Last week, a Yolo County judge sentenced Ricky Hernandez to 43 years and Josh Cadenaz-Lopez to 56 years for their role in a series of robberies in West Sacramento in 2016. The prosecution had sought virtual life sentences of 85 and over 100 years, but the ultimate sentence was somewhat shorter.
Judge David Rosenberg rejected multiple arguments from attorneys for both defendants for a new trial.
The jury trial occurred in the fall of 2017 with Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez being found guilty of multiple felony violations of armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, along with criminal street gang and firearm enhancements.
Deputy Public Defender Lisa Lance, representing Mr. Hernandez, argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the notion that Mr. Hernandez was in a gang for the purposes of the stand-alone gang charges (186.22(a)).
She argued, “Mr. Hernandez was not in any gang photos, cell phone videos, YouTubes, and had no prior contacts with Broderick Boy members. The only exception presented was that some months later, while Mr. Hernandez remained in custody, a known gang member sent out a RAP video that mentioned ‘free’ Mr. Hernandez.
She added, “There also was evidence Mr. Hernandez had tattoos and wore some red clothing that tended to show he was a Northerner, at least at some point years before the conduct in question here. But his conduct on the few occasions he was contacted by law enforcement was less than minimal—he was always respectful, had no contraband, and was not even committing crimes on those occasions.”
In the meantime, both Jem Martin, the original private attorney, and Conflict Counsel Ava Landers, who substituted in during sentencing, argued that Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez could not have been at the scene to have committed the crimes.
Mr. Martin argued that “here was substantial, uncontroverted evidence which supported Defendant’s alibi that he was not present at the robberies because he was passed out at home during that time, high on some combination of alcohol, marijuana and narcotics.”
Moreover, he alleged third party culpability in arguing “there also was substantial evidence that the person wearing the green gloves in the robberies, who was alleged to have been (Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez), was actually an uncharged third party, Alec Jorrin.”
Mr. Martin noted, “The Defense produced evidence that showed that Mr. Jorrin was wearing the exact same shoes, in a video taken just weeks before the robberies that he wore in the robberies. The shoes attributed to Mr. CADENAZ, which were found at another defendant’s residence, do not match the shoes worn by the actual robber, in the surveillance videos.
“In the same video showing Mr. Jorrin wearing the shoes that he wore in the robberies, he is wearing shorts that are the exact same style and size, although a different color, as those that he wore in the robberies. Mr. Jorrin is a known associate of the Broderick Boys and had the same motive and opportunity as did any of the other charged and uncharged co-defendants in this case to participate in the robberies.”
Meanwhile, in a July motion for a new trial, Ava Landers charged that it was ineffective assistance of counsel that should lead Judge Rosenberg to throw out the jury verdict.
She argued that Jem Martin “was so ineffective that his performance not only fell below a standard of reasonable competence, but the prejudice (that the defendant) suffered as a result rises to the level that there was a reasonable probability that (Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez) would have obtained a more favorable result.”
Among the points she raised is that Mr. Martin never met with the defendant while in custody nor did he “show him the robbery videos and other media discovery in this case.”
She pointed out, “The most damaging evidence against (Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez) were the videos of the robberies showing the masked men committing the various robberies charged in this case. (Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez) will testify that the first time he saw these videos was while they were being played for the jury at the trial.”
This is important, because the defendant “never had the opportunity to address these videos and point out the differences between himself and the person in the video purported to be him in front of the jury. Whether that address was in the form of his testifying, others testifying, pictures of him vs. the person in the video or other evidence, he never had the opportunity to assist (Mr. Martin) in procuring the necessary evidence to set him apart from the person in the video.”
According to the DA’s press release, the two men were part of a small crew of people who committed armed robberies at four different locations in Yolo and Sacramento Counties, including a Denny’s restaurant, a 7-Eleven in West Sacramento and two ampm convenience stores in Sacramento County over a 48-hour period in October of 2016.
The DA presented evidence that nine separate victims were robbed at gunpoint and at times ordered to the ground.
The DA’s press release noted: “According to the evidence, which included video surveillance, the defendants would enter each establishment, guns drawn, and demand money from the patrons and store staff. Although the robbers wore masks, the prosecution was able to establish identity of the perpetrators by comparing surveillance video to cell phone videos, photos, clothing, weapons and other items of evidence collected in the investigation.”
In a January 2018 press conference, Joshua Cadenaz-Lopez’s mother questioned the identification of her son from the video. She said, “Josh has extremely hairy legs and skinny chicken legs. In the surveillance video of the robberies, the person that they are saying is my son, (he) has thick white hairless legs.
“My son has a tattoo on his chest of his daughter’s footprints and name – that clear(ly) would show through a tank top that the person in the (video) did not even have.”
She was also critical of the fact that the police did not follow through on the alibi, where Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez had multiple witnesses (saying) that he was at home, passed out during the time of the robberies.
“He’s paying the time right now for somebody else’s crime,” she said. “In the trial, the police all contradicted one another and nobody wanted to stand up and take responsibility for the investigation.
“There was so much questionable evidence, I don’t know how the jury found my son guilty at all,” she said. “They just made him to look like a gang member and so the jury found him guilty.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting