THE VANGUARD WEEK IN REVIEW: Court Watch (Oct. 26 to Oct. 30, 2020)

Assembled by Roxanna Jarvis

The Davis Vanguard is an online news group that provides coverage of criminal justice reform and the courts throughout California and the nation. The Davis Vanguard began in 2006 by covering Davis and Yolo County with groundbreaking news about local government and policy issues affecting city, schools and county. It then expanded a few years ago to Sacramento and the surrounding region.

Today, the team has grown, encompassing about 40 to 50 interns who monitor and report on live court proceedings in more than six different counties throughout California, from the State Capitol in Sacramento to the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, to the Central Valley and Southern California.

Stories this week range from the murder of a man by his girlfriend to a couple being arrested for child endangerment to the Assessor of Contra Costa being charged for making racist, ageist, and sexist remarks to his employees.

This week, the interns covered courthouses in Yolo, Sacramento, Fresno, and Contra Costa County. They monitored more than 30 courtrooms, with up to 43 cases within a shift.

This is what you missed if you didn’t read The Vanguard – just a sample of what we reported this week:

Yolo County Superior Court

Reporter Madison Forwood: On Monday, Oct. 26, in Yolo 14,  Forwood was able to see a variety of hearings, a few of them significant cases. The first one was about a defendant who protected himself from potentially more jail time by bringing his proof of continuing mental health programming. Otherwise, this defendant, Defendant Richardson would have faced 90 days in jail. Another significant case concerned Defendant Miller who was in violation of his probation. Miller came in contact with the victim of his charges and the court was unaware of his whereabouts. The judge ultimately decided to establish a warrant for the defendant.

The last case Forwood believed to be particularly interesting was a preliminary hearing where the defendant was a native Spanish speaker in custody. He requested a Spanish translator, but once one arrived at the court, he refused to communicate with her as if he was unsure of what she was saying. The judge became very upset and sternly told the defendant that he must legally communicate with the translator now. After this, the defendant refused to be on Youtube and requested a closed courtroom. His hearing was moved to next week with a judge in a closed courtroom. The defendant’s public defender seemed shocked and confused.

Reporter Tiffany Devlin: On Oct. 26 in Dept. 12, there were about 23 cases, many of them being continuances. There were at least three cases where defendants did not show up due to medical reasons, or they were in the hospital. In one of the cases, Defendant Bernardo Ibara was in-custody for a trial readiness conference over Zoom from the county jail. Ibara refused to wear his mask while being escorted to the room according to staff. Eventually, Ibara was seen on Zoom, however not wearing his mask completely over his face.

Reporter Cailin Garcia: In Yolo 1, Judge Peter Williams was presiding over misdemeanor preliminary hearings. Most of the proceedings involved people deciding whether they wanted to request an attorney for their misdemeanor cases, then Judge Williams would appoint someone from the public defender’s office. Garcia said, “I  listened to the stream for almost an hour before the audio stopped working. The video still worked and showed the people speaking in the courtroom, but I could not hear their voices.

Reporter Kianna Anvari: Judge Paul K. Richardson called Jose Indalopez’s case on Tuesday, Oct. 27 in Dept 12. Indalopez, represented by Deputy Public Defender Monica Brushia, appeared on Zoom from the Monroe Detention Center. He is waiting for his attorney to work out the details of an immigration safe plea with Deputy District Attorney Michael Vroman. Indalopez is facing 12 misdemeanor and four felony charges.

Reporter Kailani Gaines: Dept. 14 of Yolo County was centered around the case of Denis Bugreyev, who was in custody for attempted murder and great bodily injury. This afternoon, the attorneys brought in the victim and a few officers to testify. Bugreyev had stabbed the victim back in Sept. with a filet knife and left her with wounds to be tended to in the ICU at UC Davis Medical Center. After seeing the image of herself wounded after the incident, the victim struggled to answer questions from the attorneys and repeatedly stated “I just want to go home – can I please leave”. Bugreyev’s case is set for arraignment on Nov. 10.

