By Stefanie Young and Alexandra Cline
SACRAMENTO – Despite the victim of a domestic violence complaint recanting her testimony Wednesday here in Sacramento Superior Court during a live stream preliminary trial, Judge Steven Gevercer ruled that Frederick Garner—whose attorney said he was suffering from fever and flu—should be bound over for trial.
The hearing, held via Zoom and live streamed via YouTube, involved Mr. Garner, appearing separately in Jail Court 63, who is charged with two felony counts of corporal injury and possession of marijuana with intent to sell on the black market.
Represented by private counsel Michelle Spaulding, Mr. Garner’s bail remained at $625,000 at the request of Deputy District Attorney Teal Ericson.
The first and only witness the State called to the stand during this preliminary hearing was Citrus Heights Police Officer Ashley Brackett, who said she responded to a domestic violence incident on Jan. 14, 2020, at approximately 4 p.m.
Officer Brackett spoke with the complaining witness during the incident. The court instructed the parties to use “Doe” rather than the complaining witness’s last name to preserve her privacy. Ms. Doe appeared by Zoom for this hearing.
Officer Brackett recalls speaking to Ms. Doe and recounted that Ms. Doe and Mr. Garner had been living together for three to four months when the incident occurred. Ms. Doe told Officer Brackett that when Mr. Garner returned home, an argument ensued because she claimed that Mr. Garner was cheating on her.
Ms. Doe was scared and refused to answer Mr. Garner’s questions because she knew that everything she said would be wrong and did not want to further anger him. Ms. Doe then told Officer Brackett that Mr. Garner grabbed her by the neck and started to strangle her with both hands.
She said she lost her breath for a couple of seconds but did not lose consciousness.
She then tried to leave the apartment, but Mr. Garner would not let her. Eventually, she was able to run down to their neighbor’s house and called 911.
Assistant DA Ericson asked Officer Brackett to recount what Ms. Doe told her about other domestic violence issues that occurred a couple days prior to January 14. Ms. Doe said the parties were again arguing about cheating and unfaithfulness.
Officer Brackett recalled that Ms. Doe stated Mr. Garner grabbed her by the hair and kicked and punched her, leaving medium sized bruises on her face and back that were visible to Officer Brackett, who said she recalled seeing a bruise about the size of a quarter on Ms. Doe’s left eyebrow.
Officer Brackett then told the court that she spoke with Officer Hanson, who found a scale, a vacuum seal, and 7.2 lbs of marijuana in the back of Mr. Garner’s vehicle. The marijuana was vacuum sealed in one-pound bags and large trash bags, and Mr. Garner identified the vehicle as his.
Officer Brackett also stated that she spoke with Sgt. Seth Cimino, an experienced narcotics detective, who explained his opinion and reasoning for why there may be possession for sale: the factors include comparing recreational user versus individuals engaged in transporting drugs (recreational users do not usually carry a scale, or large amounts of drugs in fear of being arrested, robbed, etc.), calculating the weight and volume of the marijuana seized, and the scale and vacuum sealer found.
However, during cross-examination, the defense inquired into Officer Brackett’s conversation with Sgt. Cimino, Ms. Doe’s report of the domestic violence that allegedly occurred, the events that occurred two days prior to the incident at issue, the location and sizes of the bruises, and whether Officer Brackett had a conversation with Ms. Doe regarding the marijuana found in the back of Mr. Garner’s vehicle.
Defense Attorney Spaulding asked Officer Brackett if she had the ability to tell the difference between marijuana and hemp, and the officer admitted that she did not.
On cross-examination, Ms. Doe was appointed separate counsel, Mr. David Bonilla, to advise her.
Ms. Doe stated that she was rescinding her statement made on January 14 because she was afraid that she would be arrested for initiating the fight. Ms. Doe stated that she did in fact call 911, but she testified that she thought 911 would assist her and Mr. Garner in getting clean and sober.
When asked to address the allegations that Mr. Garner was attacking her and strangling her, Ms. Doe stated that she and Mr. Garner were arguing about cheating because Mr. Garner returned home at 5 a.m. She let him in and went back to bed. When she woke up, she made them breakfast, and Mr. Garner went to attend some classes.
When he returned, they continued to argue about the cheating. Ms. Doe further testified that Mr. Garner was upset and argued over a Facebook message that he saw in Ms. Doe’s cell phone. Ms. Doe specified that she was upset that Mr. Garner was in fact the one cheating.
Ms. Doe then recounted that when the incident occurred, she had relapsed with drugs and alcohol, which prevented her from behaving like her normal self and caused her to lose her temper. Ms. Doe became extremely angry, so she punched Mr. Garner and grabbed his hair.
She testified that Mr. Garner had to defend himself by pushing her off and was only able to do so by placing his hands on her neck for two seconds. Ms. Doe reiterated that she made a bad choice by calling 911, that she was the initial aggressor in the incident, and that she was afraid of stating her involvement in the incident for fear of being arrested as well. When asked whether she was telling the truth, she stated “yes” and that she was clean and sober now.
Prosecutor Ericson asked Ms. Doe when she became clean and sober. She responded that she has been clean and sober since a couple of days after the incident occurred, adding that she had spoken with Ms. Spaulding briefly over the phone and had read the police report, including her initial statement.
When asked about the bruises on her face and back, Ms. Doe stated that she does not know how she got the bruise on her face, and the bruise on her back was caused by losing her footing when going down the stairs due to her alcoholic intoxication. She also said Mr. Garner did not strangle, punch, or kick her, and that the redness and scratches on her neck were due to the two seconds that Mr. Garner was attempting to push her off of him.
Ms. Doe affirmed she was still in a romantic relationship with Mr. Garner, was still in love with him, and wanted him out of custody. Ms. Doe also stated that she wanted to attend couples counseling and anger management classes.
On redirect, Ms. Doe was asked whether she was giving false testimony to get Mr. Garner out of custody, and she responded “absolutely not,” and that her testimony was the truth.
Before Judge Gevercer issued his ruling, the parties discussed bail and the People requested that bail remain as set because the case was exempt from the $0 bail order, due to Mr. Garner’s prior history of conviction and violence, to ensure community safety.
Mr. Garner stated that if bail was lowered to $550,000, he would still not be able to afford it.
Defense counsel Spaulding argued that Mr. Garner had symptoms of a fever and flu but was not tested for COVID-19, but the judge kept bail at $625,000.
Mr. Garner’s arraignment date is set for April 28, 2020, at 1:30 PM in Department 63.
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