Vanguard Week in Review: Court Watch Feb. 8-12, 2021

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Compiled by William McCurry

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, Feb. 8 to 12, Vanguard interns and news reporters covered stories from Sacramento, Yolo, Contra Costa, Fresno, Alameda and federal courthouses. These are just some of the stories produced.

Feb. 8, 2021

Sacramento County Superior Court

Reporter Carlin Ross: Sacramento Dept. 3 was a lively courtroom on Feb. 8. Most notably, Judge Geoffrey Goodman denied an 18-year-old Anthony Grandberry’s motion to reduce bail from $250,000 to $25,000. The defendant’s attorney, Damien Joval, pleaded for the judge to consider In re Kenneth Humphrey, because he claimed his young client didn’t have the means to pay. However, due to Grandberry’s previous misdemeanor charge with similar firearm complaints, only eleven days prior to the conviction at hand, the judge determined he was a danger to the community and refused to reduce bail. Granberry’s preliminary hearing will be held March 9 at 8:30 a.m. in Dept. 3.

Reporter Dorrin Akbari:  Dorrin observed multiple hours of hearings in Sacramento Dept. 60 with Judge Scott Tedmon presiding. Nearly all of the 40+ cases heard this morning featured DDA Jenna Saavedra for the People and public defender Alicia Hartley for the defense. The COVID-19 pandemic was top of mind during the hearings after defendant Saravy Sen was asked to leave the courtroom following confirmation that he had recently been quarantined upon testing positive for COVID and had not received a negative test result before entering the court that day.  Hartley had already approached the defendant before learning this information and was noticeably shaken following the encounter. The courtroom was sprayed with disinfectant and several defendants were asked to adjust their masks as the hearings continued. Notably, eight defendants were unable to appear for their hearings due to medical reasons presumably related to COVID-19. All eight hearings were rescheduled at  Hartley’s request.

Reporter Alexander Ramirez: For my afternoon shift, I checked into Sac 60. This Dept. was under Judge Tedmon, so I couldn’t add to the judge database on the drive since he was already up there.  It was mainly rescheduling or the scheduling of arraignments. There were two notable cases. One case was an arraignment where the defendant was noticeably out of it, saying things like “I’m a drug addict, I need drugs.” Thankfully, the judge ordered for him to see a doctor later today. There was also another case that involved a stalker and an interesting victim statement that recalled the defendant saying things like, “I am a God,” and “The court system doesn’t scare me.” This was what I was thinking of writing an article on, and I went back to the Youtube stream after I finished my shift because it was gnawing at the back of my head. I still didn’t believe I had enough to write an article on for either of these cases, but after what David said at the meeting at 6:30; I don’t know. I’ll continue thinking about it.

Yolo County Superior Court

Reporter Max Kennedy:  Max heard multiple reviews and diversion hearings in Yolo Superior Court, Dept. 201. Judge Tom Dyer oversaw a morning of few disagreements as defendants each demonstrated they had completed or were in the progress of completing required programs. In virtually every case, another hearing was scheduled to confirm completion of the program or the case was dismissed.

 

Feb. 9, 2021

Sacramento County Superior Court

Reporter Esha Kher:   I heard multiple arraignments, felony pleas, bail issues, and motions to recall bench warrants hearings across Sacramento’s Dept. 15 and 63.  In Sacramento 15, the judge heard one case and held that there was a factual basis for a felony plea and put out sentencing for six months, and if there are no arrests, no convictions, and the defendant maintains sobriety when she comes back for sentencing she’ll be prosecuted for a misdemeanor rather than as a felon. In Sacramento 63, most of the cases covered entering a non-guilty plea, setting dates for preliminary hearings, and motions to recall bench warrants for violations of probation.

Reporter Lovepreet Dhinsa: I saw various cases. In particular, in Sacramento Dept. 84, Judge Philip F. Stranger engaged in a bickering conversation with defense attorney, Brian Wanerman. Judge Stranger was in a hurry to run through cases and was extremely dismissive towards Attorney Wanerman and his “under preparedness.” Attorney Wanerman showed up to a case, without knowing where the files or facts of the case were. Judge Stranger accused Attorney Wanerman of being extremely underprepared for the case and of wasting the court’s time. Attorney Wanerman failed to contact DDA Kelly Mulcahy prior to coming to court, despite having three months to prepare.