Reporter Anika Khubchandani: In Yolo County Superior Court’s Dept. 7, the jury found defendant Eduardo Aguilar Castro guilty of performing lewd and lascivious acts upon children under the age of 14. Castro was charged with over 20 instances of sexual assault on multiple victims. The lewd acts began on one victim around and between April of 1995 and April of 1997. Another victim was sexually abused from 1995 to 2002, and a third victim between 2012 and 2013. Judge David Reed, DDA Garret L. Hamilton, and Deputy Public Defender Karen Soell will all reconvene on Dec. 2, within the statutory time, for Castro’s sentencing hearing.

Sacramento County Superior Court

Reporter Ariel Abdullah: In Dept. 15, Judge McCormick presided over People v. Leandrew Eugene Smith for which Dominesse served as the public defender and Gong as the prosecutor. An officer of 13 years, Emily Griffin testified as a witness in the case. She is on the patrol unit for the Sacramento Police Dept. and on March 31, 2020, Emily spoke to the victim who said an acquaintance named “Packie” (Leandrew Smith) stole her vehicle at gunpoint. The victim met Smith at a friend’s house on 47th St., but also knew the mother of one of his children from her jail time. The victim said that she willingly gave Packie a ride north in exchange for gas money which he offered to pay. Smith asked her to stop at a gas station on 12th Ave. and switch seats in order for him to drive. When they switched, the victim noticed that Leandrew had a silver gun in his waistband. He demanded that she buy him a soda from the market since he was not wearing a shirt and while she was inside, she heard the engine turn on. The victim ran after him causing a commotion, so Smith stopped. She went back into the store, made her purchase, and continued the drive with the defendant.

After some minutes, Smith stopped the vehicle and placed his hand on his gun and forced her out of the car. He then turned the car around and headed south. The victim’s Silver Dodge Caliber was found at San Jose Way at a single-family residence where Leandrew was detained shortly after the officers’ arrival. Smith gave the officer a statement claiming that he had been with a female friend who made a scene at the gas station. However, he did not mention stealing a car or having a gun, but claimed he was hiding because of a warrant. His attorney, PD Pamela Dominesse, filed a not guilty plea for Smith.

Reporter Hannah Skepner: Monday morning in Dept. 9, there were five cases heard. Interestingly, two of these cases had defendants appearing on behalf of themselves. In the case of defendant Calvin Clements, the judge noted that the defendant was an attorney. However, in the other case of defendant Ramon Mendez, no such information was mentioned. In addition, there was also a witness identification. Three witnesses were identified, two via zoom, and one via telephone standby. The last witness was issued a bench warrant of $50,500 which will be stayed until Dec. 7. This witness was supposed to show in court, and failed to do so. She was also the defendant’s daughter.

In the case for defendant Gabriel Vasquez, there was a motion to consolidate that the judge was unaware of and had not had time to read, so it was continued until tomorrow morning. Lastly, in the matter of Defendant Arturo Venegas, the defense attorney was in jury trial so had asked for the matter to be continued until Friday, Nov. 13.

Reporter Dylan Ferguson: On Oct. 27 in Dept. 61, Judge Michael Sweet showed his frustration with defendant Chelsea Webster. Over the course of her case, Webster reached out to her appointed attorney a total of two times, not leaving a voicemail either time. However, Webster was not entirely in the wrong, for her appointed attorney in this case has failed to appear for the defendant twice. Judge Sweet took this into consideration, but Sweet reminded the defendant that he was not “going to play a game with a crime this serious” and that he expects her “to be much more concerned with her criminal cases.” Webster was charged with carjacking and a few other misdemeanors. Ultimately, Judge Sweet appointed a new attorney to represent Webster, Defense Attorney Param S. Pabla.

