Fresno Judge Sees Domestic Violence Pattern, Hikes Bail for Defendant

By Tanya Decendario

FRESNO – Defendant Justin Sims appeared to have a pattern of domestic violence conduct, opined Fresno County Superior Court Judge Francine Zepeda here this week, and she quickly rejected the defendant’s pretrial release request and hiked his bail to $65,000.

Sims is accused of strangling his partner and previously pushing another woman’s face against rocks.

Assistant Public Defender Bradley Cochran explained that his defendant pleads not guilty and denies domestic violence allegations.

Cochran also asked “while the recommendation is to deny pretrial release, we would ask the court to grant pretrial release. Sims is currently employed; he represents that he would reside at a friend’s house (and) he represents that the named victim does not reside there.”

He ensured the judge that “he would have no contact with her and would not object [and would] abide by the criminal protective order. Mr. Sims is asking the court to grant pretrial release.”

Judge Francine Zepeda seemingly ignored the request, and turned to Deputy District Attorney Andrew Janz and asked, “On the case for which he is on probation, is it the same victim? He has a limited criminal history but they’re both DV (domestic violence) related.”

Cochran countered, “[I]t looks like the probation was terminated and he was just sentenced in state prison.”

Judge Zepeda repeated, “But what I wanted to ask is if the victims are the same,” insisting DDA Janz check the defendant’s domestic violence history.

DDA Janz responded, “Doesn’t look like it, Judge” and suddenly discovered significant information in the defendant’s records. “There is a strangulation allegation here…and they were in an argument. They’ve been in a dating relationship for approximately three months.”

He reveals, “The victim told officers that the defendant, during the argument, grabbed her by the neck. She stumbled on some rocks and she alleges that he threw her to the ground. She was unsure if she wanted to press charges,” and specified, “She had injuries but told officers she wasn’t sure how she got them.”

Judge Zepeda questioned, “What kind of injuries?”

DDA Janz answered, “There were drops of blood near the rocks.” and noted, “Victim alleges that he pushed her face into the rocks but wasn’t necessarily slamming her head up against the rocks.”

Upon listening to the evidence, Judge Zepeda explained her concerns. “My concern is that he doesn’t have much of a record but he ended up going to prison on DV cases.”

APD Cochran lightly interrupted, “But they’re misdemeanors.”

Judge Zepeda disregarded Cochran and said that “he likes to be violent with women (and) I don’t like that (and) I don’t like that he was on probation, he’s not on probation now. I am most concerned about his behavior, so Mr. Cochran you’ve got something to say?”

Defense counsel Cochran clarified, “I guess I just meant that they were both misdemeanor charges so he was just here in the local jail for misdemeanor charges. I just wanted to make sure that was clear.”

Judge Zepeda concluded, “I’m gonna deny release and set bail at $65,000” and post a criminal order against Mr. Sims that prevents him from obtaining a firearm.”

Sims is set to reappear in court for his preliminary hearing on Jan. 5, 2021.

Tanya Decendario is a third-year student studying Legal Studies at UC Berkeley. She is originally from Sonoma, CA, but currently resides in Albany, 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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