The Vanguard Week In Review: Court Watch (Nov. 23 to Nov. 25, 2020)

Compiled by Özge Terzioğlu

The Davis Vanguard is an online news forum that provides coverage of criminal justice reform and courts throughout California and the nation. In 2006, the Davis Vanguard began to cover Davis and Yolo County groundbreaking, local news concerning government and policy issues affecting the city, schools, and county. In the past few years, the online news source has been able to expand to Sacramento and the surrounding regions. 

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 of Sacramento to the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley and Southern California. 

Stories this week range from a smoking pipe found in a defendant’s rectum to a defendant countering an offer to serve 180 days in jail with 60 days. Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, fewer Departments were hearing cases on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (Nov. 23 to Nov. 25) of this week. Court was not in session on Thanksgiving Day or on Friday, Nov 27. If cases were being heard, they seemed to mostly be continuances and failures to appear. Interns covered courthouses in Sacramento and Yolo counties. They monitored about eight courtrooms, and dozens of cases in each court shift.


Reporter Evie Sun: On Nov. 23 in Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette resided over Dept. 63. Defense attorney David Foos and prosecutor Nick Karp collaborated on a plea bargain for a violation of defendant Justın Johnigan’s probation in 2016 and unlawful possession of a firearm.


In Dept. 84, Judge Phillip Stanger handed out DUI cases with the public defender and Deputy District Attorney Brown. Each of the defendants were offered a work release program as an alternative to paying fines to cover their DUI charges. The majority of the defendants chose the program over the fine, with the exception of one defendant, who chose to pay the fine instead.

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Reporter Dalia Bautista Rodriguez: On Nov. 23 in Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 60, there was a domestic violence case and a vehicle theft case. The defendant’s bail was set at $50,000 and he had a similar strike from 2004. He had no prior domestic violence cases and is a registered sex offender. In the next case, the defendant was charged with battery against a person in a previous relationship, and his bond was set at $5,000. The rest of the defendants failed to show, so bench warrants were issued.

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In Dept. 84, all the cases involved DUI’s. The defendants in each case were given the choice of either going to jail or paying the fine. Most of the defendants chose the option of doing a work project and only one defendant decided on the fine. The work project would be 4 days long, and if they stood with good credit, they were able to reduce the time to 2 days. One of the requirements was to complete an alcohol education class. The class would last 3, 6, or 9 months, depending on their charges. After they complete the work project, they would have to get their license fully restored by the DMV. Only two of the cases consisted of DUI’s relating to drugs, which was THC.

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Reporter Julian Navarro: On Nov. 24, in Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 63 most of the cases were short ones, and court finished around 10:35 a.m. Both Judge Patrick Marlette and Deputy District Attorney Spencer Rajabzadeh were notably relieved that the court docket finished so early. Defendant Chang Vang stood out in court today due to the number of cases against him. There were seven active cases prior to this date of Nov 24, 2020, involving this defendant. For one of Vang’s cases, it was alleged the defendant committed 5 penal code violations: PC 10851, unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle, PC 496(a), receiving stolen property, PC 23152 (f) DUI of drugs in California, PC 11377 (a) possession of the controlled substance, and PC 11364 possession of drug paraphernalia.

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Reporter Koda Slingluff: On Nov. 24, the livestream for Dept. 61 ended midway through the first case and never came back on.

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Reporter Macy Lu: On Nov. 24, in Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 62, defendant Curtis Fleming was sentenced to two years of formal probation for each of his 2 active charges. Deputy District Attorney Amanda Sanchez reported that 1 charge deals with his robbery of a bicycle and another charge deals with his attempted concealment of a .22 caliber revolver and 12-13 grams of meth.  Fleming will serve 270 days in the county jail. After he’s released, he will become eligible to serve the remainder of his sentence through a Sheriff’s work project. The judge allowed for him to serve the two probations concurrently.

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Defendant Joaquin Johnson, who had 5 charges on the docket, and defendant Jassier Guzman, who had 7, both appeared without having an attorney assigned to them yet. Attorney Meredith Schaff from the defenders’ panel appeared on their behalf to explain to the judge and DA Sanchez the mistake and was able to push back both their hearings to the morning of Dec. 1st. Defendant Johnson was particularly disgruntled by the delay because he mistakenly believed that today was his release day. The judge then reminded him of his five charges on the docket. When he attempted to voice his opinion, the judge advised him against it on the account that anything he says on the record can be used against him. Upon hearing that, he stopped talking.

