By Kalen Abe
FRESNO – When Fresno County Superior Court Judge Francine Zapeda asked if Juan Flores Ramirez understood the consequences of his plea, the defendant paused.
“If you are not a citizen, your change of plea will result in deportation, exclusion from admission, and denial of naturalization,” said the judge.
Ramirez had been in the custody of the Fresno County Jail since December 24, 2019, when he was detained for domestic violence charges, which included corporal injury on a spouse/cohabitant, dissuading a witness from reporting a crime, and two counts of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury.
The majority of the pre-preliminary hearing of Ramirez’s case was dedicated to a change in the defendant’s original plea. When he was detained in December, Ramirez pled not guilty to all charges.
However, Judge Zapeda, Deputy District Attorney Andrew Janz and Assistant Public Defender Keegan Smith explained that the change in the plea and subsequent change in sentencing would serve as a “plead up for collateral consequences.”
Multiple times during the hearing, Zapeda called attention to the gravity of Ramirez’s decision, mentioning that Ramirez was facing a “serious felony conviction.” She explained that with the changes made to his plea, Ramirez would waive his trial rights.
Zapeda also noted that Ramirez would receive a maximum sentence of three years, and that other consequences would include restrictions on firearms and ammunition due to domestic violence conditions.
While translating Zapeda’s statements from English to Spanish, Ramirez’s translator Omar Lopez removed his mask. Through Lopez, Ramirez responded quickly to Zapeda, until Zapeda described the harsh immigration consequences of a felony conviction.
However, after a period of silence, Zapeda did eventually plead no contest to violating Penal Code section 136.1 (b1): prevent(ing) or dissuad(ing) another person who has been the victim of a crime or who is witness to a crime from making any report of that victimization to any peace officer or state or local law enforcement officer or probation or parole or correctional officer or prosecuting agency or to any judge.
Judge Zapeda ordered sentencing for Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 8:30 a.m.
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