Judge Balks at Modifying Order Barring Defendant Charged with Arson and Domestic Violence from Seeing Family

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By Lauren Smith

RIVERSIDE – Defense counsel here in Riverside County Superior Court this week took a stab at attempting to reduce restrictions against defendant Eliseo Claro—charged with arson and domestic violence—so he could see his wife and children.

It didn’t convince the judge, who demanded he wanted to hear from the domestic violence victim in person before he’d change a criminal protective order (CPO) that bars Claro’s contact with both his significant other and the children involved in the case.

The defense did provide the court with proof of anger management counseling, parenting counseling, and three letters of recommendation—one from an employer and “two from people who are very familiar” with the defendant—in an effort to allow Claro to have contact with his family, but not to interact in a negative manner, such as harassment.

The defense attorney argued that at a previous court hearing the witness and alleged victim appeared in court and “requested that there be no protective order because she is not afraid of him.”  At the time, the court said it would take it under consideration if the defendant took parenting and anger management counseling.

The deputy district attorney immediately objected to the reduction of the CPO “based on the severity of the crime that is alleged.”

It is alleged that the defendant got into an argument with his significant other before collecting some property on the porch and setting it on fire. See https://www.davisvanguard.org/2020/12/from-bad-to-worse-for-defendant-who-attempted-to-set-living-room-on-fire-with-children-present/

Claro then went inside where his two children were present and doused the area with lighter fluid before putting a gun to his head and threatening to kill himself.

In response to the People’s objection, the defense claimed they received a “certified letter from the accuser [that claimed that] she was not truthful when she called 911 and spoke to the police officers and that she exaggerated some statements which were not true regarding the incident.”

Judge Mac Fisher stated, “I’d like to hear from the actual alleged victim, not through the defense counsel and not through the defendant for modification of any CPO.

“It’s very early in this process for me to make this decision in a case where the bail is posted at $200,000 [and] in a case where there’s not a single charge but multiple counts involving allegedly several victims,” Judge Fisher continued. “There was an alleged arson…the victim and the child were inside the home.”

Judge Fisher concluded that he will not modify the CPO, adding, “I’ll leave open that possibility and I ask you to present this for my consideration at a future time…it’s just my personal view…I like to look at the person and speak to the person, I can’t look at a piece of paper…”

Claro’s preliminary hearing was set for March 24, 2021.

Lauren Smith is a recent graduate from UC Davis. She received a B.A. in Political Science and Psychology. She is from San Diego, California.


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