District Attorney Brings Up Victim Impact Statements during Live Court Hearings

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By Julietta Bisharyan

SACRAMENTO, Ca. – During one defendant’s sentencing in the Sacramento County Superior Court, the issue of victim impact statements was brought up by a district attorney, given the virtual courtroom set up.

The defendant, Nicholas Luciano Castillo, was sentenced to 32 months in state prison for his counts of second-degree burglary and marijuana sales. He also admitted to a prior strike conviction which doubled his initial 16-month sentence.

Although no victims wanted to provide impact statements for Castillo’s sentencing, District Attorney Adrianne McMillan asked Judge Ernest Sawtelle if it was even possible for the victims from her other case, who wish to speak, to do so. She questioned whether the victims would be able to show up physically or if they would have to have someone else, such as the victim advocate, read their statements for them.

“I don’t know what the other courts are doing, but in my court it’s fine if they want to Zoom in,” Judge Sawtelle said.

McMillan then asked if the judge would be in the same department next week during the time of her other case’s sentencing. Judge Sawtelle said he would not.

“Well then, I’ll figure it out,” said McMillan, laughing.

The bailiff then suggested that McMillan should email the judge for that particular department and find out what their protocol is ahead of time.

“Remember, we are live-streaming on YouTube folks, please do not use first names. Stay professional,” warned Judge Sawtelle, after McMillan accidentally called the Defense Attorney by her first name.

Another defendant, Ryan Bailey, faced charges for threatening to commit a crime resulting in death and for assault causing bodily harm. He was also charged on two counts of burglary and on one count of vandalism.

Public Defender Scott Franklin was appointed to Bailey, and the defendant entered a not guilty plea before scheduling a preliminary hearing.

Due to the COVID-19 emergency orders, the judge explained that preliminary hearings are now set within 30 days instead of the usual 10 days of arrest.

After releasing another defendant on recognizance, the judge made note that probation offices are closed and are no longer allowing people to physically come in. Defendants are now expected to call instead, within two days after their release.

As the hearings were coming to an end, the bailiff apologized that the defendants were taking longer than usual to enter the courtroom.

“Because of the coronavirus, we can only have so little people in one room at once,” she explained.

The live session ended early after Judge Sawtelle said he had to hold a meeting privately with the attorneys and could, therefore, not stream it on YouTube.

“We’re going to have to go off the record,” he said, before promptly ending the live-stream.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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