Reporter Cailin Garcia: In Sacramento Dept. 63, public defender Damien Novel requested that bail be set for defendant Kayla Villarreal. Previously, Judge Patrick Marlette had decided not to give her the option of paying bail. Citing a recent decision by the California Supreme Court in the Humphrey case, Novel explained that the court must consider Villarreal’s ability to pay bail when deciding bail amount. DDA Heather Phillips requested that if Villarreal is given a bail amount, it be set to $1 million. According to Phillips, Villarreal’s past of targeting strangers and using her car as a weapon makes her a potential danger to the community. Judge Marlette agreed that Villarreal presented a potential danger to others, deciding to stay firm in his decision to keep her in custody and not set an amount for bail.

Reporter Julian Navarro: For today’s court hearing on Oct 27, 2020, Navarro was in Dept. 62 where he heard 45 cases. Due to the total amount of hearings, a lot of the cases were done quickly while multiple were continued for further discovery of the cases. There were multiple defendants that had to be told to put their mask on properly,  as most of their masks did not cover their noses.

One defendant, Scott Cofer, started to scream abruptly that he wanted his public defender, Ronald Chan, to be fired. He also stated, “I don’t feel like I am getting a fair trial” and told the Court he wanted to represent himself. Due to these outbursts and being evasive, Judge Michael Savage told Cofer to leave the cell and go back down. According to public defender Chan, Cofer has denied medical attention before. Chan would like to speak to Cofer so he can convince him to take a medical evaluation, but he believes that Cofer would deny his request. This trial is set for Dec. 21, 2020, in Dept. 62.

Reporter Julian Verdon: In Dept. 61, Judge Michael Sweet did not release an autistic defendant, citing her own statements as one of his reasons. Shelbie Jackson claimed that she gets confused easily and cannot follow directions, which is why she could not appear for her initial court date. She then told the prosecutor, Kitty Tetrault, that she could not legally do that to her, not specifying what she meant. When Judge Sweet deliberated on whether to release her on her own recognizance, he stated he could not do so because she committed more crimes out of custody and she easily gets confused and lost. Therefore, he did not believe with that information she would show up to her next court date even though he sympathized with her situation.

Later when the defense and prosecution decided on a court date, Jackson inquired about bail. She stated that the detention facility she belonged to did not allow her phone calls. The attorney asked if the judge could order the jail to give her a phone call. However, he said he did not want to get involved and told Jackson to work with the jail. Apparently phone calls have been reduced during the pandemic despite facilities initially expanding on those programs.

In another case, Nicole Romano had violated a restraining order against her mother because her grandmother told her it was okay to visit. When the police arrived on the scene they were met with a non-compliant Romano. She allegedly held her feet outside of the squad car door so they could not drive away from the scene. Judge Michael Sweet said he did not want to release her on her own recognizance

Reporter Kianna Anvari: Judge Trena H. Burger-Plavan called Norva Patton’s case Wednesday in Dept. 11. Patton, represented by PD Patricia Contreras, appeared in custody at her preliminary hearing. She is being held under two counts: murder of a human being with malice afterthought and the use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony. A lethal stab wound from a knife to her boyfriend’s heart was the cause of death declared by the Sacramento County Coroner’s office. The toxicology report showed presence of methamphetamine in the victim’s blood, but the pathologist said that did not play a role in the cause of death. District Attorney Matt Chisholm questioned three sworn peace officers from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Dept. during Patton’s preliminary hearing. Patton admitted to murdering her boyfriend and Judge Burger-Plavan found her guilty on two counts.