Reporter Kathryn Wood: Defendant Kyle Blair was brought into court for a probable cause hearing to review two charges. On Sept. 25, Blair entered Kay Bee Liquor Store in Sacramento where he began to sip on a beverage he took from a cooler. The employee told him that he had to pay for the drink before drinking it. Blair exited the store, and upon arrival his second and third time, he began to throw a “4-inch steak knife” at the employee on the two separate accounts, however the employee did not suffer any injuries. Judge Steve White claimed that the beverage was “not the object of robbery attempt” but stated that the prosecution “presented sufficient evidence to show that the offense within the complaint had been committed” and that there was “sufficient cause to believe that Blair is guilty.” For Blair’s second charge, the victim, who was walking near DoubleTree Hotel, reported that Blair “attacked him with a torch lighter” but he did not suffer any injuries. Following this, Blair followed the victim into the hotel lobby and discharged a fire extinguisher twice on the victim’s face and body. Judge White declared that the court “found Blair to be incompetent” and “if Blair is returned to competency, he is entitled to a preliminary hearing.” Additionally, at the request of Defense Attorney Brooks Parfitt, Judge White stated that he would “commit him to the Dept. of State Hospitals to take steps to restore him to competency.”

Reporter Kelly Moran: Defendant Curtis Ferreira pled no contest to residential burglary and agreed to 364 days in jail in order to have his second felony charge dismissed by a Harvey waiver, meaning it will only count towards the restitution paid. Ferreira’s defense, assistant public defender Joshua Kurtz asked Judge Geoffrey Goodmen to consider releasing his client, who is currently in custody, due to COVID, and to issue him a date to return to complete his time in a few months. Deputy District Attorney Mai Trieu insisted that Ferreira must serve his time in custody, despite the possibility that Ferreira would be released anyway due to the jail’s leniency towards people with short sentences because of COVID. Trieu claimed that to release Ferreira now would violate the plea deal presented by DDA Kendra Havlick, who she appeared for in Ferreira’s preliminary hearing. Judge Goodmen seemed baffled by her position, saying, “that’s what just is amazing to me, that we’re just operating on this set of assumptions, even though that’s not reality anymore.” While his client accepted the deal, Kurtz will discuss matters further with DDA Havlick if Ferreira is not released by the jail.

Reporter Dorrin Akbari: Dorrin observed hearings in Sacramento Dept. 36 and 62 with Judges Stephen Acquisto and Michael Savage respectively presiding. Both judges primarily set dates for continuances and further proceedings. Of note in Dept. 62, Judge Savage relayed through a court-appointed Spanish interpreter that defendant Juan Andres was to be housed in a state hospital and approved the involuntary administration of antipsychotic medication as part of his treatment program. Later, defendant Justin Hicks’ preliminary hearing was moved after both he and one of the People’s witnesses were unable to be present due to medical circumstances.

 

Yolo County Superior Court

Reporter Mianna Muscat: I skipped around several departments until finally landing on an interesting preliminary trial in Yolo 14.  From what I gathered, a  woman with pink hair seemed to try and steal from a  woman. The situation elevated and the two women began wrestling and then one (I’m not exactly sure which) brought out a knife. Ms. Garcia, who was allegedly acting in self-defense, stabbed the white woman who eventually went into the driver’s seat of a car and bled to death. Ms. Garcia went to the  woman and worriedly applied pressure to the areas the white woman was bleeding the most with a pair of jeans. But the  woman was eventually seen by medical help, brought to a hospital, and pronounced dead.

Feb. 10, 2021

Sacramento County Superior Court

Reporter Dalia Bautista Rodriguez: The morning shift of Dept. 4 focused on two defendants. The first defendant had his discovery motion opposed since it was written in English and Spanish. An investigator is to work with the defendant and assist him with translating his paperwork. The second defendant had poured gasoline on a neighbor and a toddler and he was also described as being schizophrenic and had a bipolar disorder. There was a total of three witnesses in this case, who all had similar stories.

