by Bryce Gaston and Sufi Sadati
Testimony About Physical Assault of Daughter by Yolo Bus Driver
By Bryce Gaston
On Tuesday, the child abuse trial against Ronnie Earnest reconvened with the prosecution bringing two expert witnesses to the stand as well as multiple witnesses who testified about an unrelated incident in which Mr. Earnest was allegedly involved. The defense also called Earnest’s mother to testify to the events that occurred on March 14, 2018.
Back in March, it is alleged that Mr. Earnest physically assaulted his daughter in the parking lot of an apartment complex as well as inside his mother’s apartment. His daughter previously testified to his punching her in the face and stomach, causing her nose to bleed all over her clothes. She also said he dragged her out of the car and carried her into the apartment against her will.
The day began with a witness testimony of a Yolo Bus driver who recounted an incident that occurred several years ago. The witness claimed that during his shift Mr. Earnest and his wife rode his bus from downtown Sacramento to Woodland. Once they arrived in Woodland, an argument began between the bus driver and Earnest.
It is unclear what started the argument, however, soon after it began, the bus driver asked the couple to get off the bus and get on another bus waiting nearby. The witness then proceeded to walk to the other bus and let the other bus driver know about the situation. At this time, Mr. Earnest allegedly pushed him into the bus, causing him to fall down.
This action lead to a physical altercation between the two men. The witness claimed that once he fell, Earnest kicked him. He got up and attempted to kick Earnest back when Earnest grabbed his leg in mid-air and threw him again. The defendant punched the bus driver’s face with a closed fist, leaving him with a split lip and loose teeth.
During the altercation, a witness standing in line for a movie nearby saw the fight and called 911. The 911 call depicted the caller claiming that two men were fighting and a woman was screaming and calling for help.
Once the police arrived, they had a description of the suspect as an adult male, wearing a white shirt and black pants. They found Mr. Earnest on the scene matching this description. Officer Evan Black testified that he witnessed Mr. Earnest taking off his white shirt and throwing it in a nearby trash can. Earnest was never arrested for this incident.
Later in the day, the prosecution called David Cropp to the stand, to testify as an expert witness on domestic violence and child abuse. Cropp said he knew nothing about the facts of this case, who the defendant or victim(s) were or any other information besides what the charges were, since they were listed on the subpoena.
Cropp was a police officer for 37 years and currently works as a counselor, law enforcement liaison and licensed therapist for a local domestic violence shelter. He also is board certified on domestic violence and has received a five-year grant for researching the effects on children exposed to domestic violence. He has testified 47 times on the topic of domestic violence.
Mr. Cropp explained to the jury that trauma caused by domestic violence can affect how people think, feel and behave. Children who witness domestic violence are more at risk for mental health issues. He also explained that up to 60 percent of victims change their stories or are reluctant to cooperate with the criminal justice system, because it can be intimidating, confusing and exhausting to victims who have suffered trauma.
He said that more often than not, victims recant (or change) their original story. This can be because of many reasons, including if they feel sorry for the abuser. Victims also often minimize the trauma that occurred by making it seem less serious than it really was in order to cope with their trauma. Additionally, it is common for victims to have difficulty with being able to give a complete, cohesive and logical narrative of what happened from beginning to end. Often, some victims of violence become violent themselves and see threats in an environment where threats do not really exist.
Dr. Kurt Schuler who works for Sutter Davis Hospital as a head and neck surgeon also testified today. He said that he examined Mr. Earnest’s daughter in 2013 for issues related to a recurring bloody nose. After a close examination, he concluded that there was nothing to be concerned about with her nose, and prescribed her a moisturizing spray. He also said that one cause, among many others, of bloody noses is trauma.
At the end of the day, the defense brought Mr. Earnest’s mother to the stand, who testified that on March 14, 2018, she was shopping when she received a call from her son, who was staying with her at the time. On the phone he said that he, his wife and his daughter were locked out of the apartment. She came home and saw the three of them in the car in the parking lot. She said her granddaughter (Earnest’s daughter, the alleged victim in this case) was crying inside the car and she asked her to get out and come inside, but her granddaughter did not want to get out.
She then said that her granddaughter was kicking and screaming. She does not recall how the door to the car was opened, but once it opened, her granddaughter fell out of the car. Mr. Earnest then picked her up in a “bear hug” and carried her into the apartment.
Once inside, Earnest went upstairs while the witness and her granddaughter stayed downstairs near the front door. Soon, Earnest came down the stairs and his daughter backed up into the door and slid to the ground before he “embraced” his daughter. Shortly after, the police arrived on the scene.
The witness testified that she never saw Mr. Earnest punch his daughter or physically harm her in any way. She also claims she has no knowledge of his ever being physically abusive to his daughter or wife in the past. When asked why she did not call the police, Mr. Earnest’s mother said she had no reason to, because “there was no harm being done.”
