The Vanguard Week in Review: Court Watch (Jan. 11-15, 2021)

Assembled by Koda Slingluff

The Davis Vanguard is an online news forum that provides coverage of criminal justice reform and courts throughout California and the nation. In 2006, the Davis Vanguard began to cover Davis and Yolo County groundbreaking, local news concerning government and policy issues affecting the city, schools, and county. In the past few years, the online news source has been able to expand to Sacramento and the surrounding regions. 

Today, the team has grown to about 40 to 50 interns who monitor and report on live court proceedings in more than six different counties throughout California, from the State Capitol of Sacramento to the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley and Southern California. 

This week, Jan. 11 through Jan. 15, 2021, Vanguard interns covered stories from Sacramento, Yolo, Contra Costa, Fresno, and Alameda courthouses. 

Most notably, this week saw ongoing trials of Jose Luis Gomez Arreola, charged with multiple counts of attempted murder and possession of firearms, in Yolo County, and Jesus Danilo Lima, charged with murder in a drive-by shooting, in Alameda County.


Reporter Hannah Blome: Defendant Robert Johnson was found guilty of his charges at Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse in Dept. 5. His probable cause hearing on Jan. 11 was before Judge Geoffrey Goodman. Johnson was charged with burglary and aggravated assault at the Safeway on 1025 Alhambra Blvd. in Sacramento. Prosecuting attorney Emilee Divinagracia presented two witnesses: Patrol Officer Justin Svizzero and Officer Michael Novak for the Sacramento Police Dept.. Defense Attorney Justin Kurtz argued that Johnson’s mental state was impaired. Judge Goodman referred Johnson to the state hospital for the maximum five year term for robbery.

Reporter William McCurry: On Jan. 12, 2021, Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 10 saw many motions to continue preliminary hearings. In one case, Mark Hansen stole from a WinCo Foods. During Hansen’s crime, he was involved in an altercation with one of the workers and no injuries ensued. After the preliminary hearing Judge Ernest Sawtelle, having denied a continuance, sentenced Hansen to one-year probation after he pled guilty to two counts. Hansen pled guilty to, Count 1, Penal Code §484, a petty theft, and Count 2, Penal Code §415, disturbing the peace.

Reporter Dalia Bautista Rodriguez: Sacramento Dept. 62, Jan. 13 was consistent with further proceeding with matters for different defendants. One of the defendants was persistent on a bill review, as he was worried about COVID and being in jail. He stated that he was not trying to die inside jail and that they are not being socially distanced properly. Most of the matters are to take place during the months of February and March. Another defendant’s bail was set to a million dollars and attorney Jennifer Mouzis wanted to consider the defendant’s ability to pay the bail. She wanted the bail to be reduced to $200,000.

Dept. 15 consisted of two different cases, one for violation of a restraining order and another for possession of marijuana and oxycodone. The restraining order was filed by the defendant’s family, but there was no indication of distance stated within the restraining order. This case will be going back to Dept. 61 on Jan. 20. The defendant with possession of marijuana and oxycodone was also found with a large sum of money indicating that he was in possession for the use of sale. He was found passed out in his running vehicle at a Chick-fil-A parking lot. This case will go on for further proceeding on Feb. 24 at 8:30 a.m. in Dept. 61 as well.

Reporter William McCurry: On Jan. 14, 2021, in Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 14, defendants Kenaz Lang, Thyresse Webster, and Derick Blakes were set for a preliminary hearing on concealing firearms. The defendants attended a funeral for a friend that was a known gang member in the Sacramento area. The funeral service was under surveillance of marked and unmarked officers. When the defendants arrived, Webster was observed with a firearm in his waistband and when they left the service they were pulled over by police. After they were pulled over, police found firearms in Lang’s and Blake’s satchels. The judge found them guilty for preliminary purposes and set a trial date.

Reporter Kathryn Wood: On Jan. 15, defendant Eric Azikiwe faced felony and second-degree burglary charges after looting and robbing a store at gunpoint in June 2020. Defendant Azikiwe was detained by Officer Emerson in a Best Buy parking lot in Sacramento after running toward a vehicle with several stolen electronics in his hands. Det. Dan Bean was able to reach the store manager, who confirmed that these items belonged to the store.

Additionally, Azikiwe was charged with second degree burglary after robbing an ampm store at gunpoint in Sacramento. Det. Jayme Veldez stated that, after looking at the surveillance footage, Azikiwe entered the store and walked around before approaching the front desk and pulling out a gun on the clerk. Azikiwe successfully seized the money from the register and left. When the clerk was asked to pick the defendant from a lineup of subjects, he stated that he was 80 percent sure of his choice. The clerk expressed that he was “thanking God” that he and a fellow coworker “were all safe.”


Reporter Alana Bleimann: Tuesday Jan. 12 in Yolo Dept. 7, Judge David W. Reed heard the testimonies of three witnesses for the case of Jose Luis Gomez Arreola. Jose is being charged with multiple counts of attempted murder and possession of firearms. Deputy District Attorney Alex Kian questioned both witnesses and it was revealed that the defendant had allegedly fled to Mexico after getting into a fight outside a bar in 2011. There were guns involved, and one person died. After the shooting, the defendant fled to his black truck and left the scene, but still allegedly continued to open fire out the driver window. The hearing will reconvene into next week.

