By Kalani E. Gaines
SACRAMENTO – A victim who had her home damaged was actually thankful that the defendant—her son—was released out of custody rather than sent to jail.
Miguel Espitia, who was in custody during his hearing at Sacramento County Superior Court for damaging his mother’s home, was ordered to participate in a rehabilitation program rather than continue jail incarceration.
Despite the favorable ending for these family members, Judge Michael Savage had some questions about why Espitia was being released when another prison sentence may be pending for other crimes.
Judge Savage questioned both Deputy District Attorney Sylvia DeLarosa and Assistant Public Defender Michael Barber after he heard their joint request.
Espitia was charged with felony vandalism after he allegedly, on April 5 of this year, broke into his mother’s home by damaging the front door, causing about $400 in damage—anything $400 or more qualifies as a felony.
His DA offer was to plead to this crime in lieu of time served and that his other charges on this case, such as burglary, be dismissed. Espitia also has a violation of probation in which DeLarosa had asked for the upper term to be suspended on the condition that he complete the Genesis drug rehabilitation program.
Judge Savage asked the lawyers for clarification.
“He’s already facing violation of probation for his upper term. Now you want me to impose the four years and suspend it like it is actually already, in theory, on the VOP (violation of probation),” Savage stated. “And he’s pleading to the new case. He’ll be on a new probation and his drug treatment will be a part of that right?”
DeLarosa confirmed, saying that the drug treatment is part of the VOP admission, adding, “Essentially if he fails out of the program then the four years are imposed.”
Judge Savage questioned the process.
“I’m just asking because sometimes I’m asked for an upper term suspended. He’s still facing that. He’s already violated his probation. Nobody’s going to send him for the upper term and even if it’s suspended, when or if he comes back in a year and fails the program, there’s not a judge that’s going to say, ‘You know what? That term’s suspended. I’m going to pull the plug and those bricks are going to fall on your head.’
“So, I’ll do it but I’m not sure why we go through this. I can suspend the term and there’ll be 10 reasons why I should impose the suspended term when we come back and we’ll go through the same discussion again, right?” the judge asked.
Barber responded saying, “I think some judges would impose the four years, Your Honor.”
Judge Savage concluded his concern. “Well, you introduce me to that person because I don’t know him. But, okay I’ll do it,” he said.
The court proceeded with the rest of the hearing as Judge Savage read Espitia’s orders. Espitia’s upper term of four years for his violation of probation was suspended; however, as noted by Judge Savage, he is still at risk of facing it for this current case.
Espitia is under a lifetime prohibition from owning firearms and will also need to pay restitution fines to his mother. A restraining order has been issued for his mother as well, despite the fact that she did not request it.
DeLarosa read the victim statement from the defendant’s mother that displayed her satisfaction with the court’s resolution.
Espitia’s mother stated, “He is not a criminal,” adding that she is thankful for anyone who helped Espitia throughout his case and made it clear that she wants her son to get help, not to go to prison.
Espitia is to be released out of custody immediately.
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