Reporter Linhchi Nguyen: On Oct. 28, in Dept. 26, Judge Curtis M. Fiorini saw two interesting cases that appeared before him this Wednesday morning. For the first case, Defense Attorney Jon Gonzales and District Attorney Loni Linarez debated with each other on whether to have a motion during their pre-trial. Linarez stated that “the case law is pretty clear that these types of motions should be heard on the trial court.” That way, the “trial judge can hear all the evidence and weigh the value of the exculpatory evidence.” Gonzales insisted that he’s not asking the court to make any evidentiary ruling, but to dismiss the case completely due to lack of due diligence by the People. “Asking to dismiss is not limiting the evidence,” Gonzales stated. Judge Fiorini told Gonzales that he looked into the case beforehand and believed he would not be inclined to dismiss the case if he heard it on its merits. Therefore, he rejects Gonzales’s requests and has the attorneys proceed with the TRC on Dec. 16.

In a second case, a belligerent defendant, Mack Lucas, entered in the court, making claims that he is the “sole executive” of himself and refused the public defender to represent him. As Judge Fiorini attempted to oversee the hearing, Lucas interrupted him numerous times and prevented Public Defender Joni O’Connor from uttering a word. At one point, Lucas called the judge a “servant,” and claimed that the judge had no power over him. Finally, Judge Fiorini had the defendant removed from the courtroom, and after, he made an agreement with the attorneys to trail the preliminary hearing to Nov. 5.

Reporter Lauren Smith: In Dept. 31, there was a preliminary hearing for defendant Deion Abercrombie who is charged with two felonies: battery causing injury and elder abuse. Two deputies and one detective from the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office testified during the hearing. Deputy Patrick Walker testified that an argument between the defendant and his younger brother over laundry caused the victim, who is the 67-year-old grandfather, to intervene between the two brothers to stop the fighting. Abercrombie allegedly pushed his grandfather against and through the stair railing causing him to fall down the stairs. Detective Thomas Purser testified that the victim’s injuries consisted of a broken toe and scraped knees.

Public Defender Steven Hirsch argued in his brief closing statement that based on conflicting statements made to the officers from the other family members present during the altercation, it is difficult to say whether or not it was a “mutual struggle that resulted in a fall down the stairs or something more malicious than that.” After Judge Gerrit Wood decided to hold the defendant responsible for the charges, Hirsch argued that bail should be reduced from $50,000 because the defendant has no income and because “this is not a case where Mr. Abercrombie was predatorily victimizing his grandfather.” Deputy District Attorney Frederick Gotha stated that the defendant has two prior convictions of domestic violence and that the “safety concerns of the community far outweigh the other arguments the defense put forth.” Judge Wood ended up keeping bail as set.

Reporter Alana Bleimann: In Dept. 60, Public Defender Samantha Ting and Prosecutor Lal debated over defendant Jerald Matlock’s case surrounding a violation of a no-contact order. His victim, a young female, had privately spoken to PD Ting revealing that she was receiving threatening emails, letters, and voicemails from Matlock. The victim was “very scared for her safety” and claimed he is a danger to herself and the community. On the other hand, the defendant gave PD Ting nine different emails from the victim that stated she “thanked” him for the emails, ultimately undermining her call for protection. Judge Scott Tedmon left the $50,000 bail as is, reminded Matlock that he needed to stop contacting the victim, and set further proceedings for Dec. of this month.

Reporter Özge Terzioğlu: During Dept. 60’s afternoon calendar, defendant Isaiah Webster was released when his Public Defender Samantha Ting clarified that her client actually has been attending his sobriety for change classes. The judge ordered him to come back on April 16, 2021 with proof of his enrollment and attendance in his classes. The judge then released Webster on probation.

Additionally, defendant Steven Ento, who allegedly violated PC 273.5 corporal injury on a co-inhabitant or spouse, was also released on his own recognizance after being assigned 12 anger management and 12 parenting classes.

An attorney physically present in the courtroom was not wearing a mask, while his client and the bailiff were. No one in the courtroom asked him to put one on, and the attorney made a comment that reflected the idea that it was okay for him to not wear one because everyone else was.