Reporter William McCurry: On Jan. 13, 2021 in Yolo County Superior Court Dept. 7 there was an ongoing preliminary hearing for defendant Jose Luis Gomez Arreola. The defendant had been involved in a shooting at a bar in Woodland, California. They have not yet identified him as the shooter at the bar. Today during the preliminary hearing, DDA Kian called three witnesses to testify.

Reporters Samara Yarnes and Lauren Smith: This was the second half of the Jan. 13 Jose Luis Gomez Arreola’s preliminary hearing. Arreola faces a murder charge from a 2011 shooting at a bar. Three witnesses testified, including a police sergeant. The first witness observed the shooting and identified the defendant as the shooter. The second witness received a false check for $3,500 from the defendant and testified that the defendant stated he planned on fleeing to Mexico because “something serious happened in Woodland.”

Reporters Roxanna Jarvis and Avalon Amaral: The third day of Jose Luis Gomez Arreola’s preliminary hearing on Jan. 14 recalled an incident that occurred about 10 years ago at the now-closed La Finca Bar in Woodland, CA. DDA Kian called multiple law enforcement personnel to testify for the morning hearing. There, Det. Francisco Deleon and Officer Richard Wright detailed the statements they took on the early morning of March 6, 2011, and the following day. Multiple witnesses detailed how beer bottles were being thrown inside the club, which forced everyone outside. Once outside, a fight broke out between two individuals. After a while, the fight ceased.

However, it is alleged that Arreola, a friend of one of the men, came with a gun from his truck and began shooting at the ground, then toward the outside crowd of people. This resulted in the death of Gabriel Ibarra and an injury to another victim. Other officers, Norma Vidalez and Susan Stewart, pointed via diagram exhibits where they found fragments and casings of the bullets. Arreola is currently charged with murder, attempted murder, and the use of a firearm, with defense attorney Michael Chastaine representing him. The hearing was continued to the afternoon, bringing forth an additional three witnesses.


Reporter Koda Slingluff: This Jan. 12, there were two preliminary hearings, one continuing from an earlier date and one which just started and will be continuing. The first prelim related to robbery, assault, and kidnapping charges. There was some discussion of mental illnesses, namely schizophrenia, that could have influenced the defendant. The witnesses called today were one of the victims (the defendant’s mother) and the officer that had been dispatched to the scene. Arraignment was scheduled for February and defendant was denied a request for release.

In the second prelim, the defendant had allegedly held the victim at gunpoint and stolen his car along with his phone and wallet. The victim had a translator from Spanish during his testimony. Interestingly, the judge had to step in to stop the cross-examination because he believed the witness was being intimidated. He did not believe the attorney was intentionally intimidating him, but the attorney was asking him to say his exact address in front of the defendant, which the judge believed was unnecessary and intimidating. This preliminary hearing would resume the next day.


Reporters Aziza Nussipov and Roxanna Jarvis: On Jan. 13, there were a large number of continuances and bench warrants placed in Dept. 13. Various public defenders asked for future dates for their hearings, while Judge Dalesandro agreed to the orders. Many of the hearings were scheduled from mid-February to April.

Yet, in one case, a defendant was remanded back into custody due to violating court orders. The defendant, Chanhom Phetchumporn, failed to appear at his AA meetings for two weeks and drank while on the SCRAMx ankle monitor. DDA Lauren Meegan requested Phetchumporn be placed back in custody due to issues regarding public safety, despite an undisclosed medical condition that may have affected his attendance at AA meetings. His attorney, APD Sasha Serebryannik, noted that, while a difficult task, his client made many efforts to remain sober. He even had a letter of support from the facilitator of his meetings. Nevertheless, Judge Dalesandro ordered that Phetchumporn be remanded and placed into custody—at least until his next hearing in DUI court on Jan. 21.

Reporters Nancy Aviña and Macy Lu: On Thursday, Jan. 14, in Fresno Superior Court Dept. 13, Judge Samuel Dalesandro oversaw and conducted several brief arraignments, pre-trials, and pre-preliminary hearings. To summarize a few cases, defendant Heather Dawn Owen pled no contest to a “wet reckless” reduced DUI charge. Heather Dawn Owen was found guilty on Count 1 but Count 2 was dismissed in light of the plea deal. Due to this, Owen was placed on informal court probation for one year.

The pretrial for defendant Eric Scott Swanker found Swanker convicted for driving under the influence. Swanker’s attorney, Terry Wapner asked if, because the defendant is currently in compliance with AA meetings and works six days a week, he could get a reduced number of AA meetings. Judge Samuel Dalesandro allowed Swanker to complete three AA meetings per week instead of five.

Other interesting cases heard Thursday morning include Michael Stever’s hearing, in which his PD Emilia Carbajal notified the court that the officer who took part in his arrest might have credibility issues listed on his record. DDA Cameron Simoes confirmed this was true. In light of this fact, Carbajal made a Pitchess motion in order to review the officer’s personnel information.

