Vanguard Week in Review: Court Watch – Jan. 18 to 22, 2021

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Assembled by Sally Kim

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. 18 through Jan. 22, 2021, Vanguard interns covered stories from Sacramento, Yolo, Contra Costa, Fresno, and Alameda courthouses. 

Sacramento County Superior Court

Reporter Alana Bleimann and Kathryn Wood: On Tuesday in Sacramento Dept. 4, Judge Steve White heard the preliminary hearing of Gregory Harms, who is accused of multiple counts of sexual assault on three different women over the span of 10 years. All three victims described their experience as taking place in a hospital as they were in an incapacitated state after either surgery or serious health treatment. Harms was assigned to each victim as their nurse. After hearing from five different officer witnesses, it was revealed that Harms would come into their rooms either in the late hours of the night or early hours of the morning and proceeded to sexually assault them as they were unable to defend themselves. The officer witnesses also revealed that Harms had many internet searches of child pornography on his iPhone and computer. Harms’ defense team, Michael Chastaine, and Jessica Davis argued that his bail should be set at $500,000 because he is not a flight risk nor a risk to the community. District deputy attorney, Carolyn Steffens, argued that he is, in fact, a danger to the community and granting any amount for bail would “not be appropriate”—Judge White set bail at $1,000,000 and set further hearings for February of this year.

Reporter William McCurry: In Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 9 on Jan. 19, 2021, all of the scheduled preliminary hearings were motioned to continue on further dates. Defendants Ken Bussey, Jose Negrete, Montrell Gillion and Shawna Smith were moved to Feb. 23. Daniel Okeefe’s case was moved to Feb. 2. Bruce Anderson’s was moved to Feb. 16 and Faron Mello’s was moved to Mar. 8.

On Jan. 20, 2021 I bounced between both Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 5 and 9. In both there were motions to continue the defendants preliminary hearing to later dates. In Dept. 5, Nicholas Strickland’s defense attorney Joshua Kurtz, motioned to release the defendant from custody but the judge denied his motion. All the prelims got moved to February and early March.

Reporter Lisbeth Martinez: On Wednesday, Jan. 11, in the Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 60, Judge Scott L. Tedmon oversaw many hearings concerning domestic violence charges. The defendant’s that appeared at today’s hearings were all being charged by their previous partner for the infliction of serious injuries. For example, Christian Eveste was facing two charges dealing with corporal injury on spouse and child endangerment. Judge Tedmon set the bail to $50,000 and the defendant is set to be present for further hearing proceedings on Jan. 27 at 8:30 a.m. Next, Kenneth Beal was being charged for corporal injury on his spouse, but also the violation of probation. His hearing proceeding is also set for Jan. 27 at 8:30 a.m., with a bail of $50,000. Joseph Riddlesberger is being charged with three misdemeanor counts, where the victim has reported acts of domestic abuse caused by the defendant. Judge Tedmon decided to set the bail at a misdemeanor amount, $10,000. This defendant is also set to go to his following hearing on Jan. 27 at 8:30 a.m.

Reporter Aishwarya Rajan: On Jan. 20, Defendant Perris J. Lee represented himself in pro per, after requesting motions to suppress evidence, request informal discovery, Pitchess, and dismiss for failure to disclose exculpatory evidence. Each motion was issued in response to the followings of a charge in San Diego CA, a felony battery charge, and indecent exposure misdemeanor charge that resulted in psychiatry sessions and tests to examine the defendant’s competency. With Judge Acquisto presiding over the case, he denied all motions, except for the Pitchess motion which he denied without prejudice. Throughout the defendant’s two years in custody, he was consistently arguing and representing himself for various reasons, which were only prolonging his stay in custody. The negligence of the justice system in taking the time to communicate with the defendant was finally corrected, as Judge Acquisto and DDA Jeffery Scott Harry and the defendant agreed on a settlement resulting in Perris J. Lee living out just five-and-a-half more months in jail before his release after pleading guilty for felony battery.

Reporter Samara Yarnes: On Jan. 20, Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 61 was presented with several motions to continue or postpone preliminary hearings. Of the many cases heard, only one defendant was uncomfortable with the motion taking place over video call, resulting in the case being moved to in person the following week. Another defendant had been in custody for two years and had been unable to gain the mental health services needed for that individual. However, with support from the family the defendant was able to be released from custody on probation.

Reporter William McCurry: On Jan. 21, 2021, in Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 61 there were many cases that the attorney’s filed motions to continue to later dates. On top of these motions, this court also had a judgement and sentencing hearing for defendant Norva Patton that was rather emotional. Patton was involved in a quarrel with the victim and he sustained one fatal stab wound. The court found that she was remorseful and accepted the resolution of a 12-year prison sentence with five years of parole post sentence.