Reporter Ariel Abdullah: In Dept. 63, Billy Johnson was represented by Steven Nelson and the prosecutor was Lauren Weiss. Johnson has five charges. For one charge, he pleaded no contest for low term-doubled resulting in 32 months. Johnson also pleaded no contest to a second misdemeanor for 90 days. Both of these charges will be credit for time served. Johnson is accused of willfully and unlawfully driving and taking a 2015 Nissan Truck (with the intent to temporarily keep the vehicle) which was found at a Kaiser hospital. He was caught on a hospital security camera, and his accusation will result in a felony. Previously, Johnson has been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.

Reporter Kalani Gaines: Dept. 61 of Sacramento Superior Court had five defendants appear in custody. There were also a total of nine waived appearances. The waived appearances were for various reasons, such as resetting jury trial dates and trial readiness conferences as well as to go over new discoveries. One defendant, Valerie Cowen, was able to have her case discharged due to insufficient evidence for vehicle theft.

Defendant Nathaniel Gallardo was willing to turn himself but he did not want to take his complete offer. He did not want to participate in the sheriff’s work program because, as he stated, “I don’t have the money to pay you to work for you guys so I refuse to do that.” Being that the DDA, Shelby Alberts, was a stand-in, there was confusion in regards to the plea for his co-defendant and the nature of the offer; therefore Judge Michael Sweet refused to set a preliminary hearing. “I wouldn’t want you to lose your offer,” Judge Sweet stated. Gallardo agreed and requested to speak to his attorneys at the end of the hearing. However, the bailiff had cut him off telling him to relax and let him speak when trying to respond to Judge Sweet as to whether he wanted to speak openly or privately. Gallardo was upset by the bailiff and changed his mind about speaking to his attorney. He is to return to court on Dec. 9 to resolve.

Defendant Jose Tenango was declared to be a clear threat to public safety as District Attorney Adrienne McMillan stated, “he’s a very clear danger to the community, for the last four years he’s had back to back DUIs” (four to be exact). Tenango was brought to this hearing today for his fifth DUI. Tenango’s attorney, Hendrick Crowell, asked that Tenango stay out of custody and, if not, to only set bail $10,000 with the condition of being immediately put on Scram X upon release. McMillan deferred and asked that bail be set to $100,000. Judge Sweet compromised to have Tenango’s bail be set at $50,000 and ordered him to be on Scram X upon his release. Tenango is to serve nine years and four months in the state prison. His next court date is Dec. 9.

Reporter Tiffany Devlin: On Oct. 28, in Dept. 62, there were a total of about 43 cases heard. In one of them, Assistant Public Defender Teresa Huang requested for defendant Zefram Juhasz’s bail in his misdemeanor cases to be reduced to zero. Huang also requested for his bail in his felony case to be reduced.

Huang claimed that Juhasz was a victim of the 2018 CampFire in Paradise, which is considered one of the most destructive wildfires in California. “All his belongings are in a storage unit that he’s concerned he’s going to lose, and then he’d be left with nothing,” said Huang.

Huang also stated that Juhasz’s father’s ashes were in the storage unit, which he was also concerned that he was going to lose. Despite Juhasz’s circumstances, Judge Michael Savage did not want to reduce his misdemeanor bail amounts to zero. In addition, Judge Savage was not comfortable with reducing Juhasz’s bail in his felony matter any less than $50,000.

Savage claimed that, “not only is it a 2800 on the felony, but two of his misdemeanors are 148’s, which suggest strongly that he’s not interested in submitting to police capture peacefully.”

Juhasz was alleged to have violated Vehicle Code 2800.2, which involves evading police in a vehicle and driving with a willful disregard for the safety of persons or property. Additionally, Judge Savage refers to “148’s” as Penal Code 148, which is a statute dealing with the crime of resisting or obstructing an arrest.

Juhasz’s bail in his misdemeanor cases were left at $5,000 while his bail in the felony matter was left at $50,000. His total bail is $65,000.

