By Julietta Bisharyan
SACRAMENTO- With the switch to virtual courtrooms in response to COVID-19, the Sacramento County Superior Court faces increasing communication issues between attorneys and their defendants.
“I swear to God, I didn’t do anything judge,” called out one defendant, seconds after the judge asked for his consent to hold his hearing through Zoom. Defense Attorney Paul Gomez waved his arms in protest at the defendant and asked if he needed an interpreter.
The defendant, Muhammad Abuhalaweh, was charged on one count of assault with a deadly weapon and on another charge of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.
Gomez began shouting at the confused defendant before Judge James Arguelles muted his microphone. An arraignment was then promptly scheduled.
Another defendant, Garry Rodney Curtis, was charged the same two counts as the aforementioned defendant. As he began to address the court, regarding his case, Gomez stopped him in his tracks.
“Let the sock puppet talk!” Gomez yelled, pointing at himself.
Judge Arguelles chuckled at Gomez’s self-titled nickname and muted the two. Curtis was seen holding his head and pacing around the cage inside the courtroom.
Another defendant spoke privately with Gomez about him waiving his right to a speedy trial. Judge Arguelles reclined in his chair and watched the 15-minute muted conversation.
After unmuting them, the judge finally asked the defendant if he understood what his attorney just told him.
“I guess? I’m going to be 100 percent, I don’t know what’s going on,” replied the defendant.
Judge Arguelles muted the conversation again to allow Gomez to re-explain his case.
“Thank you for the court’s patience,” said Gomez after the hearing finally concluded.
The next defendant, Bryan Hugh Henley, was asked to sign some paperwork from inside the cage. Afterward, he began to leave before Gomez shouted, “No! We haven’t done anything yet!”
Henley was then asked to return to court on July 15.
Three other defendants, one being Ernesto Jones, were unable to appear in court –– two for medical reasons and one simply refused to show up. One of the defendant’s doctors had said that the defendant was “not competent.”
Gomez argued that one of the defendant’s name had been jumping around the court calendar for a while and wondered if it were really due to medical reasons. The judge rescheduled the three arraignments.
Judge Arguelles later asked District Attorney Dinah Mielke if Jun. 3 works for her client, Jose Cruz Naranjo Silva, to come back to court.
Mielke’s screen froze for a few seconds then she vanished off Zoom.
“Guess not,” said the judge, laughing.
Mielke eventually appeared back on the call and apologized for the technical difficulties.
The last case involved defendant Patrick Israel Hall, with Defense Attorney Karen Watkins and Kelly Mulcahy for the DA’s Office. Watkins asked to hold a private conference with the court.
“Want me to kill Youtube?” the Judge asked before ending Department 63’s live stream for the day.
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