By Carlin Ross
SACRAMENTO – A deputy district attorney did everything she could here Monday to consolidate minor misdemeanor cases involving a homeless mother with children, but in the end the judge agreed with the defense counsel and consolidation was denied.
For a cases to be consolidated, the two cases must not be “particularly inflammatory,” involved with the death penalty or disproportionate in strength, stated Deputy District Attorney Alison Wieder in Sacramento County Superior Court, Dept. 37 Monday.
The DDA claimed neither of defendant Celeste Nicole Reed’s separate misdemeanor charges obstructed any of these requirements: violation of Penal Code section 240, attempted assault, and of Penal Code section 148, resisting an officer.
Instead, Wieder suggested both chargers were “under the same class of crimes, so they can be consolidated under Penal Code section 954.1: assault of conduct and potential for violence,” which allows for the consolidation of cases without cross-admissible evidence.
When Judge Kristina Linquist asked about Reed’s alleged threats in the cases, Wieder informed her that the first threat came from the resisting charge, where Reed threatened to light her motorhome on fire and resisted the officers who tried to stop her.
In the case of the assault charge, the DDA declared the victim’s car broke down and Reed declined the victim’s desire to call for help. Instead, Reed chased the victim out of the car to an establishment where she coughed on the victim, claiming she had COVID-19 and hollered malicious threats.
Reed’s defense attorney, Jeanne Munoz, had a very different story to tell.
In the first case, she clarified that Reed was homeless, with homeless children, working with a homeless outreach program, when she was initially asked to move the motorhome the program had provided her.
After moving the home to where she was specifically instructed by an outreach caseworker, she was then told it would be towed. The idea of losing her possessions caused Reed to become hysterical when approached by the police.
Munoz stated “the threat was a hyperbole” made out of “stress and frustration.” As a “poor person of color,” Reed “struggled to stabilize a house and home life,” therefore, she was just asking “what do I have to do to get someone’s attention? Do I have to burn my house down?”
Munoz added that it seemed “counter-intuitive” for Reed to want to burn down the only house she has to live in with her children, to which the judge commented, “I know people act outside their self-interest all the time.”
In Reed’s second case, Munoz argued Reed hadn’t even finished paying off the car when it broke down. Instead, Reed asked a car shop to help her with the broken car, and only grew hysterical again when the owner of the shop asked her if she needed to call 911, because “she thought someone was going to take her possessions again.” Reed did not have COVID-19, so it was an added empty threat.
Munoz asked for the cases to be kept separate and to be judged on their own merit because the factual basis in both were different, requiring separate testimonies to be heard.
Munoz also asked for the assault charge to be reduced because her “client has been trying to get adequate housing for 10 years and this [would] dramatically affect her ability to get help.”
“It would be improper to amend charges right now. It’s not the role of the judge to amend or dismiss a crime. The People are still discussing what the offer is,” Wieder responded when the judge asked about her stance on the charge reduction. Judge Linquist agreed and proceeded.
In reply to Munoz, the DDA noted “just because the defense doesn’t want them, doesn’t mean they cannot be consolidated if they are coming from the same class of crimes, or have common characteristics.”
Judge Linquist recognized how one case couldn’t be talked about without the other, and how joining the case could save the court time. However, she denied the motion to consolidate because it unfairly benefited the DA.
These cases not only occurred during different years, but consolidating the cases would provide the DA with evidence to “just say hey, the defendant is an angry person,” concluded the judge.
Celeste Nicole Reed’s cases will be heard separately on Dec. 21 in Sacramento Dept. 9.
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