By Claudia Gutierrez
FRESNO – A victim in a domestic violence case revealed during the middle of a hearing here in Fresno County Superior Court that she was pregnant and pleaded for the judge to issue a peaceful contact order for the defendant.
The defendant, Andrew Jacob Verna, was charged with a domestic violence felony on March 21 of this year for inflicting corporal injury on his spouse/cohabitant.
According to Deputy District Attorney Heather Spurling, the police report stated that Verna drank half a bottle of vodka and hit the victim while intoxicated.
At the beginning of the hearing, Deputy Public Defender Brendan Bergh asserted his client’s not guilty plea to the charges. Soon after, defendant Verna stated that he had something to say and Judge Glenda Allen-Hill urged the defendant to think twice about speaking for himself before the court.
Verna then continued to ask if he could say something and Bergh urged him not to say anything, while simultaneously signaling for Verna to be silent by holding his index finger up to his mouth.
Despite this advice from the public defender, the defendant proceeded to speak up once again but was again interrupted by Judge Hill, who stated that she did not want Verna to potentially incriminate himself. After this, Verna stopped talking and let Bergh continue to speak on his behalf.
It then came to the court’s attention that the victim in the case was present in the courthouse but was not allowed inside the courtroom initially. The case was paused and the court moved on to a different case while the victim was brought in from outside to testify.
Later, the victim stepped inside the court and stood at the podium. In a shaky voice while trying to hold back tears she stated that a protective order issued by the court wasn’t in her best interest or the defendant’s. The victim was audibly choked up as she then revealed that she was pregnant, and she apologized for seeming overwhelmed with emotion.
The victim claimed that Verna is only violent if he has been drinking and that he hadn’t had a drink since the incident that brought them to court. Bergh agreed with the victim in stating that the protective order would not be in the best interest of the defendant and mentioned this was the only domestic violence charge on Verna’s record.
Verna approached the podium again and told the court that he is an addict currently on methadone treatment and that he has stayed away from alcohol since the domestic violence incident. He also stated that he’s been participating in online AA meetings every day.
Judge Hill ended the hearing by agreeing to issue a peaceful contact order. Verna is now also responsible for attending AA meetings twice a week and showing proof of this at his next hearing.
A pre-preliminary hearing is set for July 31, 2020. Deputy District Attorney Spurling requested that the victim be present in the preliminary hearing that is scheduled for August 21, 2020.
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9