By Kalen Abe
SACRAMENTO – Judge Timothy M. Frawley dismissed all charges against a defendant here today who, court records reveal, has spent more than a year in jail over the past 30 years—although in five cases he’s only been convicted once, for petty threat.
In this case, Defendant Raymond Santos allegedly threatened the staff at the UC Davis Medical Center, although chief witness testimony conflicted with that presented by law enforcement.
Until Tuesday, the trial set by a judge last week was still on for October, despite the lack of evidence.
But Tuesday, Judge Frawley granted the motion to dismiss made by Deputy District Attorney Nikita Skokov for “insufficient evidence.” Assistant Public Defender Dena Joy Horton Stone earlier threatened to file a motion for dismissal.
Santos has seen this play out before. He had charges of battery dismissed in 1989 after spending two months in jail, robbery charges dismissed in 1998 after three months in jail, and spent two months in jail awaiting trial in 1997, where he was—finally—convicted of something, petty theft.
This time, charged with “threats,” Santos has been in jail for five months before charges were dismissed Tuesday.
Last Thursday, the court never determined whether Santos threatened the staff at the UC Davis Medical Center. He had been in custody since he allegedly threatened to commit a crime resulting in death or great bodily harm. The alleged threat? “I’ll kick your fucking a**, you fucking n*****.”
The case began with Deputy District Attorney Nick Karp calling police Officer Ricardo Lee, who said the hospital operator said an individual who seemed erratic had called multiple times. The hospital operator also noted that the caller threatened to drive a vehicle to the hospital to shoot the nurses and doctors on duty, though these threats were not made to the emergency room officers.
Santos had previously been a patient at the UC Davis Medical Center, so the operator identified Santos using his hospital records. Lee attempted to call Santos to ask if he threatened the operator, but had difficulty communicating with Santos.
Lee stated that Santos was “yelling about unrelated stuff,” describing Santos’s manner as “very agitated,” and said that Santos would “repeatedly hang up and refuse to answer questions.” When Lee asked Santos if he required medical attention, Santos declined.
Lee obtained an address to a house belonging to Santos’s sister, who explained that Santos had behaved erratically before. Lee then said that the next day, Officer Michael Hasner reported contacting Santos at the UC Davis Medical Center.
According to Lee, another officer wrote a report containing statements from Donald Cooper, who worked as a receptionist at the hospital. Lee also stated that officers followed up with Cooper later to let Cooper confirm the report’s accuracy. Lee claimed that he went through the report with Cooper “line by line,” and that Cooper affirmed the statement was accurate to the best of his knowledge.
Lee said that Cooper saw the defendant enter the building that day. Allegedly, Cooper observed that Santos was “so upset, he made other patients feel nervous or uncomfortable.” Cooper then told Santos that if Santos did not settle down, then he would call the police, to which the defendant said, “f*** it, call the police.”
With this, Cooper pressed the alert button, though he reported not being scared of Santos and that he only pressed the button to ensure the safety of the other patients.
Then, Lee reported that Santos threatened Cooper with bodily harm, saying, with the words detailed above. After objecting five times during Lee’s testimony, Assistant Public Defender Dena Joy Horton Stone cross-examined the DA’s witness.
Officers must include witness names and contact information in their reports, because witness testimony is used to determine appropriate charges.
However, Stone revealed that Lee did not record the name of the UC Davis Medical Center operator after speaking to her over the phone. Thus, there was no way of identifying the operator who heard Santos’s alleged threat.
During the call between Lee and the hospital operator, the operator stated that Santos had called the hospital approximately a dozen times. Because they reported that Santos seemed agitated and was using profane language, the operator believed the caller to be suffering from a mental health crisis. The operator also relayed that the caller was not currently at the UC Davis Medical Center and was residing in West Sacramento.
Stone questioned Lee’s testimony that the operator heard the caller threaten to drive a vehicle into the hospital and shoot the doctors. After being asked if that statement was verbatim, Lee stated, “I cannot answer, I just wrote what was stated to me over the phone.”
According to Lee, the hospital operator gave no names to the police and no times that this alleged threat would occur. In addition, when Lee attempted to contact the defendant, Santos denied making any threat to hurt anyone and said he believed the police were setting him up.
Similar to his earlier statement, Officer Lee recalled that Santos “spoke rapidly throughout the conversation,” and that “some of what Mr. Santos was saying was incoherent.” Lee also verified that Santos did not threaten to harm others or himself.
Next, Stone asked Lee about his contact with Santos’s sister, Natalie Cordova. It was revealed that, though Lee recorded the interaction on his body-worn camera, he never watched the footage in full, and failed to review the video before testifying in court.
Though Cordova told Lee that Santos was living in West Sacramento at the Granada Inn, Lee did not go to Santos’s home. Instead, later that morning, Lee received a call from Cordova and completed the report afterwards. The report did not include Lee’s contact with an “Officer Fakhimi,” although it did report Fakhimi’s contact with Cooper on April 6.
Examining the officers’ contact with Cooper, Lee mentioned that on April 6, Santos was seeking a doctor at the UC Davis Medical Center to sign a document. He acknowledged that at no point was Santos’s threatening phone call conveyed to any UC Davis doctors.
In addition, Officer Lee also confirmed that Cooper recalled Santos making his offensive remark as he was walking out of the building, but was not acting on any threat.
According to Lee, Cooper said that Santos came into the building to look for Cooper’s supervisor, Alicia Martinez, who was unavailable. Upon learning this, Santos became very agitated, and started screaming her name. Patients became nervous, so Cooper told him he was going to have to call the police.
Officer Lee could not say whether Cooper had been working with a coworker named Alicia that day, as he never spoke to any individual named Alicia at the UC Davis Medical Center.
Following her cross-examination, Stone called Cooper to the stand. Multiple times, Cooper’s audio cut out and his screen froze. However, he was able to recognize Santos, who waved at him.
Cooper’s testimony totally conflicted with that of police.
Cooper denied that Santos threatened him with death or great bodily injury, and said he did not recall Santos saying, “I’ll kick your a**.”
Cooper also noted he was never afraid of Santos, who left the building on his own accord.
Finally, to underscore that Santos posed no threat to Cooper, PD Stone asked Cooper to compare his height and weight with that of Santos, who was much smaller.
Even after being prompted by DDA Karp, Cooper testified that he did not recall Santos saying, “I’ll kick your a**.”
When Karp asked Cooper about agreeing with another report, Cooper said “that is not what I told the officer. I did not tell the officer that he said he would kick my a**. I told the officer that as he was leaving, he said “f— you, n*****.”
Under Karp’s cross-examination, Cooper stated that. while he deals with unruly patients often, he generally does not press the panic button. However, when Stone asked “did you press the panic button because you were scared of Mr. Santos, or because of the other patients?” Cooper reinforced that he pressed the button because a patient was threatening to call the police.
For her final argument, PD Stone cited a number of precedent cases to argue that there was insufficient evidence to paint Santos as any real threat.
However, Judge Shelleyanne W. L. Chang sided with the prosecution, ordered the case to move forward and denied a motion for bail made by Stone, who explained that Santos was receiving mental health treatment since being in custody.
This is the long and winding five-month road defendant Santos took before dismissal Tuesday, in effect “serving” a five-month sentence although never being found guilty of any crime.
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