By Shellsea Lomeli
FRESNO, CA – Two alleged victims of domestic abuse here last week in Fresno County Superior Court begged the court to not prosecute those accused of abusing them – in both cases, Judge Glenda Allen-Hill ignored their pleas and issued protective orders to protect the women.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that “on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States,” adding that women face domestic abuse at a much high rate than men.
The NCADV has compiled a variety of reasons why victims stay with or defend their abusers, ranging from fear to lack of support. Because of this, prosecutors often request protective orders for alleged victims in domestic abuse cases regardless of the alleged victim’s claim of the incident.
And that is what happened late last week in Fresno court.
The first defendant, Gabriel Velasco, was out of custody and present in court for his arraignment hearing on the accusation of inflicting bodily injury upon and hospitalizing his significant other. He pled not guilty.
“The vehicle accelerated, throwing the victim off the hood,” said Prosecutor Kendall Reynolds as he retold the observations of a confidential witness. He also mentioned the alleged victim experienced possible seizures due to the incident.
The alleged victim was present in court and made a statement. “I remember everything that happened. The car did not accelerate. I lost my balance and hit my head. I remember talking to the sheriff deputy because I didn’t want to press charges.”
“He [Velasco] did not cause the injury. He is not a violent person. That was completely 100 percent my fault and I take responsibility for it,” the alleged victim added on behalf of Velasco.
While the defense objected to the protective order requested by the People and the alleged victim claimed the defendant was not violent, the court ruled in favor of issuing the order.
The protective order, also known as a restraining order, mandates that Velasco not harm, strike, harass, or disturb the victim’s peace. Velasco is required to surrender any firearms and cannot prevent or persuade any victim from attending a hearing or testifying. He also cannot have any type of contact with the victim and must not go within 100 yards of her and her residence.
According to the judge, failure to comply with a protective order can result in one year in custody and/or a $1,000 fine.
While bail was set at $45,000, the prosecutor asked the court to raise the amount, setting bail at $145,000. The defense argued that the Velasco had no prior criminal history, requesting bail to remain the same. The court set bail at $45,000, the amount posted.
The second case where the alleged victim expressed opposition to a protective order involved the arraignment hearing of defendant Esiquio Ochoa. He pleaded not guilty to any allegations of domestic violence against his significant other of eight years.
Bail for Ochoa was set $40,000 but he posted at $30,000. The prosecution expressed no issue with the current bail but asked for a protective order to be issued against the defendant.
“He pulled the alleged victim in a bathroom and put his hands around her neck for 20 to 30 seconds,” said Reynolds. He added that the incident occurred because of an argument regarding infidelity.
Similar to the first case, the alleged victim of the strangulation argued in the defendant’s favor.
“He is not guilty. He is a responsible man. He is my husband,” she said through a translator in the courtroom.
When asked about the protection order, the alleged victim communicated that she understood the request but did not want it.
“We’ve been together for eight years. He has never behaved like this. There was a problem between me and him but he had never behaved like this.”
While Judge Allen-Hill acknowledged the alleged victim’s testimony, she issued the protective order. “Strangulation is very serious. The court is concerned about Mrs.[redacted]’s safety.”
The protective order issued for this case was the same as the first. If the defendant fails to be fully compliant, he could face up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. The defendant’s preliminary hearing date is set for July 29.
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