By Koda Slingluff
WOODLAND – A felony arraignment domestic violence charge became somewhat convoluted here, with conflicting assessments of risk and even interruptions of the judge by legal counsel in the Yolo County Superior Court department.
Expressing a sentiment likely shared by many in the world right now, Judge Peter Williams quipped, “When you’re on Zoom it’s really difficult when you don’t let the court finish and then we have to repeat everything.”
Defendant Rodney Edmonson pleaded not guilty, requesting to be released on his own recognizance. Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson added that “if he does not get out by Wednesday he’s likely to lose his job,” which would make it challenging for him to pay child support.
The defense counsel, anticipating a protective order, proposed applying a GPS device to Edmonson for added security.
Although the probation report assessed Edmonson as low risk, an Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment test (ODARA) test showed him as a high risk for reoffending domestic violence. ODARA is a scoring system developed used for assessing the risk of reoffending in domestic violence scenarios.
In addition to these conflicting assessments, the alleged victim just four days prior had asked that the defendant be held in custody due to fear for herself and her daughter. Judge Williams called the report a “mixed bag” before addressing the victim’s concerns.
“On these domestic violence cases, almost always the primary concern of the court is the safety of the victim,” Judge Williams said.
“And here the victim is asking for him to be held in custody because she’s in fear, and that is fairly unique in these cases in the sense that a lot of the time the victim walks back what they told the police on the day of the arrest. So I understand where it says low-risk, I understand your [defense counsel’s] pitch for the GPS plus a no-contact protective order, but I have the victim stating concern for safety,” he added.
PD Johnson responded that he wanted to speak with the alleged victim, suggesting that she should be made aware of the GPS to help her feel secure.
However, the Deputy District Attorney Robin Johnson said a victim witness advocate had already explained the protective orders, and “the victim was still afraid of the defendant and did not express that she wanted him released.”
In the end, the judge started to say he may reduce the bail to help the defendant return to work.
But at that point, the prosecution interrupted Judge Williams to claim the defendant’s initial bail was higher than stated due to a prior misdemeanor in San Joaquin County.
Judge Williams responded, “Let me finish—Ms. Johnson…when you’re on Zoom it’s really difficult when you don’t let the court finish and then we have to repeat everything.”
Judge Williams was soon interrupted again, this time by defense counsel, stating that he did not believe the court could have a GPS as a condition of bail.
“We’re getting too many moving parts here,” Williams said with finality. “I am going to set bail at $25,000, there won’t be any GPS issues, but I’m going to sign a criminal protection order.”
Though a bit convoluted, Judge Williams’ decision ensured a decision that would both allow the defendant to get back to work and ensure the safety of the alleged victim.
Koda is a junior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Rhetoric. He is from Ventura, CA.
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