Judge Sides with Defense that Prosecution May Be ‘Beating Up on the Poor’

By Roxanna Jarvis and Any Buitrago Zarabanda

SACRAMENTO – Judge Geoffrey Goodman questioned the prosecution’s recommendation for sentencing here in Sacramento County Superior Court this week, and largely sided with the defense argument that excessive sentencing appeared like “beating up on the poor.

“Given that the prior felony would now be a misdemeanor and based on (the) representation that the defendant doesn’t have any significant record, why the 180-day offer as opposed to something less than that?” Judge Goodman asked Deputy District Attorney Nicholas Karp.

Defendant Nicholas Strickland, represented by Assistant Public Defender Joshua Kurtz, has been charged with two felony counts of possession of a firearm and one felony count of possession of ammunition due to Strickland’s previous felony charges.

Karp, who was standing in for Deputy District Attorney Emilee Divinagracia, attempted to argue the justification for his sentencing recommendations based on the defendant’s prior criminal history. However, Judge Goodman once again questioned the justification for the DA’s recommendation, as Strickland’s prior conviction occurred 15 years ago:

“Your honor, his history does include significant misdemeanor history, granted it is from over 15 years ago. That being said …” Karp attempted to explain. “What about the last 15 years?” questioned Judge Goodman.

“His most recent conviction is in 2005, a DUI and driving without a valid license, ” replied Karp.

“That’s it?” asked Judge Goodman. “Well, since then he’s been cleared,” said Karp.

After this interchange, DDA Karp argued that Strickland’s conduct at the time of arrest warranted the 180-day sentence, and maybe an additional charge. PD Josh Kurtz could then be heard saying aloud, “What? I gotta hear this.”

“Based on the report, my understanding is that Mr. Strickland was combative with law enforcement at the time,” Karp explained to the court, and suggested adding a charge for resisting and obstructing an officer.

Kurtz followed Karp’s comments by explaining that there was never any combative behavior, simply that Strickland was arguing verbally, but no fighting occurred.

“I don’t see why he would have to do 180 days … you’re not insisting that, that’s inside or outside, right Mr. Karp?” questioned Judge Goodman.

“What I’m asking you is, what are you asking? To get a pat on the back and say, ‘Congratulations’ or what?” Goodman asked Kurtz. “What are you asking the court to do?”

As Kurtz explained wanting a credit time-served offer … and then defendant Strickland interrupted. “I’m not a criminal, your honor.”

“Sir, that’s not—I understand and I’m not suggesting you are a criminal. I mean, nobody’s a criminal, but if you violate the law, you may be guilty,” replied Judge Goodman to Strickland.

Judge Goodman then gave suggestions to resolve the matter reasonably for the parties involved. However, DDA Karp stood his ground for 180 days.

Kurtz explained the absurdity of Karp’s offer, noting, “I just feel like in situations like this, it certainly makes anyone in our office say ‘let’s just go to trial and see how that works out’ because this is crazy,” Kurtz continued, throwing his arms up in the air.

“In COVID time, you’ve got somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong in forever. He’s got a .22 rifle that he was using for target practice with his kids years ago … it sure seems like we’re beating up on the poor even more than we normally do in this situation,” he added.

Judge Goodman agreed with the idea of a trial, stating they should have a preliminary hearing and bail motion after. “(Let’s) see what happens because I kind of agree with you, Mr. Kurtz. I think the defendant has probably done enough time (in jail) as a condition of probation at this point.”

Additionally, Goodman stated he could provide an offer to Strickland, but that Strickland would need to “plead to the sheet” in order for him to do so. By “pleading to the sheet” (or entering an “open plea”), the defense would be able to argue why Strickland deserves a lesser sentence.

In such cases, pleading the sheet would avoid the prosecution’s offer, while also avoiding having to go to trial. But there is a catch—“opening” the plea also opens the risk of the judge imposing a harsher sentence than the prosecution’s original offer.

“I don’t know if that matters to you, but I would think you’d rather have one felony than three,” said Goodman to Kurtz regarding an open plea.

Kurtz requested to speak with Strickland privately, but the conversation continued over livestream due to technical issues. During this period, Judge Goodman reaffirmed that Strickland’s felony charge of possession of ammunition would be reduced to a misdemeanor.

After deliberation, Kurtz informed the court they would be taking the two felony counts for time served and the misdemeanor.

Before moving forward, DDA Karp attempted again to add the charge of resisting and obstructing a peace officer. “Your honor, I apologize. I don’t want to interrupt, but I do have an amended complaint. As I indicated, I was going to ask for a §148(a)(1) holding order …” Karp began.

“Too late,” interjected Goodman. “The court made an offer that’s based on the complaint in the file.”

By pleading no contest to the two felonies and one misdemeanor, Strickland was sentenced to a maximum sentence of four years and eight months if he violated his two years of formal probation.

While the conditions of his probation state that he needs to serve time, Judge Goodman informed Strickland that his time in custody has covered that part of the sentence. “So, it’s essentially time served,” Goodman added.

As Judge Goodman continued to inform Strickland of the conditions of his sentence, the issue of gun rights came up, with Strickland asking, “So, there’s no way for me to get my gun rights back?”

“Not under the current state of the law in California … I don’t have discretion on this one Mr. Strickland. If you wanna move to another state, maybe those states have different laws,” Judge Goodman replied.

He then added that this condition is a consequence of his current plea. “It was a consequence of your earlier conviction 15 years ago, as well,” continued Judge Goodman.

Before the hearing ended, Judge Goodman left Strickland with a piece of advice.

“I will just say this. I didn’t really let the prosecutor explain the full circumstances of why he might have even wanted to file another charge. I would suggest to you that when you’re stopped by law enforcement, acting out just causes the prosecution to want to file more charges against you,” stated Judge Goodman.

“You know, you say you’re not a criminal but when you act out like that, I think the prosecution believes that you are a potential danger to society. I’m gonna take your word that you’re a good guy. You haven’t had a criminal record in quite a while,” he continued.

“But you know, if you have an interaction with law enforcement just be polite and accept the consequences, okay? That’s just my advice going forward,” ended Judge Goodman.

Roxanna Jarvis is a fourth-year student at UC Berkeley, currently majoring in Political Science with a minor in Public Policy. She is from Sacramento, California.





Any Buitrago Zarabanda is a Criminal Justice studies student at San Francisco State University. She is originally from Colombia and migrated to the U.S. at the age of 12. She aspires to be a lawyer and work in the fields of immigration or public defense.

To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9

Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link:

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.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for