Reporter Dylan Ferguson: Ferguson was also in Dept. 62 on Oct. 28. Judge Savage ruled on 19 different continuances. At one point, Judge Savage stated that he was about “thirty minutes behind” and he could not grant a Marsden motion. Following these continuances, the Dept. switched into night court with Judge Ken Brody. Similarly, Judge Brody ruled pm 10 continuances. Judge Brody also mentioned that “there were 30 people in the Zoom waiting room” and that something like this cannot happen in the future.

Reporter Derrick Tat: On the morning of Oct. 29 in Dept. 60, the cases heard were mainly arraignments. Most were time waivers for further proceedings pushed back to a later date. Many defendants were not required to show up besides the ones in custody. A few other cases were no contest pleas.

One case talked about the defendant, Sanford Brooks, who faces a felony domestic violence case for attacking his pregnant girlfriend. He threw her to the ground outside her house and argued over the issue of getting his items back. He also had prior cases of domestic violence with the same victim.

There were mostly arraignments during Dept. 60’s afternoon calendar as well. Judge Tedmon showed sympathy with a few cases. The first one being with Jonathan Morales, who left the residence he lived in with the victims of domestic violence, and is now living with a friend. Morales’ father is also going through medical issues, in which he needs to take care of. Judge Tedmon reduced his bail, required him to attend two meetings a week and meet with probation once a week.

In the second case, defendant Angela Rainwater explained her issues of homelessness and not being able to complete her treatment program. Judge Tedmon waived the fees for the program, reduced class fees, and shared her resources that can help her get back on her feet.

Reporter Carlin Ross: It was a busy day in Dept. 62 on Oct. 29, but Judge Savage worked diligently through his crammed schedule. In the case of Defendant Delvonta Fields, Judge Savage was presented with a bail review. Defense attorney Linda Parisi asked for a reduced bail from $500,000 to $250,000 for her client. While Jesse Saucedo, representing the prosecution, argued Fields was a previous felon and, therefore, guilty of possessing a firearm and not complying with officers. Saucedo’s argument against Fields implied Field’s intended to use his gun for gang violence. Linda Parisi ended up correcting the District Attorney by stating there was “no allegation of acts of violence by Mr. Fields.”

Reporter Kelly Moran: In the ongoing case of two defendants involved in a two stop cell phone shop robbery, David Fritz and Glenn Burgler. Fritz and Burgler were a part of a group of four, two of which already pled to their involvement in the crime and are now serving time in Folsom State prison and San Quentin Prison. Both Fritz and Burgler’s defense attorneys tried to argue that there was not enough evidence to prove their clients’ guilt, but the Judge agreed with the evidence provided by DDA Matthew Moore, who highlighted the specifics of the surveillance tape footage. Both defendants will return to court to be formally arraigned on Friday, Nov. 13. While Fritz appeared in court in person, Burgler was temporarily released for a “personal matter”, and appeared via zoom lying down on what looked to be a bed.

Reporter Mengyu Yang: On Oct. 29 in Dept. 10, Kristina Rodriguez and Kenneth Todd were charged for sales of drugs and for child endangerment. Two officers testified that at the time of the arrest, stating that the conditions of the house Rodriguez and Todd lived in were filthy, mentioning floors covered in garbage and feces, a fridge full of expired and perished foods, and a decaying mouse discovered in one of the kitchen cabinets. This was an issue considering that two children lived in the house. In addition to subjecting these children to unhealthy conditions, Rodriguez and Todd involved the children with their drug dealings. With one instance, Rodriguez asked her older child to hand a bag containing drugs to a man at the door and take money from him while she was away.

At the time of the arrest, 246 grams of Methamphetamine were found inside a duffle bag inside the closet of one of the bedrooms. In addition, Officer Tera Carson noted that 94 grams of meth, $1,000 in cash, and 165 pills of oxycodone were found in Rodriguez’s bra.