Defendant Frank Sierras pleaded no contest to having stolen approximately 200 fabric masks off the victim’s person. Prior to the sentencing, his DA, Eric Schweitzer, informed the judge of the defendant’s remorse and of his responsibility of providing for his family as a father. Consequently, the judge agreed to stay the $150 probation fine if Sierras complies with all probation requirements.

Reporter Nancy Aviña: On Friday, Jan. 15, in Fresno Superior Court Dept. 1, Judge William Terrence oversaw a probation review. Defendant Anouson Chanthavisouk was in a probation hearing review. He requested that his adult offender work program days be converted to “in custody days” and the request was granted. Judge William Terrence then began to review the minute order from October 21, 2021, and with that, the court had already assigned 13 days on the adult offender work program.

Additionally, the judge ordered that Anouson Chanthavisouk be remanded into the custody of the sheriff and serve 13 days in custody. The defendant was also subject to work time credits and was to serve seven days in county jail. The tentative release for defendant Anouson Chanthavisouk is Thursday, Jan 21 and he shall remain on probation until October.


Reporter Kalea Heller: On Jan. 11 in Alameda Dept. 711, Judge Jason Clay issued a protective order for the victim in a domestic violence charge against defendant Jose Cervantes, despite the victim’s opposition to receiving the order. The victim reasoned that she did not need a protective order because she and the defendant were unlikely to see each other again, and the defendant had not previously used violence against her.

She claimed that she was “at peace with [her]self.” Based on the severity of the violence, including possible concussion, broken ribs, and swelling all over the face, as well as the defendant’s previous domestic violence charge in 2017 against a different victim, Judge Clay went ahead and issued the protective order. A jury trial was set for Feb. 1 in Dept. 705.

Reporter Hannah Blome: On Jan. 12, defendant Jesus Lima returned to Alameda County Superior Court for the second day of his ongoing trial. Lima’s trial was heard by Judge Thomas Rearson in Dept. 8. Lima is accused of murder in a drive-by shooting on Bancroft Ave. in Oakland. Prosecutor Rebecca Judy Warren cross-examined a Bay Area Rapid Transit inspector and Officer Pedram Farhang.

Reporter Kathryn Wood: Defendant Jesus Danilo Lima entered the third day of his jury trial on Wednesday Jan. 13 after he was charged with murder involving a drive-by shooting in Sept. 2017. The trial resumed with the victim’s cousin testifying as a witness, followed by three of Lima’s teachers from Castlemont High School in Oakland. The victim’s cousin was called to the stand where he explained that he did not recognize anyone who was involved in the shooting. After his cousin was shot, he mentioned that they launched onto Lima to avoid his firing again. He stated that the group “passed by and stared at us and after that, we stared at them… and that’s when they shot at us.”

Following this testimony, three of Lima’s teachers from Castlemont High School were brought into the courtroom to comment on the defendant’s academic abilities and describe the dangerous school environment. All three of the teachers noted that Lima struggled in school and had trouble grasping pronunciation, spelling, and sentence structure. One teacher claimed that his English was at a second-third grade level and the language barrier was challenging. The teachers expressed that the neighborhood was very unsafe, and the school dealt with lockdowns several times a year. After Lima’s arrest was announced, one of his teachers visited him in jail. These testimonies provided the Alameda Superior Court with critical evidence that unveiled Lima’s troublesome academic environment.

Reporters Lisbeth Martinez and Kelly Moran: Today, Jan. 14th, was a very eventful trial. We were assigned to Alameda, District 8. It was a drive-by shooting trial that had continued to go into day 4 today. During the trial, DDA Maggie Calonge was cross-examining a psychologist, Dr. Peery, who had been responsible for evaluating the defendant’s, Jesus Danilo Lima, cognitive ability. The DDA Calonge had brought up that if there were concerns for the defendant’s mental state, Dr. Peery should have ordered brain testing such as an MRI, Ct Scan, or EEG. However, she stated that she doesn’t have privileges over those tests, and as a psychologist, she can’t determine what is medically necessary.

During the cross-examination, they began to disagree on their stance on the relationship between age and mental state. It was brought up that Lima had lied to police officials. However, Dr. Perry said that adolescents, like toddlers, lie to protect themselves. The DDA did not agree to consider the defendant as a child, because he is an 18-year-old adult who shot someone, therefore he should be treated as such.

Reporter Koda Slingluff: Resuming the Lima trial, the afternoon of the 14th, prosecution called the DA employee who had compiled the incident security footage and audio. Defense then called an expert witness in forensic media compiling, who questioned the timing of the gunshots in the DA employee’s video.

After this, defense brought the defendant to the stand. Communicating through a translator, Lima explained his upbringing in El Salvador. Defense attorney Arroyo inquired about possible childhood trauma, uncovering that Lima had started working in agriculture under his abusive stepfather at only 8 years old. His stepfather’s temper meant the police came to his neighborhood often, potentially contributing to Lima’s reaction to the police after the incident at the liquor store. Lima’s direct examination from Arroyo will resume when the trial picks back up next Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Koda is a junior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Rhetoric. He is from Ventura, 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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