by Gisele Arguello
In the week of October 15, 2018, the case against Jose Cruz Magana began. Mr. Magana was accused, from July 12, of two counts of arson and one count of possession of controlled substances/paraphernalia, with enhancements for prior convictions and prison. When he first was given the choice to take a plea deal or have a jury trial, against his counsel’s advice he chose not to take the plea deal, reducing 15 years in prison to five. His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Dave Muller, told Judge Paul Richardson he had recommended numerous times that Mr. Magana take the plea deal, but the defendant refused. Furthermore, his defense attorney went so far as to bring Mr. Magana civilian clothing to improve his presentation in front of a jury, but he once again refused.
The court accepted Magana’s right to a trial and continued to ask and explain to the defendant that, by wearing the prison garments, the jury may judge him and see him as a criminal. Magana said he understood how the court and jury may perceive him during trial, but he still chose to refuse a suit and tie.
On October 18, the jury asked to watch the video of the first encounter between Magana and the police officer who arrested him. In the video, the police officer stops Magana, seen walking away from the scene of a large fire. When asked where he was coming from, Magana continued to ignore the officer and said, “I don’t want to tell you” and “I won’t answer that.” Then, when questioned about the fire, Magana replied that he didn’t do anything. Even with evidence on his person pointed out by the officer, like the edges of his shirt being burnt and ashes on his pants, he continued to deny everything. The officer then asked him if the fire was an accident, and implied that Magana would not be in as much trouble if he admitted it was an accident from, maybe, cooking. After the continued denial, the police officer told Magana that he was going to be charged with arson.
The jury could not come to a verdict at first, and the case was facing a mistrial. On October 18, Judge Richardson and the two attorneys went into chambers to figure out a resolution for the case. In the end, Magana was convicted for possession of drug paraphernalia. He also pled no contest for an allegation from July 5, 2018, for not showing up in court. He had several other cases pending, which were possession of narcotics paraphernalia, failures to appear and a violation of post release community supervision. Along with violating community supervision, he was sentenced to 180 days in county jail, but will serve none of that time because he had amassed 180 credits in custody. He was convicted of possession of a methamphetamine pipe and received 12 months of summary probation. As long as he successfully gets through those 12 months, he will not have to pay the $150 restitution fee. He will have 30 days at the county jail for violation of probation and in 2020 he will be referred to anger management.
He will not be there, but on November 8 at 10am, the sentences for all other counts will be decided with the recommendation of his probation officer.