‘Words Matter’ – Meaning Leads to $50K Bail for Defendant Charged with Making a ‘Credible Threat’ in Stalking Case

By Derrick Pal

SACRAMENTO — Supervising Public Defender Joe Cress argued here in Sacramento County Superior Court Friday that “words matter,” and the words his client texted to the alleged victim were not threats, and that the only harm threatened by defendant Fabian Ruiz was to himself.

Deputy District Attorney Monica Robinson disagreed, maintaining it didn’t have to be a “direct” threat.

Judge Scott Tedmon bought the prosecution’s argument, and set bail at $50,000 for Ruiz, who’s charged with stalking and making a credible threat with the intent the [victim] be placed in fear for their safety after he sent text messages to the complaining witness—and later showed up at her home Dec. 28, 2020.

“I think what’s notable about the report is that I have been doing this for a long time. For 25 years, when we come in here, I am constantly told that we have to accept the facts of the report as true when we’re doing a bail motion,” said PD Cress.

“I’ve never found any authority to support that position, nonetheless, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” said Cress, who challenged the charges against the defendant, noting “there are no threats in the text messages. That’s the bottom line here.”

Prosecutor Robinson argued, however, that credible threats were present, referencing the defendant’s texts such as “I’m going to do everything in my power to make your life hard through the system” and “I tried to keep it together but I’m losing it.

“With stalking, although there’s not a direct threat ‘I’m going to kill you now,’ you don’t need that for a stalking charge,” explained Robinson.

She added, “The credible threats…it’s a continuous course of conduct that would lead a reasonable person to be in fear of their life, for the safety of their family…but that conduct continued to escalate. Essentially, the victim said she believed that the defendant was intoxicated, and he started calling and texting her throughout the day.”

According to Robinson, prior contact and threats made by an individual can be considered when deciding if an individual poses a credible threat in stalking cases.

The text messages of the defendant were suicidal in nature, “however, what’s indicative is him saying he’s going to kill himself, that he’s going to shoot himself,” said Robinson. “I don’t think it’s a stretch to find it to be a credible threat when someone is saying they’re going to use a gun and kill themselves…when those threats have been made in the past to the same victim.”

By observing the totality of the circumstances, “it does not need to be a direct threat…A credible threat can be implied. I agree with Mr. Cress, this isn’t a case where you have the defendant say, ‘I’m going to come kill you’…[but] all of his conduct is what creates that fear in this victim and rightfully so,” stated Robinson.

“I stand by what I said,” responded PD Cress. “There’s simply no threat in those texts, no threat that any reasonable person would indicate that was a threat to the complaining witness.

“There is not a single published case that lowers the bar that low. Not one. There’s not even an implied threat here. There’s some vague statements about possibly committing suicide, but there is nothing that even rises to the level of an implied threat,” he added.

“You can’t just simply take every single statement and say he never gets the benefit of the doubt, we’re just going to, you know, find a sinister motive behind everything. Words matter. Words matter. Look at the words.

“There’s not a single one that amounts to a threat, there’s not a single one that amounts to an implied threat. The only possible implied threat is to himself, and he did not act on that. He’s been out for more than 30 days. There’s no threat here,” Cress argued.

Prosecutor Robinson referenced the defendant’s texts again, highlighting “I won’t tolerate being shunned off by no one. I’m trying to keep it together but I’m f***ing losing it.

“So you have someone saying that, saying they are suicidal, and then showing up at your door. I can’t think of something that’s more scary for a victim of violence,” the DDA insisted.

Cress concluded that “[Ruiz] wants to do everything that he can within the system to stand up for his rights, so he’s hired another attorney to do that. That’s some significant context here. Is that a threat? It may be a threat of legal action, but it’s not a threat of violence.”

Based on the totality of the information presented, and taking into consideration the defendant’s prior conviction, Judge Scott Tedmon set bail at $50,000, with a hearing set for Feb. 9.

Derrick Pal is a fourth-year student at Sacramento State majoring in Criminal Justice and pursuing a minor in Sociology. He is from Elk Grove, California.


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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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