By Danielle Eden C. Silva
In Department 8, Joshua Anthony Givens, one of the three co-defendants found guilty of participating in a Davis burglary ring working during 2013, received his prison sentence today after a lengthy debate between the defense and the prosecution. The felonies associated with this group totaled 78. The defendant, all counsel, and the defendant’s family were present.
Conflict Counsel Attorney James Granucci, representing Mr. Givens, had witnesses appear at the stand to challenge the sentence prior to Friday afternoon. The witnesses had testified on past plea deals offered by the prosecution. During this session, he wished to emphasize how his client was willing to take responsibility early on with a guilty plea. Attorney Granucci also requested a stipulation that Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin’s handwriting was on the plea offer.
The defendant also gave a statement to the court. From a message he had written, Mr. Givens shared that he felt ashamed of his actions and if he could go back four years he would change things. The claims of the victims and the effects of his actions led him to feel apologetic and, should the court give him a chance, he would try to be a better person.
Attorney Serafin then noted to the court that twice in the probation report Mr. Givens had been noted as confessing three days after arraignment. She said that these two statements were untrue and they should be stricken from the record. Additionally, she said they may have been placed in the report by Mr. Granucci.
The defense argued that Givens may be allowed probation. The defense also found it unlikely the whole community had been impacted by the residential burglaries.
The prosecution stated that the burglaries made everyone feel unsafe and this burglary spree of 2013 had five defendants arrested in 2014. Mr. Givens claimed to have committed the burglaries of his own volition and expanded their area of activity through texts, and he was described to be the right-hand man of Joseph Hernandez. His influence did not stop after three burglaries.
Additionally, the prosecution argued that Mr. Givens did not stand as a model prisoner, having been disciplined seven different times due to defiance during his time in custody from September 2014 to September 2017. The defendant had also committed burglaries while the residents were inside the home, increasing the chance of a violent encounter. She requested a 20-year and 8-month sentence.
Attorney Granucci shared he had represented Mr. Givens for five years and was confident he was one of the few clients he’s had who learned his lesson. He agreed the crimes were serious, but the amount of time being sentenced he found unacceptable. His defendant had only been active in a four-month timespan, with a prior history clean of criminal activity. No evidence proved that the events impacted the Davis community and the right-hand man the prosecution claimed was Mr. Givens was actually a right-hand woman – Ms. Esther Kwon who had become a witness for the prosecution. He also contested the claims that his client organized burglaries on his own.
The defense counsel then proceeded to share his experience with the case.
Attorney Granucci had been appointed to Mr. Givens on February 11, 2014. When going to meet with his client in private on February 20, the attorney discovered that Detective Michael Munoz, an investigator for the burglary spree case, had spoken with Mr. Givens and Mr. Givens was willing to provide evidence and take responsibility for his wrongs. This came about one week after the arraignment.
All the defendants had been offered plea deals and were willing to accept them, except Joseph Hernandez. The judge presiding at the time, Judge Stephen Mock, was even willing to strike “hot enhancements” but Mr. Hernandez would not take the deal. The preliminary exam would take one year and Mr. Givens was going to testify, even going into protective custody outside of jail. He was willing to receive five years and four months and acted maturely. Attorney Granucci also noted no one got hurt.
Mr. Givens ended up with a guilty verdict and, while Mr. Granucci agreed with probation that the case was unusual, he disagreed that probation is not suitable for his client. With no prior parole history and willing to pay restitution, Mr. Givens is at low risk of re-offending. He was cooperative and is remorseful.
Mr. Granucci requested that the sentence be 10 years state prison and five years probation, the principal being two years. Alternative sentences could include community service or counseling.
When defense counsel expressed his disappointment in the district attorney’s position, Attorney Serafin objected. The court would allow her to respond after Attorney Granucci.
The defense stated that Mr. Givens has been willing more than once to accept responsibility – and if what the defense claimed was the most culpable person in the case, who admitted she lied but got a sentence one twenty-fifth of what probation sought of Mr. Givens, Granucci wondered what was setting them apart.
Ms. Serafin stated that Ms. Kwon had been the most forthcoming to police and even then took time to name the other people involved in the case. Mr. Givens had lied about knowing about the burglaries and quickly attempted to shift the blame to Joseph Hernandez, therefore never fully admitting what he did to law enforcement. He claimed to watch only, when there had been instances he entered a house. Mr. Givens saw a good plea deal and was ready to take it.
However, the prosecutor noted that Mr. Givens and Ms. Kwon were offered “Queen for a Day” letters which refers to individuals sharing their activities in crimes and not having that their words used against them in future proceedings. Ms. Kwon took the deal and Mr. Givens did not, not taking an opportunity that had been offered to him.
Ms. Serafin also shared that, if she allowed the sentence to be lessened, she would have no answer to give to the victims on why Mr. Givens deserved a lesser sentence.
Mr. Granucci responded she should tell them Mr. Givens, a young man with no prior history, was willing to accept a plea offer that was stopped by Mr. Hernandez. He was willing to make restitution and, if he should slip up, he would return to prison. Granucci again expressed his disappointment in the DA’s office but noted the ruling would be up to the court.
After a recess, Judge David Reed agreed to strike the two statements claiming Mr. Givens confessed three days after arraignment. Legislation would have qualified the defendant for probation as an unusual case because of his youth and lack of criminal record. However, he had been found guilty of 16 burglaries, disqualifying him from an unusual case status. Judge Reed noted the defendant came from a good family and that they will suffer from his decisions.
The judge noted a comment made by the defendant’s mother, examining consequences. Judge Reed also expressed disappointment in Mr. Hernandez’s denial of the plea but didn’t take the plea of equity for a lenient sentence. Since the felonies were violent and increased the serious risk of violence, a decrease in good time credits was determined.
The final sentence totaled 19 years and 4 months with dismissed restitution.