By Julian Verdon
WOODLAND – Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira and Judge Peter Williams grew frustrated when the defendant would not stop talking.
Defendant Gustavo Zavala came to court with an interpreter because he did not speak English. He was charged with a misdemeanor for violation of probation under a failure to appear, which led to his subsequent arrest and in-custody status.
The defense did not want to hold him in custody because of California’s new Temporary Emergency Bail Schedule, designed to lower and protect jail populations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Temporary Emergency Bail Schedule made most misdemeanor arrests cite and release instead of an in-custody holding of the defendant—and Sequeira expressed concern as to why her client was being held on misdemeanor charges.
“I am not quite sure what is keeping [Zavala] in custody. If there was a failure to appear warrant that was issued earlier and what the Emergency Bail Schedule is, I don’t even know if he has felonies or misdemeanors,” the defense counsel said.
Robin Johnson, the District Attorney, responded, “The cases he has right now are misdemeanors. There was a failure to appear warrant issued, which I am assuming is how he ended up being in custody.”
The court hearing did not expand on why Zavala’s failure to appear for a misdemeanor charge put him into custody rather than a cite and release.
Judge Williams stated that the court was inclined to release him on zero dollars bail. However, both Zavala’s defense counsel and the court had trouble making the defendant’s new custody status clear to him.
PD Sequeira initially tried to explain to Zavala that the court wanted to release him without posting cash bail, on the condition he returns on his next court date. However, as she spoke, Zavala kept talking to the translator and interrupting Sequiera mid-sentence.
Sequeira asked him to focus several times until she turned to Judge Williams, asking, “Okay, this isn’t working. I am asking (you) to release him on zero dollars bail.”
Judge Williams agreed to release him on such terms, but Johnson brought up the concern that Zavala needs to understand what is going on so he can come back on his next court date. Otherwise, she suggested, they should keep him in custody.
Judge Williams responded, “There is only so much I can do on that matter, Ms. Johnson. I am not going to keep him in custody because he is an over-talker.”
Judge Williams then asked the interpreter to tell Zavala that he needs to stop speaking for the next minute if he wants to get out today. Zavala quieted down, and the judge was able to issue the defendant’s pretrial date and release with zero dollars bail.
Zavala’s next court date is September 21 in Department 7 at 9 am.
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