By Alexander Ramirez
WOODLAND – The defendant at his preliminary hearing here in Yolo County Superior Court Friday could actually be the original victim, according to testimony retracing what happened on July 1, 2020, when Arthur Rico allegedly beat and mugged a coworker.
Judge Timothy Fall decided there was enough evidence for the trial to be set against Rico, but there were conflicting stories by witnesses and police failed to gather surveillance video and other evidence that may have cleared Rico.
According to a witness statement by another coworker on-site at the time, Rico asked if he could leave work early, but was denied.
After the spat, an investigating officer said Rico and two friends surrounded the victim before punching him in the neck, striking him two more times on the right side of the face, and taking the victim’s identification, social security number, and $900 in various bills.
This point of view provided by an officer witness in court is missing a few details, according to Rico.
Rico told officers that he was agitated after his colleagues made him continue to work after he was supposed to have been off. Not only that, but he had to call his friends after his coworkers would not give him a ride home.
The victim and the other coworkers present then surrounded Rico while the victim held a broken bottle in his hand. Rico continued to punch the victim and did not take any belongings, but he did not see what his other two friends did.
Deputy District Attorney Alex Kian, however, said there were no broken bottles at the scene.
However, that was countered by another police officer who arrived at the scene, after Yolo Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt elicited testimony that the victim was drinking from a bottle of unidentified material before Rico showed up.
Per the first officer’s statement, while talking to the victim, the officer could tell that the victim’s voice was “raspy.” This was objected to, waited, and later brought up in cross-examination by Van Zandt for a lack of foundation.
Although the officer being questioned was fully capable of confidently saying the raspy voice was caused by a throat injury, Van Zandt clarified that the officer had no prior or future experiences talking to the victim to gauge whether or not their voice was raspy, or whether that’s just the way the victim talks.
Van Zandt also questioned both officers present in court as to why surveillance cameras were not reviewed after Rico explicitly told officers to check the footage.
The first officer said that they had put this suggestion in the report for others to investigate, but did not follow up on it themselves as it was past midnight at the time. Van Zandt criticized this after it was explicitly described that there may be a count of armed assault on part of the victim in this case.
The second officer present did manage to leave their information and business card at the front desk of the warehouse in which this incident took place, but did not gain the information of the woman in charge of the surveillance at the time. No surveillance footage was recovered.
DDA Kian cleared up that, although Rico did not admit to hitting the victim in the neck, he did admit to hitting the victim in the face.
DDA Kian also noted that per a witness statement provided by one of the officers in court, all three of the people involved in the alleged robbery of the victim were seen searching the body of the victim while the victim was on the floor.
After all of this, Judge Fall found reasonable evidence to proceed with this case on a count of 2nd degree robbery and an arraignment on March 12.
The session was closed with PD Van Zandt saying, because judges often state that it’s a “low bar” for the court to move a case to trial, “It’s probably enough to get past prelim, but we’ll see what happens at trial if we get that far.”
Alexander Ramirez is a third-year Political Science major at the University of California, Davis. He hopes to hone his writing skills in preparation for the inevitable time of graduation.
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