Kenneth Todd’s counsel, Larry Pilgrim, sought to reduce his felony charge of child endangerment to a misdemeanor, claiming that although the house was in poor condition, there was sufficient food for the children. Judge Ernest Sawtelle denied this request, stating that the terrible conditions of the house, the ages of the children, and the use of the children in drug sales makes the child endangerment offense a felony.

Reporter Özge Terzioğlu:  Defendant Jhon Casteneda, who allegedly told the victim that “she deserved to have every bone in her body broken” and threatened to slit her throat and her dog’s throat, was released on a level four release, and he has to check in with pretrial services every week.

Defendant Adam Blueford got frustrated and blurted out an exasperated “Oh, c’mon what’s going on?” when his PD Alicia Hartley requested to continue his case to Nov. 9. PD Hartley requested a breakout room to explain the situation to him. Judge Scott Tedmon set his bail to $25,000. Defendant Blueford’s projected release date is Feb. 10, 2021, and he reacted with “Damn, that’s five months!” Judge Tedmon responded back “Well, that’s how it is, sir, that will be the order.”

Defendant Antonio Faaeteete allegedly threw a coffee pot at the victim’s head, and was released since his case was a misdemeanor.

In Defendant Michael McLaughlin’s case, the victim came in and requested for his no contact order to be lifted and replaced with a peaceful contact order. This request was granted.

In Defendant Julio Mora’s case, PD Alicia Hartley pointed out that the bail was set at $55,000, but his case is a misdemeanor. Judge Tedmon said this was a misprint and corrected the bail to $5,000. DDA Stephanie Maroun requested Mora go to three AA meetings per week because he has several alcohol related run-ins with the law, and it appears that “the defendant drinks then attacks the victim.” PD Hartley said that was an excessive request. Judge Tedmon met them in the middle and ordered the defendant to attend two AA meetings per week, completely abstain from alcohol, obey the no contact order, and to bring proof of his attendance of the AA meetings to his next court date.

Reporter Hannah Skepner: On Oct. 30 in Dept. 9, there were a total of eight cases heard. Out of all eight, six of these matters were continued to a new date either for a preliminary hearing or for what seemed like a dismissal. The other two matters  heard were dismissed for insufficient evidence. All defense attorneys today appeared 977 on behalf of their clients, and only one defense attorney appeared in the court, while all others were appearing via Zoom.

Reporter Josue Monroy: In Dept. 23, Judge Laurie M. Earl presided over the hearing of co-defendants Paul and Robert Abeyta. They were present to continue on a case involving illegal weapons possession, with the DA and defense reaching an agreement. Robert’s charges were dismissed, and Paul would plead no contest to the weapons charge.

Paul Abeyta had previously committed an armed robbery in 2008 at the age of 17, and subsequently became a ward of the state. The conviction for that crime stipulated that he not own or have in his possession any firearms until the age of 30. Abeyta was 29 at the time of his arrest. A Glock 19 handgun and an “AR-style” rifle were found at his residence.

The maximum charge for the current offense would be 10-plus years if found guilty, and the no contest plea reduces the prison time to two years.

In Dept. 84, Judge Phillip Stanger maintained an expedient rhythm in knocking out a packed DUI-related case calendar. He was very matter-of-fact with defendants that had failed to enroll in alcohol treatment programs, and advised them not to waste their or the court’s time by “going in circles”. He was lenient with the time he allotted for individuals to enroll, and gave most of them up to three months to do so.

Reporter Lauren Smith: In Dept. 3, there was a preliminary hearing for defendant Aaron Givins, who is charged with two counts of burglary and two counts of taking advantage of a state of emergency to commit burglary. One officer and one detective testified that the defendant robbed two different stores on May 31. They say Givins allegedly broke into one store and stole cigarettes among other items, and broke into a different store to steal shoes and socks. Judge Gerrit Wood felt that the evidence was strong enough for a preliminary hearing so the Givins’ trial was set for Feb. 8.

