Judge Sends ‘Guilty’ Defendant to State Hospital Rather Than Pursue $70 Theft Trial

by Hannah Blome

SACRAMENTO – Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Goodman Monday found a man who stole about $70 worth of items from a grocery store likely guilty, but rather than set the case for trial he sent the defendant to a state hospital to receive his necessary medications.

Robert Johnson was charged with two felonies: attempted burglary and aggravated assault.

Johnson was accused of stealing items from the Safeway location at 1025 Alhambra Blvd. in Sacramento and entering into a physical altercation with the security guard at the store on last Sept. 9—the defendant allegedly struck the victim five times in the face with his fists.

Sacramento City Police Officer Justin Svizzero testified, “Upon contact, he was verbally non-compliant. Seeing as I was the only officer on scene awaiting backup I had my CDD, or taser, drawn and pointed at him to ensure that if he enacted any violence toward me seeing that he has already attacked the security guard per an update from dispatch.”

The officer noted the video footage showing “the security guard approach the subject. You can’t really see what they’re saying. They appear to both go outside then you see the security guard kind of backing inward with the subject hitting him with his fists.”

Defense attorney Justin Kurtz brought the court’s attention to the defendant’s mental state. Johnson muttered insensible phrases during and after his hearing, claiming that his identity was stolen. Kurtz recalled that the initial police report described eyewitnesses’ observations of the defendant talking to himself.

“Did you have the impression that the client was in his right state of mind?” asked Kurtz.

“Upon contact, probably not,” replied Officer Svizzero.

The second witness was SPD Officer Michael Novak, but he forgot about his subpoena, and attempted to call in on his cell phone. Technical difficulties prompted Judge Goodman to call a recess and the hearing resumed at 10:30 am, approximately 45 minutes later.

“When you spoke to the victim, did you observe blood on his bottom teeth?” asked Deputy District Attorney Emilee Divinagracia, to which the officer said, “Yes,” and also that the victim had a cut on his thumb and knee.

Officer Novak reported that the products the defendant attempted to steal were shampoo, body wash, a tooth brush, and other hygiene products amounting to over $70.

Defense counsel Kurtz noted the absence of the victim’s injuries on the police report.

“I noticed you testified on direct that you noticed some blood on the security guard’s mouth. Is that correct?” asked Kurtz. “That is not in your report but you have an independent recollection of that is that correct?”

“Yes,” replied Novak.

Judge Goodman questioned whether the altercation occurred on the store’s property. Goodman asked the attorneys to clarify whether the altercation occurred before leaving the store premises with the stolen items.

“Ms. Divinagracia, he didn’t really get away with the property,” said Judge Goodman. “So wouldn’t this be charged with an attempted robbery as opposed to a completed robbery?”

“He did exit the store, Judge,” Divinagracia replied. “It was the officers who stopped him and he had that property in his possession.”

“And wasn’t that where the force took place? In other words, he walked out of the store. But from what I gathered, the force took place once outside the store kind of struggling for the property right?” the judge followed.

“No judge, it was in the doorway of the store when the security guard attempted to stop him. When officers contacted him, he had the items in his possession in the mesh bag,” clarified the DDA.

Kurtz and Divinagracia had no further witnesses, and the defendant Robert Johnson was shown to be guilty of the charges against him.

“The offense within the claim has been committed under sufficient cause, we have cause to believe that the defendant, Robbery Johnson, is guilty thereof,” said Judge Goodman.

But instead of scheduling a jury trial, he referred the defendant to a state hospital, given that the home court deemed Johnson incapable of making his own medication decisions.

“All we’re going to do is refer him to the state hospital with that determination,” said Judge Goodman. “The defendant does lack the competence to make his own medication decisions. I believe the state hospital wants us to identify the maximum term. I believe it would be the maximum five years for robbery.”

Judge Goodman gave the defendant a chance to speak, given Johnson’s calm behavior during the second half of the trial, but Johnson was cut off after he made insensible comments, proving his impaired mental state.

Hannah Blome is a third year Political Science major at UC Davis, pursuing a double minor in Professional Writing and Logic Philosophy. She is originally from San Diego, 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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