43-Year-Old Man Given His First Chance at Rehabilitation

By Violeta Velazquez

FRESNO – Jail or rehabilitation treatment. That was the choice here in Fresno County Superior Court Monday for 43-year-old Phon Phothisen. who ultimately was given his first chance at rehabilitation during his sentencing hearing before Judge Francine Zepeda.

Phothisen was arrested on April 8, 2020, and charged with Penal Code section 368(b)(1), cruelty to a dependent adult, and held on bail in the amount of $65,000.

During a prior hearing, the defendant took the prosecution’s plea deal.

During Monday’s sentencing hearing the prosecutor retracted willingness to allow the defendant to be released to a rehabilitation facility to receive substance abuse and mental health treatment as an alternative to serving jail time.

The prosecutor cited the fact that the defendant had lived extensive time out of state and had an aggressive nature as a principal concern for keeping him in jail.

The county public defender argued that the defendant only had two prior convictions, both remote in time, one from 1995 and another from 2002.

Additionally, the public defender said that Phothisen had never received any mental health or rehabilitation services in the past. Moreover, she noted that her client had been a victim of abuse at the hands of the witness in this case.

The judge gave the defendant an opportunity to speak in court, and Phothisen acknowledged, “I agree with my counsel. I need to work on myself and need a little bit of help with my health instead of going to prison.”

Judge Zepeda scolded the defendant, warning, “Sir, you are 43 years old now, so you need to get a hold of yourself and stop the drug abuse and aggressive behavior.”

The judge then agreed to release Phothisen to the organization called Poverello House located in Fresno, CA.

However, she noted that Phothisen will be held to a strict standard of completion, warning him that if he were to quit the program, discontinue treatment, continue drug use, or continue his aggressive behavior he would return to jail for 180 days.

Another issue arose. The defendant will not be released from custody until a bed is available at the Poverello House, leading to uncertainty as to how much longer Phothisen will remain in custody without the treatment he needs.

So, the court found that Phothisen will receive some in-house treatment and will be ordered to stay for at least six months.

The next hearing for review of Phothisen’s progress will be held September 21, 2020, in Department 10.

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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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