By Susana Jurado
SACRAMENTO – The half million dollar bail “club”—several defendants hit that dubious milestone at the end of this last week in Sacramento County Superior Court.
One man “earned” his bond after he was charged with three felony counts of negligent discharge of a firearm, possessing a firearm with a prior felony conviction, and inflicting traumatic physical injury on his partner.
His bail was elevated to $500,000 and he was arrested and taken into custody during a bail hearing.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, on Aug. 22, Michael Washington, the defendant, was arguing with the victim, his current girlfriend at the time, over a television. The disagreement escalated to a tussle between the victim and Washington, causing the victim to fall down.
Washington took it further and punched the victim four times on her thigh, hitting each thigh twice. Then, the defendant left and allegedly fired gunshots outside her residence.
The victim said once she heard the gunshots, she immediately feared for her life, hoping he would not come back and kill her. After shots were fired, the defendant left the premises.
Witnesses in the area observed Washington shooting gunshots into the air with a firearm, and video captured the incident.
Washington was later discovered by authorities a few blocks away and was found with a firearm that had no serial number and a magazine with 13 rounds of ammo.
Washington has a criminal history including a felony charged in February 2019 for willfully threatening to commit a crime with the intention of instilling fear into the victim. That was his first felony strike on the record, leading to this, his most recent charge, a second strike allegation.
Judge Scott L. Tedmon began the hearing on Thursday by outlining to the defendant his rights to an attorney and further asking him if he could afford one.
Washington responded, “Yes sir, I’m looking for one right now.”
This prompted Judge Tedmon to question him, “Right, do you have an attorney with you this afternoon?”
Washington admitted to not having one and stated, “I’m in the process of getting one.”
Judge Tedmon reiterated to Washington the importance of having counsel on all stages of his court proceedings, and decided to directly appoint him a public defender as counsel, stating, “What I’m going to do is appoint a public defender for now and you can retain an attorney of your choosing, but I don’t want you to proceed without counsel. If you hire an attorney they can substitute in at any point during the case.”
Assistant Public Defender Rayla Freshwater accepted the appointment and stood in on behalf of Washington during the rest of the proceeding.
Deputy District Attorney Anissa Galata took this opportunity to ask the court to address bail on the matter of Washington.
The deputy district attorney highlighted to the court that the bail originally set at $50,000 was below the requested amount of $500,000 by the prosecution, and didn’t prioritize the safety of the general public and the victim.
“[I ask that] the defendant be remanded. This is an extremely serious case with serious conduct,” said DDA Galata, “It is alleged in the complaint that he and the victim, who were in a dating relationship for approximately three weeks and occasionally cohabitating, were engaged in a physical altercation over a TV. The defendant hit the victim four times on her thigh, punching each thigh at least twice.”
The deputy district attorney continued to describe the scene of the incident, emphasizing the victim’s fear for her life, noting, “After the defendant left, the victim heard gunshots outside and was scared that the defendant would come back and kill her. There were witnesses in the vicinity of the apartment complex that saw the defendant fire the firearm into the air and also heard the gunshots.”
Galata said the “evidence” was “captured on a Ream camera, so that video footage is available. In that same area, where the defendant shot the firearm, there was a casing that was found that matched the 9mm ammo from the firearm that he was in possession with.”
The deputy district attorney detailed to the court the sort of weapons that were found on Washington when he was caught, including a “semi-automatic firearm in his shoulder bag with an extended magazine, loaded with 9mm rounds of ammo; there were 13 rounds of ammo.”
Deputy DA Galata also pointed out to the court that Washington’s fired gun was illegally obtained as it had no legal serial number on it, and recalled his confession to the authorities to firing the gun, when first advised about his Miranda rights.
Judge Tedmon turned to Asst. Public Defender Freshwater for a response on behalf of Washington.
Ms. Freshwater did not object to the bail being changed, but did accentuate to the court that the matter on bail should be explored further on a later court date.
The public defender also said Washington has posted bond for the $50,000 bail that was already set, and admitted, “The bond was sufficient to secure his appearance in court. I would ask that if bail is changed, that it be without prejudice, so that we can do a more thorough bail motion at a later date.”
Judge Tedmon noted the ruling could be mitigated in Washington’s favor as his no failure to appear record was clear and he was present in court that day. However, based on the severity of the case and the extent of the injuries, the judge was concerned about public safety if Washington stayed out of custody.
Judge Tedmon expected to hear more from the defense as he asked, “Do you have any further response, Ms. Freshwater?”
But the public defender submitted on the matter and the deputy district attorney followed.
After a few moments of deliberation, Judge Tedmon ruled that the heavy facts of Washington violating his felony probation on a previous strike and the extent of the facts on the current charge supersedes Washington’s responsible manner of coming to court.
“The court finds that bail of $50,000 does not sufficiently protect the victim nor the public in general. Bail’s increased to $500,000 as requested by the People without prejudice to a further bail evaluation is accepted,” said Judge Tedmon.
Judge Tedmon exonerated the $50,000 bond and set the next court date for further proceedings and bail evaluation to Sept. 17 at 8:30 a.m. in the Sacramento Superior Court.
At that moment, cuffs were placed on Washington’s wrists behind his back and he was slowly led by the bailiff into custody with his head down.
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