By Özge Terzioğlu
SACRAMENTO – Defendant Benjamin Warren was quick to say no when the judge asked if it was okay for them to do his arraignment via Zoom in Sacramento County Superior Court this week.
“Sir, did you say no?” the judge asked, clearly surprised at Warren’s refusal to have a virtual hearing.
The assistant public defender, who was in the courtroom with the defendant, quickly stepped in and said Warren used to be his client, and he offered to convince him to approve participating in a virtual hearing.
The defendant’s actual attorney for this case, Assistant Public Defender Pamela Dominisse, was representing her client in this hearing over Zoom. But Zoom was not cooperating.
The defense counsel at first did not react at all or respond when the judge asked her to talk to her client about his refusal to appear via Zoom. It was clear she was having connectivity issues with Zoom. She left the meeting, but soon returned and it appeared that she could finally hear the court, through no fault of her own.
The judge explained that if a defendant refuses to appear via Zoom, they have to wait another week to have their case heard in front of a different judge (in-person). The judge and Deputy District Attorney Frederick Gotha were unsure of whether they would be abusing the time waiver by postponing the hearing for a week.
The judge’s face clearly expressed frustration as he sat with his head in his hand. “Well, we weren’t given any directives regarding this particular, uh, situation, and I wouldn’t be inclined to, uh, take a chance on [postponing the hearing] because it’s likely that someone would call a foul later on down the road,” he articulated.
The judge then proceeded to clarify the added difficulties that would result in the defendant’s refusal to consent to a virtual appearance: “Ms. Dominisse, why don’t you try to explain to your client that what’s going to happen today, um, if he doesn’t agree to this, is that he’s going to go back downstairs and he’s going to sit.
“And then sometime this morning, when I feel like it, I will wander over to [Department] 62, and then we will bring him back up, and I will sit in court in Department 62, and then I will tell him what his charges are. So, if he wants to go through that routine, we can do that.”
After going to a Zoom breakout room with his APD Dominisse, defendant Warren finally capitulated and consented to appear via Zoom for his arraignment.
The judge told the defendant that he was being charged with six counts: felony violation of PC § 243 (b) by using force and violence against a victim (resulting in serious bodily injury), violation of PC § 245 (a) (4) by assaulting a victim using means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, violation of PC § 368 (b) (1) by knowingly and willfully causing a 70-year-old victim to suffer great bodily injury, felony violation of PC § 69 by unlawfully threatening violence to deter a sheriff’s deputy from performing their duties and also inflicting great bodily harm on said deputy, misdemeanor violation of PC § 594 (a) by unlawfully damaging property, and a felony violation of PC § 600 (a) by willfully and maliciously beating a dog who was under supervision of a peace officer.
The jury trial was set for Oct. 7, 2020, in Department 9, at 8:45 a.m.
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