By Adrian Lopez
Defendant Daniel Manuel Lopez was acquitted of threatening to commit a crime against his now ex-father-in-law after a short trial from May 13 to May 15, 2019. The Honorable Paul K. Richardson presided over the trial and the verdict.
On New Year’s Day 2019, the alleged victim, Mr. Lopez’s ex-father-in-law, was spending time with friends and family at Willow Creek Horse Farm when the defendant, Mr. Lopez, was said to have come speeding down the gravel driveway in a white pick-up truck.
The father-in-law approached Mr. Lopez, who got out of his truck and allegedly began to verbally assault the victim.
During the trial, the father-in-law testified that Mr. Lopez had worked at the equine facility for about four years, was married to his daughter, and he was unsure why Mr. Lopez came to the farm on the day of the incident. In particular, the father-in-law testified he was anxious because of Mr. Lopez’s alleged aggression, verbal insults, and by Mr. Lopez keeping one hand in his jacket pocket during the verbal confrontation. According to the alleged victim, Mr. Lopez threatened to “put him to sleep,” although Mr. Lopez did not at any time have a weapon.
The defendant also took the stand during the trial and testified that he drove to the farm to clear up misunderstandings with his now ex-father-in-law, as Mr. Lopez and his wife were going through a divorce.
Mr. Lopez testified he did not intend to threaten or harm anyone and that, upon getting to the farm, he was met with a cold welcome from the alleged victim and was taken aback. In addition, Mr. Lopez testified that other family members approached the truck and “got in-between” the alleged victim and Mr. Lopez, which made him anxious and feel unwelcome.
During closing arguments, the prosecution asserted that Mr. Lopez, through his demeanor, words, and behavior, intended to evoke fear from the alleged victim, with the ongoing divorce between Mr. Lopez and his wife and the late hour of Mr. Lopez’s visit being sufficient for the alleged victim to be wary of Mr. Lopez.
The defense responded by reminding the court that Mr. Lopez did not possess a weapon at any time during the alleged incident and that there was clear dispute as to what was said and heard by the alleged victim, family members, and Mr. Lopez during the incident. The defense argued that because there was so much doubt about what was said and heard during the incident, there was simply too much that was uncertain to determine that Mr. Lopez did or said anything that could be construed as a credible threat intended to evoke sustained fear from the alleged victim.
The defense’s argument apparently prevailed, with the jury acquitting Mr. Lopez of all felony charges and enhancements on May 15, 2019.