By Evie Sun
FRESNO – As is sometimes said, “clear as mud.”
That seemed to be the case for the defendant here in Fresno County Superior Court on New Year’s Eve last Thursday, when Judge William Terrance released Eugene Hand on his own recognizance because he had no prior criminal history.
Hand was arrested several days earlier for violating an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) issued Dec. 2. And there was some confusion in Dept. 1, as the defendant struggled to understand the terms of his release.
The order was issued on Dec. 2 after the defendant had yelled at his father, according to Deputy District Attorney Jenny Volanti, who told the court the victim is 73 years old and claimed to be afraid of the defendant because of the defendant’s various mental health issues, as noted by the father.
The victim has limited mobility and requires a riding scooter and full-time assistant to get around; he claimed to be in fear of the defendant based on his own physical ailments. The victim made this statement on Dec. 2, when the EPO was originally issued.
However, the victim invited the defendant back into the home to live with him, despite the 30-day stay-away order.
“There is no mention of physical violence. The victim stated at the time of the EPO that it was a hard decision to make, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted the EPO. At that time, there is no evidence of any abuse, altercation or anything of that nature,” according to Assistant Public Defender Briana Hussey.
Apparently, although Judge Terrence issued a peaceful contact order that would begin on Jan. 2, a previous judge had authorized a 30-day EPO that would not expire until Jan. 1.
“A previous judge has ordered that you not have any contact with your father for 30 days beginning on Dec. 2, which would expire tomorrow (Friday). You are going to be released later (Thursday) and the previous order from the other judge is still a valid one—that you are not supposed to have any contact with your father.
“Just to settle any ambiguity in our record, Mr. Hand, if you were to go and see your father tonight after your release from jail, it would be in violation of the other judge’s order. That one is not going to expire until Jan. 2. It will be valid through New Years’ Day,” he continued.
This timeline created much confusion for the defendant, and he repeatedly asked to see his father after his release. “May I please ask to be with my dad tonight because I love my dad,” he said.
The judge reiterated that the defendant must be in compliance with the other judge’s order. “The only restriction that I am placing on you after you are released from custody is that you must have peaceful contact with your father. The other order that the other judge made is still valid, so for tonight, you will need to stay away from your father and be in compliance with the other judge’s order.”
The defendant noted that he left his wallet and other belongings at the victim’s house. “May I request to be around my father today? It would have been the other judge’s better judgment to remove it immediately with the court documentation,” he stated.
In response, the judge reiterated again that the other judge’s order is legal and valid. “I understand that you may have some belongings at the residence, but you are not to go over there to pick those up … It is important that you stay away from that location to be in compliance with the prior judge’s order.”
The court will return to his matter on Feb. 26 at 8:30 a.m. in Dept. 1.
Evie Sun is a third-year student at UCLA, studying Sociology. She is from the East Bay Area.
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