Witness testimonies will continue tomorrow, followed by the prosecution’s closing statements. The jury will be faced with deciphering the contradictory testimonies among all of the witnesses and deciding whether Ronnie Earnest should be convicted of child abuse and corporal injury on a minor.
Veteran Police Officer Gives Testimony Tuesday Afternoon
By Sufi Sadati
In a “bear hug” was how the mother of Ronnie “Dwight” Earnest described her son picking up his blood-soaked daughter from out of their white BMW after an alleged domestic violence incident.
On March 7, 2017, Mr. Ernest was arrested on descriptions of battery against his daughter.
The People called Corporal Simeon McKenzie of the Woodland Police Department to the stand on Tuesday afternoon. He reported, in a local Walmart parking lot, hearing a female’s voice shouting, “Get away from me!” as she was pushed by an unidentified man against a white BMW.
Cross-examination concluded that he had not written the word “push” in his police report.
David Cropp, a seasoned domestic violence social worker, was offered to the court as an expert witness. His expertise as a former law enforcement officer with the Sacramento Police Department, his studies on children who witness trauma, and his over 300 hours of classroom training accumulated to over 35 years with domestic violence cases.
Mr. Cropp defined domestic violence as a “pattern of violence or coercion which includes emotional, physical, sexual, financial, or religious means.”
Without being privy to any information regarding the case, the prosecution questioned Mr. Cropp on the neurological changes trauma has on the developing brain. In great detail, he noted the ubiquitous nature that witnessing domestic violence has on children, affecting their cognitive, social and behavioral being.
When asked to describe the cycle of violence, Mr. Cropp went through the cyclical pattern of tension building, acute episode, and honeymoon phases. Tension building is when the victim may notice the abuse oncoming. Acute episode would be the literal outbursts, whether physical or emotional, like demoralizing language. Finally is the honeymoon phase where the abuser promises never to hurt the victim again.
“Sixty to 70 percent [of victims] include this cycle,” most of whom go back to their abusers during the honeymoon phase, as he points out. It is also “more common than not” that victims recant their statements in this phase to protect their abuser, out of love or attachment.
When questioned about the likelihood of a victim remembering fully the details of their abuse, Mr. Cropp acknowledged that detailed accounts of the abuse was considered the exception and not the rule.
Most victims of abuse may take days, months, or even years to recount the abuse endured.
He noted that children who witness such violence are more likely to develop mental problems, such as anxiety, or to become perpetrators of abuse themselves.
Children’s biological need to be cared for creates a sense of loyalty for the “only care they have ever known.” This applies to many children, not having fully developed cognitive thinking, who unintentionally support their abuser.
Quoting multiple scholars, he revealed that children who witness domestic violence have difficulty regulating emotions as well as engaging in positive social relationships. These kids may have trouble distinguishing between actual threats in environments and those which do not exist, and tend to become defensive or hostile.
After extensive information on the origins and effects of domestic violence were presented, new medical evidence was offered by Dr. Kurt Schuler, a Sutter Davis head and neck surgeon.
Dr. Schuler recalled seeing the victim on November 3, 2014, regarding her recurring nosebleeds. He noticed she had normal anatomy and suggested cauterizing, the burning of blood vessels to suppress excessive bleeding, yet the family declined.
In a turn of events, the defense called to the stand the mother of the accused.
Mr. Earnest’s mother told her account of the day as rushing to her apartment where her son, his ex-wife, and the alleged victim were locked out. She saw her son in the passenger seat and her granddaughter in the left side back seat, behind the driver’s seat.
She had heard the victim was refusing to get out of the car and both she and Mr. Earnest exited their vehicles.
There was mention of her granddaughter’s history of nosebleeds, which she described as something that happened on “numerous occasions.”
With the alleged victim still in the car, Mr. Earnest’s ex-wife began to drive away, however, moments later backed up the car due to the victim’s poor behavior. According to the witness, her granddaughter was “cussing and kicking” to the point that when she opened the door she fell out.
A “bear hug” is how the witness told the jury her son lifted the victim off the ground and into the house. There he proceeded to lecture his daughter on her conduct, but she did claim not to see him lay a finger on her granddaughter.
The prosecution hit the witness’ insistent testimony with inquiries about the child’s blood-soaked sweater and T-shirt, the bruising on her abdomen, and abrasions on her neck, in addition to scratches on her head.
Comparing a witness testimony at the scene of Mr. Earnest hitting his daughter five times, the witness was utterly firm in her stance, declaring, “He did not punch her.”
It was later revealed that the witness had been contacted regarding her son’s trial and had said, “Ok. Well is there anything to tell him or not to tell him?”