Reporter Danae Snell: Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 5’s Judge Laurel White presided over two cases that were scheduled for preliminary hearings, but changed into plea deals. One of the cases involved a defendant who took a plea deal to avoid receiving his 2nd strike after threatening his significant other and her children. Defendant Keith Morris is facing 32 months in a state prison facility after sending death threats via text. Defendant Morris has been charged with Penal Code § 422 after he threatened “to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device” in September of 2020. The text messages consisted of statements stating, “This is why your son is going to die,” and, “You watch how a freak accident can be so costly.” The defendant further threatened the victim by also sending messages stating, “I am just waiting for school to start and you will see what I have planned,” and, “Your son’s life is in your hands. I will be through there every night now to kick in the door.”

Alameda County Superior Court

Reporter Macy Lu, Julia Asby, Jose Medina: The trial of Jesus Danilo Lima reconvened in Alameda Superior Court Dept. 8 this Tuesday with a direct and cross-examination of the defendant. Lima has been charged with murdering the victim with a gun on the night of Sept. 24, 2017 in the parking lot of a liquor store. He, his father, and his friend stopped by the store on their way to his dad’s boss’s ranch when a Mustang carrying five people drove by, taking pictures of his dad’s truck. As the people were taking pictures, Lima’s friend pointed a gun at them, inciting Lima to take the gun from his friend and walk over to the Mustang in order to deter them from continuing to take pictures.

During the direct examination, Lima emphasized several times that he did not personally know the other witnesses, besides one of the victim’s cousins, in the truck of the drive-by shooting either on social media or in real life. He stated that he did not see that cousin, whom he’d shared a fist fight with at school prior to the Sept. 24 shooting, until he approached the vehicle. Before the fist fight, the defendant had allegedly threatened to kill that same cousin at a party after spotting the cousin among a group of four people arguing with the defendant’s friends outside of the party house.

During the cross-examination, Lima admitted to have fibbed during the Sept. 25 police interrogation when he claimed that his father’s truck had been stolen the night before and when shown a picture of himself carrying the murder weapon standing by his dad’s truck he claimed that was a picture of his brother. He also clarified that he never saw who his friends and his brother were arguing with outside of the party house but that he did see them arguing with the group of four.

Something interesting to note is that the session was briefly interrupted when the court had to excuse a juror for cause. The juror’s boyfriend had recently tested positive with COVID-19 and the court decided to dismiss the juror for the safety of the rest of the jury. This situation is indicative of the legal system having to work in the midst of a pandemic.

Reporter Dalia Rodriguez: On Jan. 20, court consisted of reporting and sentencing as well as setting dates to continue with matters. The defendant’s representatives needed more time to have contact with them and discuss the matters thoroughly. Most of their cases were set to continue for February or March. One defendant wanted to get their probation transferred to Connecticut as it was where the son was living. Another defendant is getting ready to be released at the end of March, but has nowhere to go and the case is in need of further discussion.

Reporter Kathryn Wood: Defendant Jesus Lima faced his sixth day of trial Wednesday morning in the Alameda Superior Court following his charges of murder involving a “drive-by” shooting. Defense Attorney Laurel Arroyo reviewed the prosecution’s questions from the previous day with Lima, allowing him to clarify his responses. Lima admitted that what he “testified on Thursday, yesterday, and today wasn’t the truth.”

During Deputy District Attorney Maggie Calonge’s cross-examination, Lima gave a detailed description of the events that occurred during the fight right before he shot the victim. Lima claimed that he did not know that the gun was loaded at the time. It went to jury Thursday. Jury reconvenes Monday.

Reporter Linhchi Nguyen: On Wednesday in Alameda Dept. 502, Judge Victor Rodriguez listened to two domestic abuse cases involving victims who requested for restraining orders. One case was about defendant Samuel D. Langworthy, who allegedly physically assaulted his sister. When confronted about the situation, Langworthy dodged the blame and instead, stated that his sister had a mental capacity of someone “30 years younger,” and therefore, she felt that she could “go run and hide to the police after being disrespectful.” Upon hearing his statement, Judge Rodriguez felt compelled to issue the restraining order as the victim showed sufficient evidence regarding the defendant’s actions.

On the other hand, the victim for the second case was not as persuasive as she attempted to accuse defendant David Camello for verbally attacking her through text messages. However, the court found that the text messages were not directed at her nor at any protective party. Furthermore, the victim proved to be unreliable as she had a methamphetamine problem and was constantly appearing and disappearing from the defendant’s house. As a result, Judge Rodriguez refused to grant her the restraining order.

Reporter Tanya Decendario: I observed a preliminary hearing of defendant Corey Jenkins and his co-defendant who allegedly committed robbery and burglary. Specifically, they were caught through video surveillance, committing the robbery and burglary. Upon executing the crimes, one of the defendants allegedly threw a mysterious bag into the bushes. The bag was later recovered by Officer Hazen and his partner. Inside the bag, two firearms were discovered. Officer Hazen was notified of the suspects whereabouts. As they locate the suspects, he instructs the suspects to follow his commands. However, they fled the scene. Corey Jenkins and his co-defendant are currently in custody and his bail is set to $540,000.

