Public Defender Charges Man Held on High Bail on Inconsistent Allegations after Probation Jailing

By Ella Jennings

MARTINEZ, CA – An assistant public defender here in Contra Costa County Superior Court charged last Thursday that her client has been in custody for more than a week based on weak and inconsistent allegations.

A bail motion hearing took place to reduce Jesus Chavez’s high bail, but the defendant could not be present because of COVID jail policies while in custody.

Chavez, of Pittsburgh, CA, was arrested Feb. 7 on charges of possession of a dagger and public intoxication, which violated his DUI probation agreement. The defendant was found with a 24-inch katana blade and a replica handgun in his vehicle when he was taken into custody by the Pittsburgh Police Dept.

Chavez was arrested outside of his ex-girlfriend’s house, who is the complaining witness in the new case. She alleges that he drove past her house in a gold Ford truck and flashed a firearm at her, and even “fired a shot…out of the vehicle.”

He had been texting her and threatening to kill her, she said, and told her he “had the balls to do it.”

The victim was crying and fearful when interviewed on the phone by authorities, noting that while the defendant hasn’t contacted her directly since his arrest, his brother and his father have been reaching out to her and telling her to let him out.

She says Chavez had taken her phone before and hit her while she was pregnant last year, causing her to miscarry. He also “threatened to rape and kill her 15-year-old daughter.”

Pittsburgh PD said the investigation is ongoing and charges may still be pending, which is why Chavez has not been formally charged yet with new charges.

The DA’s office has had a week to establish that Chavez is a danger to society and present evidence that it can prove additional charges against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt, but they have not yet filed anything additional.

However, Deputy District Attorney Anthony Augustyn stated that the People wish to keep Chavez’s bail set at $30,000 on the probation violation.

Chavez’s Assistant Public Defender, Jillian Gonzalez, believes that he is being held on a possibility based on weak and inconsistent allegations, and that the DA doesn’t have substantial evidence of his involvement in another crime.

The defendant had told his attorney he didn’t have any weapons, firearms, or replicas, but statements in the police report from Feb. 7 do note a replica firearm was discovered in the truck he was alleged to be driving when he threatened the witness.

Gonzalez says there is no evidence that can link the defendant to the truck or replica firearm, since he lives with roommates and he believes the truck and replica weapon belong to one of them. She clarified that the defendant isn’t even the owner of the gold Ford and the police report says he was a passenger in the car, so he couldn’t have driven past the witness’s house. He also alleges that he was on the way to the barber shop when he was arrested.

The complaining witness only said that Chavez actually “fired a shot” when driving past her house in her second interview with the police, claiming that she “forgot” to mention it earlier.

Since he is being held on $30,000 bail for a misdemeanor probation violation, which under the law is a $0 cite and release and the original bail schedule misdemeanor probation violations were $5,000, the defense asked that Chavez be released immediately on zero bail.

However, the police officer who wrote the report testifies that he saw pictures of the AR-15 texted to the witness, including references that Chavez would kill her. The court expressed concern about whether the complaining witness would be safe if the defendant is released from custody.

The defense argued that the defendant has ties to the community, including a job in the area and family ties, so he would be unlikely to flee if released from custody. A stay-away order was also put into place at the original arraignment which will serve as further protection for the witness.

Judge Wayne Rhyne ruled that the defendant on this record “does not present a risk of flight…however, there is sufficient grounds for the court to deny the OR release based on concerns of him presenting an unreasonable danger to the complaining witness in this case.”

A new court date is set for next week on Tuesday, Feb. 23, in Dept. 6 at 8:30 a.m., where the witness will have a chance to testify, as well as the court allowing the defense to make a case with the defendant present.

Ella Jennings is a second-year at Westmont College with a double major in Psychology and Art. She is from Burbank, California.

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