Communication Problem Made Simple Fresno Plea Hearing Difficult


By Jose Medina

FRESNO – Even though the defendant here could converse in English and Spanish—and had an interpreter just in case, a hearing here Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court had a series of “communication” problems.

Abel Gonzalez was charged with throwing away items in a public place and submitted a no contest plea to the charges. He was assigned an interpreter for the hearing.

When Judge Monica Diaz began to ask Gonzalez whether or not he agreed to appear by video he seemed irritable and told the interpreter, “I didn’t hear either her or you because you’re both speaking at the same time, just tell her yes.”

The interpreter felt out of place and told the court, “I think I’m just getting in the way here. I think he speaks English just fine.” Gonzalez quickly cut off the interpreter and stated, in English, that he does need an interpreter because he is unable to understand Judge Diaz because she speaks too fast.

Judge Diaz responded by saying, “Then I’m going to ask you to speak to the interpreter in Spanish and allow him to interpret you from English to Spanish because we cannot have you speaking over him and we’re using him for that purpose. You understand that?”

After a rough start, Judge Diaz proceeded to read the change of plea form that was submitted by Gonzalez’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Tania Lopez. While reading Gonzalez’s no contest plea, Judge Diaz stopped midway, turned to Lopez and asked, “Is he to obey all laws? That was not included in the form.”

Lopez apologized for the omission and stated that the agreement with the prosecution is for Gonzalez to obey all laws along with paying the $200 in restitution to the city for the violation.

Before Judge Diaz could finish asking Gonzalez if he understood the agreement, he interrupted the court and said, “I wanted to ask you a question, your honor, so instead of my accepting those charges what if I could give a ticket to the person who charged me with those charges?”

Judge Diaz became visibly irritated and said, “Sir, listen to me. Mr. Gonzalez, you are the person being charged today, do you understand that? This hearing is about you and what your decision is and so I am not going to play games with you. I am not going to be answering any of your questions that deal with that type of issue.”

After Judge Diaz had to manually write in the condition to obey all laws on the defendant’s plea form, she asked Gonzalez if he had had enough time to speak to his attorney about his case. He responded with, “Yes, although I didn’t think I would need an attorney.”

Judge Diaz pointed out that he does have one and continued to press Gonzalez on whether or not he’s had enough time to speak to his attorney. After much prodding he finally said no, and Judge Diaz trailed the case so that Gonzalez may speak to Lopez.

After receiving enough time to speak to Lopez about his case, Gonzalez concluded his arraignment hearing on the same day, without any further interruptions.

Jose graduated from UC Davis with a BA in Political Science and has interned for the California State Legislature. He is from Rocklin, CA.

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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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