Reporter Jose Medina and Aziza Nussipov: On Thursday morning, the prosecution and the defense in Jesus Danilo Lima’s case presented their closing arguments. While the prosecution pressed that there was no doubt Jesus had malicious intent due to the multiple threats he had allegedly made, the defense asserted that there was too much doubt for him to be capable of the deed. Additionally, the prosecution firmly advised the jury to look at the facts of the incident and its fatal outcome. The jury will reach a verdict next week when the court reconvenes.

Reporter Linhchi Nguyen: In Alameda Superior Court Dept. 706, two interesting cases occurred on Friday: One involving an infamous Berkeley rape case, and one concerning a DUI trial. For the first case, Judge Amy Sekany made a critical decision in dismissing defendant Stevon Williams from one of his charges of an alleged sexual assault. He was arrested for this crime back in May 2020, although the incident occurred in June 2012.

According to the testimonies, a woman was kidnapped at knife-point by a man, described to have a massive scar across his face. According to Judge Sekany, her testimony was riddled with significant inconsistencies, and there was no evidence of a scar on the defendant. Furthermore, Judge Sekany believed that the police report conducted by the Berkeley Police Dept. was made under suspicious circumstances, especially since the victim identified the defendant in a lineup that lasted for 6-7 minutes.

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For the second case, Defense Attorney Ryan Lloyd Smith tried to argue for a minimal Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program (SWAP) for his client, Marcela Maria Witt. He stated that she was a mid-40 working woman, who has no other serious charges on her record. However, the prosecutor, Margaret Calonge, indicated that this is the defendant’s second DUI, and she is concerned for the safety of citizens on the road. The judge seemed to agree with Calonge, stating that her children also drive down that road. She encouraged Smith to talk further with Witt and have her settle with Calonge’s plea deal. The parties will return to court on Jan. 28 where the defendant will finally present her answer.

Contra Costa Superior Court

Reporter Samara Yarnes: In the Contra Costa Court Dept. 9 and 40, around four  cases were heard. One included a pleading to grand theft auto at a local Chevron. The defendant was sentenced with 365 days served at half time, additionally having to pay restitution to the victim. There was also a case regarding a restraining order, with the details being read aloud.

Yolo County Superior Court

Reporter Koda Slingluff: Yolo Dept. 1 was lively on Jan. 21, with many defendants speaking out of turn and several unusual cases. Perhaps most chilling was the arraignment for a homeless man who was told his bail was $20,000. Hearing the news, the man broke down into tears and begged Judge Dyer to reconsider. Instead, Dyer requested that his microphone be muted, and then continued as though the man was not clearly talking to him and crying while muted.

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Another interesting case was an allegedly escaped convict from Maine. The attorneys went back and forth debating if this was really the person missing from Maine, until the public defender decided she needed more information to continue and the prelim was postponed. Judge Dyer spent some time flipping through new COVID-19-era guidelines to see if there was anything listed on this sort of hearing, but saw nothing on identity hearings.

Reporter Ramneet Singh: On Jan 22, Ramneet Singh attended the morning session of Yolo County Superior Court Dept. One. Through the session, Judge Tom Dyer presided over a variety of hearings related to pleas, warrants, arraignments, and reviews. Generally, the case types were misdemeanors. Due to personal difficulties and other factors, some hearings needed to be continued or set at a later date. In one case, the defendant was working two jobs and needed more time to complete their community service. In some hearings, plea offers were agreed to. Overall, the court functioned smoothly, with the length of hearing depending on whether or not the defense was prepared or reached a conclusion.

Reporter Roxanna Jarvis: In Dept. 14, Judge Rosenburg had doubts about the claim that Paul Carrillo’s preliminary hearing would only last an hour – and he was right. When answering questions from DPD Daniel Hutchinson about the night of Dec. 5, 2020, the alleged victim of the crime became upset. “How ’bout it Paul? Everything I’ve done for you? You don’t call that nice? You don’t call that nice? Every single thing I’ve done for you brother, and you want to attack me while I’m sleeping?”

Paul Carrillo is alleged to have arrived at a mutual friend’s home where the victim was staying and jumped on the victim’s back while sleeping. Placing his knee on the back of the victim’s neck and digging his fingernails into the victim’s face, the victim struggled to breathe. Once free, the victim punched Carrillo in the face, breaking his nose. “I gave him a free Botox on the house,” stated the victim. Due to the question of the reliability of the victim and the evidence shown during the hearing, Judge Rosenburg dismissed Carrillo’s charge of making a threat to kill and reduced his felony charge of assault likely to produce GBI to a misdemeanor.

Sally Kim is a senior at UCLA, majoring in Sociology. She is from the East Bay Area.


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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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