Anxious Homeless Defendant Convinced Not to Cut an Early Deal

By Kelly Moran

WOODLAND –– Nicole Cheree Van appeared for her arraignment in Dept. 1 of Yolo County Superior Court this Thursday, and made it clear that because she is homeless it is difficult for her to continually come back to court.

“I don’t really want to have all these court dates, I’m on the streets and it’s hard to get around,” she confessed, adding, “I don’t want to go to jail.”

Van, who is facing multiple misdemeanor charges of petty theft of retail merchandise and shoplifting as well as battery, was originally scheduled to appear Oct. 15, but failed to show, forcing Judge Peter Williams to issue three notices to appear for November.

Alvina Tzang from the District Attorney’s office explained the deal offered to Van includes “to plead to shoplifting and battery, it will be three years informal probation, 30 days county jail that she can do on alternative program, stay away from the Walmart in West Sacramento and the Circle K in Woodland.”

Van also faces a fine of $1,065 for the battery and a minimum fine of $286 for shoplifting.

Seeming to refer to the charge of battery connected to her shoplifting case, Van interrupted Miss Tzang to tell the judge “she wouldn’t let go of my arm,” to which the judge explained that her arraignment was not the time for her to argue her case.

Even so, Van continued to explain that she wanted to get through this case swiftly, and told the judge that she would take the deputy district attorney’s deal that offered time in an alternative program instead of a jail sentence.

“I’ll take the plea they were talking about before, I just didn’t understand that,” she said, “I can do a program, I just don’t know where…I’m trying to get into a program and get settled.”

Judge Williams urged her to consider the potential mistake of moving too quickly with this deal,

“I understand that,” he said, “but the consequences of the offer may be long lasting for you which is why I have appointed an attorney to represent you.”

Unable to afford a lawyer, Van was assigned Deputy Public Defender John Sage as her representation for her future court appearances.

Unfortunately, Van said she does not have a phone, and therefore would not have access to contacting Sage to discuss her case prior to her next hearings. Van quickly demonstrated her determination to fix this and said she would go buy a phone that very day, and return to court later to update her contact information.

Sage attempted to have her next hearing set for Dec. 11, but Van expressed her difficulties with that, saying, “I have court, I have to be in Sacramento then; I would like to do this today….you don’t have anything before?”

Sage seemed agitated, noting, “Ma’am I don’t have enough time to go through all of this,” yet Judge Williams chuckled a little at the directness of Van and was able to schedule her to return to Dept. 1 on November 30.

Kelly Moran is currently a senior at Santa Clara University, though originally from Connecticut. She is majoring in English, with a focus on British Literature and Professional Writing, and is also minoring in Journalism.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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