By Roxanna Jarvis
SACRAMENTO – A Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled here Monday that Richard Coghill should be held to answer for the assault of a Rancho Cordova man—although, oddly, the victim and defendant know each other and the victim did not identify the defendant as an assailant.
It is alleged that Coghill and a second, unidentified man attacked the victim using a pipe and police-like baton on Jan. 29.
A church surveillance camera on Coloma Road in Rancho Cordova showed the victim and another male arriving in a pickup truck. Both men exit the car and make their way to the residential houses next door.
A short while after, the victim is seen running with two men chasing after him. The men quickly catch up to the victim and proceed to hit him several times with a pipe and what the victim described as a “police-like” baton. The surveillance video shows the attack lasting around 20-30 seconds, with the victim being struck several times.
Detective Michael Matranga, assigned with following up the investigation, asked the victim for his account of events. “[He said] these men chased him, called him a name, cussed at him, and attacked him.”
A man nearby saw the incident as well. “The two men were armed with stick-like objects, and were forcefully attacking the subject who then fell on the ground,” said Matranga, relaying the witness’ statement.
In a photo line-up, that bystander was able to identify Coghill as one of the attackers, and told the detective he had “seen Mr. Coghill before because of the frequency of the visits to a residential house [on the street],” explained Matranga. The witness is a neighbor and lives “extremely close” to the area of the incident.
The witness told Matranga he was about 80 percent positive it was Coghill. The witness was unable to identify the other suspect.
Although the witness identified one of the men as Coghill, the victim didn’t—and he knows Coghill personally. When asked by Private Attorney Yuri Hill if the victim and Coghill know each other, Matranga agreed.
“I don’t know the exact extent of their relationship but, yes, they are known to each other….They are acquaintances of some sort,” he said.
Instead, the victim stated he was attacked by “two unknown men.”
It is difficult to identify any of the individuals, including Coghill, on the church surveillance footage.
But for Matranga, it’s Coghill’s clothes that make all the difference. “Well his face is not clearly identified…but the clothing [Coghill] wore bared a strong resemblance to the clothing photographed [on Coghill] by patrol officers that same day.”
In the surveillance video, the attacker suspected of being Coghill was wearing a dark-colored baseball hat, tan pants, and dark shoes.
When officers went to the residence where Coghill was, they noticed that Coghill’s pants appeared to have blood on them. Officers also saw that Coghill had an injury to his leg.
In addition, a pipe and rock covered with blood were located at the house where Coghill was found.
The victim in the incident suffered several significant injuries, according to Matranga, who questioned the victim at UC Davis Medical Center. “He had a laceration on his scalp that required approximately five staples, in addition to an arm that appeared to be broken, and a cut and laceration to his left leg.”
Coghill was given an offer by Deputy District Attorney Alexandra Sanders at the beginning of the hearing, which attorney Hill and Coghill declined. It would have given Coghill a maximum of one year in prison or jail, five years of formal probation, and restitution to be paid to the victim in the case.
When giving his argument to Judge Allen Sumner, Attorney Hill based it on the victim’s inability to identify Coghill, arguing, “If the person who attacked was Mr. Coghill, [the victim] would have said so. We have another identification from someone who does not know Coghill, but sees people around and seems to be in his mind relatively sure.”
Hill then continued to note the lack of reliance the surveillance video provides, excluding the similarity of clothing displayed. “Mr. Coghill can’t be identified, Your Honor. I submit.”
DDA Sanders noted that, although the witness did not know Coghill, he was close enough to see what occurred. Concerning the victim’s statement, Sanders explained that it could be due to his physical state. “Although [the victim] did not identify anybody at the time, he’s also badly injured and in the hospital at the time detectives are speaking to him.”
Judge Sumner found there was sufficient evidence to hold Coghill to answer for the attack, but did address the concerns defense Attorney Hill raised.
“Mr. Hill, I understand your arguments. Whether there is sufficient evidence to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, it would probably turn on the credibility of the witnesses when they actually testify. That’s one of the weaknesses with the 115 hearsay prelim,” said the judge.
Sumner was referring to Proposition 115, which was passed in 1990 to allow trained peace officers to provide hearsay testimony during preliminary hearings.
“But for the purposes of a preliminary hearing, as you know it’s a very low standard with some rational ground with the possibility the offense was committed. The identification from the witness, the video, the clothing, [and] the circumstantial evidence of the pipe that was found are [all] sufficient evidence to hold Mr. Coghill to answer,” continued Judge Sumner.
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