By Susana Jurado
WOODLAND – A defendant—charged with multiple felonies, including running over a person whose leg then had to be amputated—remained free on bond here even after the defendant sent a series of threatening messages to another person in an unrelated case while out of custody.
Charged with six felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon, excessive stalking and harassing, constant threats to the safety of the victim, and a hit and run while fleeing the scene, shortly afterwards trailed by a misdemeanor battery charge, Serena Moreno Carrera has pled not guilty and is still awaiting trial.
During a hearing at Yolo County Superior Court Thursday, prosecutors asked to increase her bail from $130,000 or to no bail because of the risk they say she poses to public safety, based on a series of Facebook messages that occurred while she was released on bail.
Judge Peter Williams asked the prosecutor to provide a brief summary as to why they filed a motion for more added bail to Moreno’s case.
Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays said, “It was a case where two ladies, Ms. Moreno and the victim, kind of had a prior beef. And ended up culminating in a fight, which later led to a car running into the victim and her leg being amputated. It was a very emotional preliminary hearing; it was a case where there was prior bad blood between these two and there was a restraining order issued.”
The prosecutor further went on to explain that because Moreno Carrera was out on bail, some new events have come to light about a few Facebook messages that took place a couple days before the current hearing.
Based on the content of the messages, the prosecutor claimed, “The Facebook messages (are) eerily similar to what precipitated the incident in this case. There was much bad blood going on back and forth, threats to kill, threats to injure, threats to beat each other up, and threats to put people in the ICU.”
“I’ll have my mom come after you. I will come after you. I will beat your ass. I’ve been in jail and I can put you in the ICU,” she quoted Moreno Carrera. She read other messages purportedly sent by the defendant.
The prosecutor emphasized the fear the recipient of these messages felt after reading them, especially after knowing about Moreno Carrera’s history. She brought the messages to the prosecutor’s attention, escalating the matter to a motion filed to remand Moreno Carrera in order for public safety to remain intact.
This prompted Judge Williams to question who this recipient was and if she was anyway related to the victim of the case.
DDA Hays cleared things up as she said, “The people are not bringing this to you due to the fact that they are somehow connected to our victim. This is a new person to be brought to the court. No connection.”
Judge Williams then asked her if these messages were enough for Moreno Carrera to be charged based on written threats that can become physically violent.
The DDA said it was not.
Judge Williams directed the matter over to Public Defender Tracie Olson, who made it clear that there was more to the story.
“What’s very clear to me is that this Patricia woman is the one that reached out to my client first. I have seen these Facebook messages and what is not included in the attachments [of the motion] is how the interaction between my client and this woman started,” said the public defender, “How this interaction initially started is that this woman reached out to Serena first, accused Serena of some conduct that was unflattering and negative and Serena responded and you can see they’re both going back and forth.”
She questioned the legitimacy of the prosecutor’s argument as she confirmed to the court that the messages were unrelated to the case at hand, saying, “There were no threats to kill. Ms. Hays I think said that. That’s not true. She also indicated that there was an underlying case she had concerns about because my client supposedly almost killed the victim. Yet that was not even related, that wasn’t even a part of what was going on. So, I just want to draw attention to the fact there is some exaggeration going on [about my client].”
The public defender defended Moreno Carrera and brought to the court’s attention that her bail is still set very high at $130,000, proclaiming her timeliness and reliability, noting, “I can tell this to the court, my client is on $130,000 bail, she’s made every required court appearance, she has not, as far as I’m aware, I have no information at all that my client has had any contact with the underlying victim in the present case. That has not occurred.”
Though the public defender did admit that the messages were inappropriate, she reiterated that it did not warrant higher bail and her client to be incarcerated, especially since that person is unrelated to the case at hand. The public defender continued to list some positive things that have happened to Moreno Carrera since her release on bail.
Moreno Carrera, on her own volition, applied for a battered women’s shelter and actually got accepted. However, there were complications because a family member of the victims worked at the shelter, and brought up Moreno’s history. The shelter revoked her acceptance and she no longer could take advantage of their services.
Yet, Moreno has not given up, as the public defender stated: “So instead now, what we got her on the verge of being hooked up with the transitional Age Youth program. It’s a mental health program through Health and Human services and what they would offer is an intensive outpatient mental health treatment. It’s considered a full service partnership because of the intensity of the services. They offer psychiatry, medication management, and group and individual counseling in addition to case management. My client is willing to participate in that, we are in contact with them right now to see how we should get that started.”
According to the public defender, these programs will provide her with some structure and ultimately help her.
Throughout her defense, Ms. Olson highlighted how unrelated and different these circumstances are from the actual case, and even brought to attention some evidence of the defendant actually wanting to stop the car instead of running the victim over.
Ms. Hays maintained, “What’s concerning is that someone who is out on bail for aggravated mayhem against her, someone who has a restraining order against her, would behave in such a way. She doesn’t get it, she cannot behave this way—because Serena can’t control herself. When she gets mad, whether it’s someone reaching out to her or not, that person ends up injured or potentially dead and the People are very concerned about that.”
Public Defender Olson argued back that there was more to the story than what was attached to the motion, and quoted some of the messages made by the defendant to the recipient, stating, “Again the rounding out of these Facebook messages, you didn’t get how it started which I informed the court now. There’s also some Facebook messages where my client says, ‘I’m not gonna fight, I’m not fighting.’ The other girl is trying to goad her.”
Judge Williams interrupted, ruling, “I concur that if I was out on bail at $130,000, I might behave differently.”
He also noted that this case has been one of the most serious crimes to go through Yolo Superior Court, especially considering it is “aggravated mayhem.”
However, Judge Williams also considered that since the messages could not arise to a level that Moreno can be charged, she has broken no laws since her release, and has faithfully made all her court appearances on time, adding, “I guess the bottom line is I don’t see a real nexus between the case from which she’s on bail and these texts, at least from what I can see that has been attached to this motion. So, I’m going to deny the motion.”
The judge turned to Moreno Carrera and briefly advised her on what’s coming forward from this ruling, saying, “All I can tell you is this, Ms. Moreno Carrera, if you follow up on any of these texts or anything like that and it ends up a crime and you are back here in the court, honestly that’s just gonna make me feel stupid. And it’s gonna make the court look bad and our conversation goes differently the second time.”
Judge Williams set the next hearing, a trial setting conference, for September 2 at 8:30 a.m.
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