Defense Attorney Risks the Spread of COVID-19 Inside Fresno Courthouse

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By Danae Snell

FRESNO — Courtroom officials from Fresno County Superior Court faced the dangers of COVID-19 when defense attorney Leslie Westmoreland informed the court he was experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 Monday—while potentially exposing the entire courtroom as he sat in person at the counsel table

Although Judge Adolfo Corona appeared in the court via Zoom from his chambers, he did not agree with Westmoreland appearing in person with these symptoms.

Judge Corona attempted to proceed with a co-defendant preliminary hearing for defendants Ruben Robles and Jaylen Sandoval, however, the course of action altered.

When Judge Corona called the case early Monday morning, Westmoreland was the only attorney who appeared in person and immediately requested to go off the record.

Judge Corona informed him that they were off the record and asked, “Are you ready?”

Westmoreland then informed the court, “I am and I’m not, it depends. My wife and I need to get COVID-19 testing this week through Unitedhealthtesting.org and, uh, we each have three to four symptoms. And one of those really prevents me from really focusing clearly, and my client Jaylen Sandoval and his mother need to be tested.

“Oh no, but I think what I am asking is if you want to call the case and plan,” the judge responded, and discussed a new plan for the case and called the in-custody defendant, Ruben Robles, to the counsel table.

However, alternate defense attorney Laura Boyd halted this by stating, “Your honor, I would ask that he not go to the counsel table, given Mr. Westmoreland is saying that he is exhibiting symptoms and I am not sure why he is even in the courthouse right now.”

“Right. That is stressful. Stay there Mr. Robles, you’re good,” responded the judge.

Robles stood off to the side for his hearing and used the raising of his right hand to respond to the judge.

Ms. Boyd continued by requesting, “I would ask that we go to September 3 since the timeout is the 8th and the 7th is a holiday. And if Mr. Westmoreland has a positive test or continues to have symptoms, then we can discuss a further continuance.”

Boyd also stressed, “I do not want to enter another general time waiver and keep pushing this out for my client if we don’t have to.”

Judge Corona asked Defendant Robles if this date works with him— “he’s raising his right hand; I take that as a yes” the judge noted. Defendant Sandoval also agreed with the date when asked.

Deputy District Attorney Robert Hughes stood willing to change the preliminary hearing date, due to the current circumstances.

When Judge Corona asked Westmoreland if this date would work with his conditions, he answered, “I have no choice at this point. I will just test as quickly as possible, adding, “So my client is under general so he is not prejudiced, it is Ms. Boyd’s client who is being prejudiced, to me.”

“Uh, not yet” Judge Corona responded. Westmoreland quickly stated, “Well it could come to that.”

This response led to Judge Corona advising him, “You should not be in the courtroom with those conditions.”

“It’s a prelim setting, it is supposed to be prelim. I checked the thermometer out front and it said no fever. Umm, I just have to get tested, I have been double masked. Uh, I was supposed to be here for prelim,” concluded Westmoreland.

Ending the discussion, Judge Corona closed the case and will wait for Westmoreland’s results on September 3, 2020.

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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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