By Kathryn Wood
SACRAMENTO – Despite the defense argument that defendant Richard Moore suffered from mental illness, a Sacramento County Superior Court found Monday there was sufficient evidence to support multiple counts, including felony obstructing a peace officer.
However, the court also ruled that Moore, who was declared incompetent in February of 2020 and sent to a state hospital, is still not competent to stand trial.
On Nov. 23, 2019, Moore was coming out of the parking lot of Stanford Market in Sacramento, and Sacramento Police Officer Daniel Mejorado said that he recognized the subject and knew that he had a notice of trespass in the area.
He made contact with staff who claimed that he “caused a disturbance,” and Mejorado testified he wanted to give Moore “a verbal warning so it would not be an issue.” Mejorado and his partner, Officer Paul Danforth, drove up to the bus stop where Moore was located.
Mejorado testified that Moore jumped off the bench, approached the car quickly, and pulled his arm back.
“I thought he was going to punch me through the window” Mejorado stated, but instead, Moore allegedly threw a cigarette at him.
Mejorado claimed that the cigarette hit him under his right eye on his cheek. The officer described this as a “light burning sensation,” and added that there was a burn mark on the patrol seat and on his pants.
Defense Attorney (first name not available) Burg asked how many times Mejorado has come into contact with Moore, to which he replied, “at least 10 times.” Additionally, he commented that Moore has been verbally aggressive in the past, but it was never physical.
Officer Paul Danforth mentioned that the employees claimed the defendant “had been at the front door giving customers a hard time throughout the day.”
Danforth stated that he was “hoping to encourage him to get out of there so he doesn’t run into an issue again” and wanted to have an “outreach and community building conversation rather than take enforcement against trespass.”
After Moore threw the cigarette at Mejorado, he crossed the street toward the community center, and the officer asked the defendant to stop twice, claiming that Moore accidentally slipped and fell.
Danforth recalled that Moore “went onto his side and grabbed my leg…his mouth was open; I fully believed he was going to bite me in the leg.” As Danforth attempted to peel the defendant off of him, Moore launched spit up towards him, the officer testified.
Danforth mentioned that Moore tended “to be verbally abrasive in previous contacts.”
Defense Attorney Burg argued that “there is insufficient evidence for a holding order. Mr. Moore did not bite the officer…he did not threaten the officer…the officer’s subjective understanding of what he believed Mr. Moore to be doing is not sufficient specifically when Mr. Moore does not in fact bite the officer.”
Burg said the court should reduce the counts to misdemeanors “given that the contact in this case is minimal and the length of time of the pursuit and detaining of Mr. Moore was quite minimal.”
Deputy District Attorney Emilee Divinagracia argued that “the defendant made that motion of trying to bite him… there’s nothing in the code section that says actual contact has to be made … thankfully there wasn’t any contact here.”
“He was attempting to do that… it was clear from his body language which the officer described in good detail… and so was the spitting, that was also accomplished,” Divinagracia said, maintaining the count should remain a felony because “[h]e physically resisted by running away … by resisting when the officer was trying to detain him, and by grabbing onto his leg.”
“I think there is sufficient evidence with respect to Count 1. Mr. Danforth did testify that he ran from him. But not only that, that he grabbed onto the officer’s leg…and brought his head forward with his mouth open, then he spit on him and the officer had to use force on the defendant’s head and shoulder to get him away to prevent him from biting his leg,” Judge Shelleyanne Chang said.
“It appears that the offenses charged within the complaint are admitted because there is sufficient cause to believe that Richard Moore is guilty thereof,” she stated.
Judge Change concluded that “if Defendant Moore is returned to competency he is entitled to a preliminary hearing.”
Kathryn Wood is a third year at UC Davis, majoring in Political Science-Public Service and minoring in Professional Writing and Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning. She is from Petaluma, California.
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