Sacramento Public Defender Convinces Judge Bail Was $400,000 Too High

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By Nikki Suzani

SACRAMENTO – Assistant Public Defender Amanda Massimini argued long and hard here in Sacramento County Superior Court last week that half a million dollars in bail was far too high for someone charged with heroin charges, guns not shown to be his, and a firecracker.

She must have said something right, because in Department 62, Judge Michael Sweet took pity on the defendant and lowered his bail by $400,000.

The defendant, Anthony Scarano, had been arrested after an inspection revealed 8.1 grams of heroin on his person and a police search warrant found two guns, one loaded, in his house, along with an explosive device that the police officer on the scene characterized as a M-40 firecracker.

Massimini argued that Scarano’s bail, which had been set at $500,000, was excessively high—especially in light of circumstances surrounding both the owners of the guns, the classification of the explosive as a M-40, the COVID-19 crisis, and Scarano’s family situation.

She asked for the judge to lower bail to $100,000, an amount his family could reasonably pay to bail him out and allow him to return home.

Massimini described Scarano’s background and history in Sacramento. He has lived here his entire life, went to high school locally, attended vocational school studying automotive repair and welding, and then worked at heating and air companies—he’s now a sales trainer and level four technician. In his free time, she said, he coached Little League T-Ball for his son and also provided financial security for his family.

However, while Scarano was stuck in jail, his girlfriend’s parents filed for legal custody of his child. “[Scarano] believes that if he were to be out of custody, he would have a greater chance of getting to keep his son,” the public defender said.

Massimini added that even if Scarano won the case from jail, his mother, as part of a particularly at-risk population, would be exposing herself to COVID-19 if she had to continue being the caretaker for his son. “Mr. Scarano’s son is due to start school soon and his mother is asthmatic, at high risk for the virus,” Massimini said. “Mr. Scarano is concerned that if his son were to contract the virus at school, he would bring it back home to his mother which could cause her to get ill and potentially pass away.”

Massimini explained that in December of 2019, police received a search warrant to search Scarano’s house.

However, the guns that they had found (one in the guest room, one in his child’s former room) did not necessarily belong to Scarano—she mentioned that he had been renting out the guest room, and the child’s former room were where two other people in the house stood hiding from the police.

“There was no gun found in any of his personal belongings,” she said. “It was found in proximity to individuals that ran from the police to hide in the room where the gun was found.”

Then she moved to the other major charge, possessing a M-40 explosive. Pressing a printed picture of the alleged explosive to the Zoom camera, she used details in the police officer’s own report of what a M-40 should be, having a wick in the middle, and compared it to the explosive featured, which had a wick at the end. “If anything, this is a firecracker,” she said. “Yes, it’s illegal fireworks, but it’s hardly grounds for a felony.”

She ended her motion by describing his past record, a 2007 DUI case and a 2008 bodily injury case—noting that he had no parole violations or failures to appear in either case.

“He has no failures to appear and has been a law-abiding citizen since his release from prison,” she said. “Obviously, Mr. Scarano has a problem with addiction, and so that’s something that’s been affecting his life now, but I do think the court should take into account his long period of about a decade of law-abiding behavior. And with that I would submit.”

Deputy District Attorney Alexandra Sanders argued that Massimini hadn’t really provided new evidence to justify lowering the bail.

“I haven’t found any change in circumstance brought by Ms. Massimini,” Sanders said. “She’s recited the facts clearly but I haven’t heard any change in circumstance outside of COVID concerns.”

Then, addressing the possibility that the guns were not Scarano’s, she noted his ownership of the property in which they were found. “I would just note for the court the items that are found are inside a home to which Mr. Scarano does live,” she said. “Arguably, he has constructive permission over those items.”

Moving to the M-40, Sanders made it clear that the police officer at the scene had seen enough evidence to believe that it was a M-40. In fact, she added that the bomb squad had all come over as a result, and had conducted several burn tests.

“My understanding is that the bomb squad did have to come out to breeze the house to ensure that nobody was going to be injured,” she said. “I don’t have information as to whether it could blow up the entire home, but they had reason to believe it was dangerous.”

She added that the bomb squad had conducted several burn tests and had to cautiously take apart the explosive, in order to avoid accidentally setting it off. Although she could not find evidence of whether they had concluded that it was as dangerous as they had originally thought, Sanders made it clear that the felony violation itself could be contested in court, not during a bail motion.

Sanders then focused on the serious nature of his offenses.

In describing his GBI case in January 2008, she recounted the facts of the case, which included Scarano getting into a verbal altercation and escalating it, repeatedly stabbing the victim with a knife. “The defendant stood over the victim and threatened [the victim], to tell the police that he had simply fallen onto the knife,” she said. “The victim had to have part of his lung removed, had a laceration to his liver, and needed a chest tube to be inserted.”

She moved to his felony DUI, which she explained came with injury, meaning that he had not only been driving drunk but had injured someone on the road.

Ultimately, she made it clear that she did not find it safe for Scarano to leave jail. “We have a concern of public safety based on the items found and the allegations made,” she said.

Taking all the arguments into consideration, the judge asked follow-ups about the past offenses, the nature of the M-40 explosive, and Scarano’s at-home situation. He made it clear that he believed the felony DUI with injury to be significant, as, in his experience, those with light bruising often got plead down to a misdemeanor.

However, his final decision was that, due to the fact that Scarano had no parole violations or failures to appear, he would be granting him a reduction of bail to $100,000.

Scarano’s next appearance is a motion to suppress on July 17 in Department 30, where Massimini is expected to contest the validity of the search warrant through probable cause analysis.

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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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