Reporter Emma Phillips: Sacramento Superior Court finished their afternoon calendars early on Friday. There seemed to be an overall yearning for the weekend as judges ended their sessions and wished counsel a happy Halloween.

Most notably, Judge Philip F. Stanger of Dept. 84 reminded his clerk, bailiff, and a representative from an alcohol education program of the importance of being prepared for the calendar before coming to court. Judge Stanger reminded the representative of a time about a year ago when her program had a serious problem with checking the court calendar in advance to know what cases to bring to the judge’s attention. He repeatedly said, “we can’t go back there,” meaning the general disorganization of DUI court.

When the case of defendant Palmer arose on the calendar, the clerk told Judge Stanger that the case had been moved to Dept. 8; however, court proceedings have yet to take place. The representative claims her program has been reaching out to Palmer since August and he has still failed to enroll in an alcohol education program. Judge Stanger exclaimed to the court, “we can’t lose track of a felony, we can’t do this, I’m sorry that sounds harsh but it’s just the way it is”. The judge was visibly exasperated by the court’s shortcomings on Friday.

Fresno County Superior Court

Reporter Ruby Chavez: On Tuesday, Defendant Hector Cabraja returned to court to show his progress on domestic violence classes. His Spanish interpreter, Alex Quintana, answered for him as he explained that he submitted his progress report to Judge Zepeda. Since his court hearing in Jan., he has gone to classes every Wednesday, which tomorrow he will have 51 completed classes. Judge Zepeda also asked him if he had his fees caught up, and he nodded while Quintana answered “yes, I have everything caught up.” He will return to court on Nov. 17th with his completion certificate.

Reporter Cailin Garcia: In Dept. 1, Judge William Terrance presided over several cases. Most of the proceedings were people accepting plea deals for DUI misdemeanor charges. Most of the people pleaded no contest to a wet reckless driving charge, then their other misdemeanors would be dropped. The plea deals usually involved doing three years informal probation, wet reckless classes, and a fine. Out of all the cases, only one involved the defendant choosing to pursue a jury trial. Defendant Dominik Herrold has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanors: driving under influence while blood alcohol level is 0.08% or more and driving under the influence of alcohol. Herrold’s jury trial is scheduled to take place on Nov. 14, 2020 at 8:30 AM in Fresno court Dept. 1.

Reporter Kelly Moran

On Oct. 29, Judge Terrence presided over a long list of DUI cases in Dept. 1 in Fresno Superior Court. Two cases stood out in particular as the defendants proactively began their rehabilitation prior to their court hearings. Defendant Jose Hernandez completed the first time offender program on his own, while the second, Efrain Contreras, already completed his DMV classes and installed the interlock device on his car. Both defendants were sentenced to three years of informal misdemeanor probation and four days to be completed in the adult offenders program.

Contra Costa County Superior Court

Reporter Emma Phillips: On Oct. 29, Dept. 22 heard the case of Gus Kramer, the assessor of Contra Costa County, in front of Judge John Cope. Kramer was accused of making racist, ageist, and sexist remarks to his employees from 2014 to 2019. Two witnesses took the stand on Thursday, a male and female, to describe their experiences. They were first examined by Prosecutor Chris Walpole and then Defense Attorney Michael Rains.

The female witness describes how Kramer said he “liked her breasts” and continued to stare at her breasts for an uncomfortably long amount of time. She also heard Kramer talking to a coworker, saying “your shirt is so provocative, I should turn you in for that”. Prior to this incident, the witness was scared to file a formal complaint for fear of retaliation or termination, but this incident sent her over the edge.

The male witness went on to tell how Kramer threatened his termination for seemingly no reason, saying that he should be able to go to the retirement board because he is old enough. The witness interpreted this remark as age discrimination. He also encountered two racist remarks coming from Kramer, one about a political figure’s race, stating “white male voters would never vote for a f***ing Mexican”, and one about the witness’s race saying “so you’re a f***ing beaner?” The witness was shocked that Kramer would say either of these things.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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