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Reporter Kianna Anvari: On Nov. 25 in Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 60, Judge Renard Shepard called defendant Phillip White’s case. Defendant White appeared in court, in custody, appeared via Zoom. White faced three misdemeanor counts—one for spousal abuse and injury and two for battery against a person with previous relationship. White asked to be released on his own recognizance because he does not have a significant record, but the prosecution objected because the victim says he has a serious alcohol problem and she is afraid of him. The judge denied the request for OR and left bail at $5,000.

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Reporters Linhchi Nguyen and Nickolas Kwok: On Nov. 25 in Dept. 63 of the Sacramento Superior Court, a tense argument broke out between Deputy District Attorney Dinah Mielke and defense attorney Kelly Babineau. Mielke requested the court to extend the case under the government’s emergency order for PC 1382 due to the fact that the victim and key witnesses were being quarantined in Hawaii. Because Babineau did not believe that Mielke had good cause for extending the case, she filed a motion to dismiss it entirely. During her argument, the defense accused Mielke of abusing the emergency order and denying the defendant his rights to due process and a speedy trial. However, Judge Patrick Marlette decided that there wasn’t an explicit statement for an attorney to establish good cause under the emergency order. Therefore, he overruled Babineau’s motion, but encouraged the attorneys to return on the following Monday in order to resolve any further issues.

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Reporter Roxanna Jarvis: On Nov. 25 in Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 61, there were approximately 26 cases heard. One of the cases which occurred concerned Defendant Ryan Swingle. DDA Frederick Gotha seemed shocked when Swingle denied his offer to serve 180 days in the Sacramento County Jail. Since Swingle was in custody, Gotha informed Swingle that his actual sentence would be less than 180 days. “Yeah, no thank you,” answered Swingle. His public defender, Michael Mullan, then informed him that denying the offer would mean he’d have to go to a violation of parole (VOP) hearing, where if Swingle lost, his probation would be terminated and he would be sent to prison. “That’s alright,” said Swingle. “Is it possible to counteroffer or no?” Swingle asked. “What would you like to counteroffer?” asked Gotha. Swingle asked for 60 days. DDA Gotha then told the Court that he offered 180 days because Swingle was last sentenced to 180 days for a previous VOP. “We’re like right up, butting against going to prison. but, if he were to resolve now, we wouldn’t have to go through the process of a hearing, we’ll keep him in local time so he doesn’t have to experience the prison system.” Swingle then asked how much time he would serve if he did indeed lose his probation. The court reporter was then heard yelling something to Judge Michael Sweet. “Yeah, don’t take any of it, G.” Judge Sweet promptly turned off the livestream.

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Reporter Alana Bleimann: On Nov. 25th in Dept. 27 of Sacramento Superior Court, Judge Steven M. Gevercer found defendant Ernest Knox guilty of assault with a deadly weapon in a domestic violence case. When questioned by both Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Maroun and Assistant Public Defender Pamela Jean Dominisse, officer witness Dalton Ford revealed that defendant Knox was involved in a domestic violence case between himself and his girlfriend in late July of this year. He struck her over the head with a large drinking glass, causing her to need stitches. Additionally, at the hospital, doctors found a smoking pipe in Knox’s rectum. It is unknown if this pipe is related to the incident. Judge Gevercer filed a new protective order for the girlfriend and an arraignment for Knox is set for December of this year.


Reporter Koda Slinguff: On Nov. 24 in Dept. 1 of Yolo County Superior Court, there was an in-custody arraignment followed by several out-of-custody arraignments. A representative from the probation Dept. was there as well to speak on several cases. The primary DA and public defender present both had the last name Johnson. Defendant Rodney Edmonson pleaded not guilty to a felony domestic violence charge.

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Reporter Dylan Ferguson: On Nov. 25 in Dept. 1 of Yolo Superior Court, Judge Peter Williams stated, “A lot of no shows today.” Following this, he issued 8 bench warrants ranging from $5,000-$25,000.

Özge Terzioğlu is from San Diego and she is a sophomore at UC Berkeley majoring in Rhetoric and minoring in Turkish.

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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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