately 10:06 in the morning, originally stated to be a medical emergency. Upon arriving at the scene, Officer Yakimchuk observed a small abrasion on Ms. R’s lip. She explained to him that she had gotten into an argument with Mr. Chenier, with whom she had been in a dating relationship 10 years prior.
Officer Yakimchuk testified that, according to Ms. R, after they had argued for some time, Chenier had hit her with closed fists. In response, Ms. R went into the kitchen, grabbed Chenier’s vaporizer, and threw it at him. Mr. Chenier then came back at her and choked her with his arm. While Ms. R tried to ward him off with a ceramic mug, he did not let go of her until she bit his left bicep.
After being released, Ms. R ran into another room, locked the door, and proceeded to call the police.
Officer Yakimchuk further testified to the demeanor of Ms. R as “frightened,” in addition to noting another domestic violence charge filed in the past against Mr. Chenier, again involving Ms. R.
Upon cross-examination by the defense, Officer Yakimchuk testified that the only injury found on Ms. R was a lip abrasion, which he described in his written report as “minor.”
The defense further asked Yakimchuk if he knew how the abrasion occurred, whether through the choking or because of Ms. R’s biting the defendant, and the officer replied that he did not know.
Ending the cross-examination, the defense inquired as to whether Ms. R told Officer Yakimchuk that she had allegedly started the fight with Mr. Chenier in addition to allegedly chasing him around with a knife, to which Yakimchuk also replied in the negative.
William Silvermaster, another West Sacramento police officer, took the stand and testified that he had encountered Mr. Chenier at another house when called by the house’s owner. Mr. Chenier had been holding his daughter at the time when Officer Silvermaster and another officer arrived at the door, and, held at gunpoint, had ignored Officer Silvermaster’s demands to put the child down, and instead retreated further into the house. Ultimately, after the other officer took the child from him, Mr. Chenier was interviewed by a detective.
In another brief testimony, Officer Cameron Simpson said on the stand that in 2016, Ms. R called 911 regarding Chenier, stating that he had briefly pushed her with his hands on her throat.
Following Officer Simpson’s testimony, Ms. R took the stand once again. She testified that the first physical action which had occurred had been a form of tussling between her and Chenier, which later transitioned to his striking her on the back. Afterwards, she threw his vaporizer at him, and then he choked her, prompting her to bite him, immediately after which she called the police.
When asked how she got the lip abrasion, Ms. R stated that she did not know, and did not notice it until Officer Yakimchuk had pointed it out.
Upon the defense’s inquiry as to whether her biting could have caused the abrasion, Ms. R replied that that was possible.
Ms. R denied any allegation of chasing Mr. Chenier around with a knife, but she did acknowledge being arrested in the past for terrorist threats, accused by an ex-boyfriend.
In closing, the defense urged for the court to acknowledge Ms. R’s injuries as of unknown origin, minor, and possibly self-caused, and to change the felony charge to a misdemeanor, while the People requested a holding order.
Ultimately, the court decided to reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor, apply a holding order, and remove the GPS from Mr. Chenier which had been previously mandated.