‘The People Would Be Happy to Convict You of All These Charges’: Judge Pushes Back against Defendant Questions about Plea Deal

By Dorrin Akbari

SACRAMENTO – Defendant Antonio Johnson received several deadpan replies from Judge Michael Savage in Sacramento County Superior Court, Dept. 62, Tuesday as he attempted to ask clarifying questions of the court about his plea deal and obligations.

Johnson was in court to enter his plea for three active burglary cases as part of a deal made by his previous public defender and Deputy District Attorney Frances Cobarrubio.

Assistant Public Defender Joni O’Connor tried to catch her client up on the deal’s details during the hearing after inheriting the case from her colleague.

With Judge Savage’s prompting, DDA Cobarrubio outlined the terms of Johnson’s deal for the court. The defendant would serve 56 months in total for his crimes—16 months in custody and 40 months under mandatory supervision.

Initially, DDA Cobarrubio noted that Johnson would be pleading to five of the 13 burglary counts on his main case in exchange for the modified sentence, the dropping of the other burglary charges, and the dismissal of his other two cases with a “Harvey waiver” for restitution, meaning the defendant would still owe his victims for damages on the dismissed charges.

Judge Savage quickly corrected Cobarrubio, finding that if Johnson were to plead to five of his counts, he would actually be required to serve 48 months rather than 56.

Cobarrubio responded by adding Johnson’s sixth count, carrying with it eight months of time to be served, to his plea, bringing his total time back to 56 months.

As the conversation between Savage and Cobarrubio was taking place, Johnson asked PD O’Connor: “How many counts am I pleading to today—three or seven?”

“Five,” responded O’Connor before accepting the addition of the sixth count on behalf of her client less than a minute later.

Upon receiving confirmation from both counsel regarding the defendant’s deal, Judge Savage requested that DDA Cobarrubio lay out the facts of Johnson’s primary case.

The DDA said that on or about March 6, 2020, in the county of Sacramento, the defendant committed six separate felony violations of second degree burglary of a 2019 Chevrolet Equinox, a 2010 Nissan Altima, a Lexus IS 350, a 2016 Hyundai Elantra, a 2017 Toyota Corolla, and a 2017 Honda.

The doors of all the aforementioned vehicles were locked, and the defendant had the intent to commit larceny with respect to all of those vehicles, said the DDA.

Judge Savage began explaining to Johnson the waivers and obligations he would be agreeing to as part of his plea.

Johnson dutifully replied, “Yes, your Honor,” to Savage’s questions one by one, but he stopped short upon hearing an item unique to his case.

“Do you also understand that any remaining counts or cases that will be dismissed can be considered for the purpose of considering any victim restitution that may be owed as a result of any of those crimes?” asked Judge Savage.

“So that means the rest of the cases are getting dropped?” inquired Johnson of PD O’Connor, who noted, “They won’t be convictions on your record, but you’ll be fined for the restitution.”

Turning his attention to Judge Savage, Johnson asked, “How is that possible, your Honor, if the cases are being dismissed?”

“It’s possible because the People are agreeing to dismiss those counts in exchange for your agreement to pay back what you damaged. If you don’t want to do that, I’m sure the People would be happy to take you to trial and convict you of all these crimes. It’s part of the deal. You don’t have to do it,” retorted Savage.

“Um, I agree, your Honor. I agree,” Johnson answered defeatedly after a brief pause.

With that, Johnson agreed to the remainder of Judge Savage’s reading of his waived rights and deal obligations and entered no contest pleas for each of the six counts of burglary.

Not deterred by his exchange with Savage, Johnson went on to ask some additional questions of the court and PD O’Connor as he worked to ensure he understood what he was committing to as part of his plea deal.

Johnson left the court in good spirits despite the day’s events, after learning that he had 229 days of credits which would count toward and reduce the amount of time he’d have to serve on his 56-month sentence.

Dorrin Akbari graduated from UC Berkeley in 2019 with a B.A. in Legal Studies and a minor in Persian. She is from San Jose, 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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