Judge Chooses to Believe Less Flattering View of Young, COVID Positive Suspect – Keeps High Bail

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By Özge Terzioğlu

SACRAMENTO – There are apparently two sides to defendant Devin Sanders – and Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet chose Monday to believe the less flattering side.

Defendant Devin Sanders’s attorney, Dina Santos, asked Judge Sweet to release her COVID-19 positive client to quarantine at his home with conditions or lower his bail to $50,000.

Judge Sweet said he couldn’t do that because of the severity of the alleged charges, and instead lowered his bail from $275,000 to $200,000.

Santos described the character of her client, noting defendant Sanders is just over 18 years old, and this is his first offense. He is the oldest of six kids in his family. He has a full-time job at Walmart, and he is a full time student at Sacramento City College. He has a 3.35 GPA and is taking difficult classes, like statistics and advanced English.

He wasn’t transferred between jails because he didn’t get a COVID-19 test. When he was tested, he was positive for COVID-19, so he’s currently being quarantined.

She expressed concern for her client’s health and safety, but also for the staff of the court and the jail, because having a COVID-19 positive client “is a risk for everyone.”

Santos detailed the events from the defendant’s perspective. She said defendant Sanders was driving when he saw he was being followed. A car was “racing behind him, on the side of him, then in front of him.”

Defendant Sanders then “fired a round into the air.” Supposedly there is a video from the victim of the incident, but Santos doesn’t have it and was hoping to obtain it before the hearing Monday.

She noted that “although we have serious allegations, I don’t believe [Sanders] is a danger, he comes from a very stable family environment, he has no previous convictions.”

Santos also explained to the court that the defendant’s own father was hospitalized for over a week because he had COVID-19 (he’s now out of the hospital, but still on oxygen). She explained that his family has a room ready for the defendant to quarantine in, and they understand the importance of isolation and how to deal with COVID-19.

The defense acknowledged that there is “public safety concern from allegations of the charges as well as COVID,” but still argued that bail should be lowered to “a reasonable amount.

Santos reiterated that her client is not a flight risk because he’s a lifetime Sacramento resident. She suggested bail to be lowered to $50,000, but said that even this “is not an easy amount for [the defendant’s] family to come up with.”

Judge Sweet remarked that this is a “very strange portrayal of the man you’re describing versus what I’m looking at regarding the charges.”

Deputy District Attorney Frederick Gotha is taking over this case from another DDA, so he did not have all of the information because the defense was still emailing the previous DDA about the case.

Still, DDA Gotha said, “I’m concerned about the nature of the charges. The defendant has this version that he’s being chased by this car, but the victim says they’re cut off by this car and it’s driving erratically, so they followed it to get pictures of the license plate.”

He further explained that when the police get the defendant at his residence, they see a semi-automatic firearm with a 30-round magazine in the passenger seat, and there was a shell casing in the car.

DDA Gotham said the defendant’s claim that he shot in the air was inconsistent with what victims said. Furthermore, the DDA said that the defendant told other people that he shot at the car.

Gotham concluded his opinion: “I’m highly concerned that he’s in the community with a possibly stolen, illegal, unregistered firearm. I’m not sure if that’s consistent with a student who has a job. It is a large safety concern that he has a weapon like that and is willing to use it in a situation that should’ve been resolved with a conversation. That level of violence is very disturbing.”

To clarify, Dina Santos said she doesn’t have any information on if the firearm was stolen. She reiterated the importance of seeing the video taken by the victims.

She repeated that “[her] concern today is if there’s a way to hasten release, I would like to do that. If there’s other conditions, maybe quarantine or a home detention with an ankle monitor, if there’s any way to assure the court of his appearance, my client is willing to comply.”

There is no offer made in this case, and the attorneys clarified that the firearm was not stolen, but unregistered.

Judge Sweet admitted that the defense’s request was a “tough call because he presents well from your point of view, Ms. Santos, but the allegations are serious, quite serious. Since the DDA hasn’t met with the victim to ascertain some things, also the charges seem so inconsistent with the individual you are describing, but I have to consider the safety of the community.”

After considering each side presented in the hearing, Judge Sweet rejected Santos’s request to release her client or no or low bail, and instead only lowers bail from $275,000 to $200,000.

Defendant Sanders’s next court date is on Nov. 23, at 1:35 pm in Dept. 61.


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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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