Reporter Ella Jennings: The only notable livestream I found was a preliminary case hearing in Sac 15 involving possession of methamphetamine and possession of narcotics for two felony counts each under the presiding Judge McCormick. The dual defendants were Juan Antonio Aguilar Jiminez and his girlfriend Rosie Ann Byrnes. Jiminez had a previous prior of possessing a firearm as a prohibited person and two more recent cases of two felony counts for the unlawful theft and possession/use of a stolen vehicle and three misdemeanors for receival of stolen property, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Neither Jimenez nor Byrnes were present at this morning’s hearing since they notified their attorneys that they were in LA to check on Jimenez’s family and they all came down with COVID, and did not seem to have the means to appear via Zoom. Jiminez has failed to appear for this case in court 4 times, and both his and Byrnes’s attorneys agreed to pursue a warrant instead of a bench warrant as suggested by the prosecutor. Jiminez is expected to attend his next hearing on March 10 in home court Dept. 63 at 8:30 a.m.

Reporter Alexander Ramirez: For my afternoon shift, I once again checked into Sacramento 60 under Judge Tedmon. There were rescheduling, as always, but there was a fair amount more defendants not being present due to medical reasons. I mentioned this in the article I wrote. There were also more interesting cases not quite long enough to be their own article, but I was able to give them a good amount of detail in the article. The cases involved counts of stalking and corporal injury to spouse, which involved both defendants being released for rehabilitation and pretrial conditions. There was a heavier case that also included spousal abuse, but also included threats and firearm possession. This case ended with an exoneration of bail. All in all, I am not that happy with the article I wrote today. It felt like it was a bit everywhere.

Yolo County Superior Court

Reporter Kathryn Wood: Wednesday morning I viewed a number of probation and plea agreements in the Yolo County Superior Court. The majority of these cases included multiple DUI charges where the defendants had a variety of penalties, such as informal probation, serving a few days in county jail, and paying fines and fees. Additionally, these included participating in nine-month alcohol education classes to ensure that the defendants will not put other people’s lives in danger from operating a vehicle under the influence.

 

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, San Francisco

Reporter Any Zarabanda: In the Ninth Circuit court of appeals Dept. 1, the matter of Singh v. Wilkins was addressed. Singh is the petitioner requesting a review of his case as he believes that the immigration court failed to properly consider the evidence and uphold correct legal standards. Singh sustained an aggravated felony and lost his legal permanent residency. He is subject to removal but because he is an asylee, he is able to petition for certain waivers. However, these waivers were denied by the immigration courts and are now being presented before the appeals court to have the petitions reviews.

Feb. 11, 2021

Yolo County Superior Court

Reporter Derrick Pal: Derrick observed a preliminary hearing Dept. 7. Public Defender Emily Fisher questioned the credibility of Officer Raymond Barrantes during his unusual choice to testify in his vehicle during a live preliminary hearing. PD Fisher stated her objection that “every preliminary hearing I’ve done so far with an officer, a law enforcement officer, has been in a room at the police Dept.…this is not integrity of the process.” PD Fisher continued to scrutinize the actions of Barrantes through his procedural investigation of the vehicle that defendant Marcelino Castaneda was driving. After the hearing, Judge Reed ruled that there was overall sufficient evidence and strong suspicion of the charges against the defendant for possession of a stolen vehicle, however, bail was reduced in this case to $25,000. A further hearing is set for Feb. 26.

William McCurry is a fourth year at Sacramento State, majoring in Criminal Justice. He is from Brentwood, California.


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One thought on “Vanguard Week in Review: Court Watch Feb. 8-12, 2021”

  1. Ron Glick

    “There was also another case that involved a stalker and an interesting victim statement that recalled the defendant saying things like, ‘I am a God,’ and ‘The court system doesn’t scare me.’”

    That is frightening. Is this person in custody? Is there a restraining order?

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