Paying for the Past: Defendants’ Rap Sheets Appear to Play Bigger Role in Bail Determinations than Alleged Actions


By Dorrin Akbari

SACRAMENTO – Two accused domestic violence defendants here hoped to be released on no bail. Neither got their wish, and it appeared that Judge Curtis Fiorini may have given a little bit of a break to the defendant without a serious criminal history, even though his alleged misdeeds were much greater.

Defendants Anthony Richardson and Pierre Burney separately appeared before Judge Fiorini in Sacramento County Superior Court, Dept. 60, last week to answer to domestic violence charges.

Richardson was alleged to have left a small bruise on his victim after pushing her in an altercation; Burney was alleged to have kicked his victim in the head and stomped on her face to the point where her eye was swollen shut.

Judge Fiorini set the bails for Richardson and Burney at $10,000 and $25,000, respectively.

Of the two defendants, Richardson appeared first on the docket, was represented by Supervising Public Defender Joseph Cress, and was charged with two misdemeanors—one count for inflicting corporal injury on his girlfriend and one for child endangerment.

Deputy District Attorney Elise Stafford described the events that led to those charges:

Richardson and his alleged victim had been dating for a year. On Feb. 24, Richardson grew angry with his victim’s eight-year-old daughter for turning on the television, according to the prosecution.

He began to throw objects around the home, which both the victim and her daughter noted was a frequent occurrence. The victim and her daughter gathered their belongings and locked themselves in a room in an attempt to keep the defendant from destroying the items.

The defendant banged repeatedly on the door to said room, ultimately breaking it down and entering the space, the victim reported, adding he then pushed the adult victim multiple times. At one point, he pushed her into a television stand, which resulted in a small bruise to her upper leg.

The victim indicated that there was no prior physical violence, but there was a history of yelling, breaking of items, and verbal threats. She had requested a no-contact order against the defendant for both her and her children.

DDA Stafford noted that the victim “doesn’t believe jail is the place for [Richardson], but she wants him to get help.”

After a brief pause, Stafford gave her own thoughts on the defendant’s situation: “As we all know, oftentimes, it doesn’t help if it’s others that want [the help] for us.”

Stafford also emphasized that Richardson’s statement on the night of the incident that he “ [has] a huge temper problem” was of great concern. She listed Richardson’s criminal history, which included various misdemeanor and felony charges from 2012, 2013, and 2015 unrelated to domestic violence, as a further reason for her office’s concern.

PD Cress had asked that the court release his client on his own recognizance (OR). DDA Stafford had countered with a request to deny Richardson the OR release but reduce his bail to a misdemeanor schedule.

In this case, Judge Fiorini granted DDA Stafford’s request, setting Richardson’s bail to $10,000.

“I’m denying [the OR release] based on the relatively recent criminal history. While the incident didn’t result in serious injuries in comparison to other cases we see, it was clearly a situation where the defendant’s anger was out of control,” said Judge Fiorini to a visibly frustrated Richardson.

Several minutes after the Richardson decision, defendant Burney appeared before Judge Fiorini to answer for a felony count of inflicting corporal injury on his girlfriend to the point of causing great bodily harm. His bail was expected to be set at $75,000.

DDA Stafford detailed the nature of the crime Burney allegedly committed on Jan. 1:

In this case, the alleged victim, Burney’s girlfriend, texted her aunt pictures of herself with a completely swollen shut black eye. She indicated to her aunt that Burney had struck her. The victim’s aunt contacted the police.

When the police arrived at her home, the victim told them that she and the defendant had gotten into an argument. He had yelled at her before ultimately throwing her to the ground. Once she was on the floor, Burney allegedly kicked her in the head and stomped on her face, which resulted in a black eye.

Describing the photos of the victim’s face reviewed by her office, DDA Stafford remarked, “It’s completely black essentially from the bottom all across her cheek and around. You can tell she can’t even see out of her eye.”

The victim reportedly told the police that the Jan. 1 incident was not the first time the defendant had physically injured her. She claimed that Burney had broken her arm in the past, but she hadn’t reported it. The victim’s aunt had made note of this as one of the reasons for her call to the police—that this was an ongoing problem.

However, DDA Stafford noted that in a recent email correspondence with her advocate, the victim had indicated she would be sending an email stating that the events on Jan. 1 never transpired. She would be fully recanting.

Despite the victim’s position, DDA Stafford made clear that her office was prepared to continue with the case based on the evidence that they have.

“The People are asking based on the injury, overall conduct, and prior unreported domestic violence [the victim] told police that night that bail be set at $50,000,” stated DDA Stafford.

In contrast, PD Cress had requested that his client’s bail be set at $10,000.

Judge Fiorini rejected the requests from both parties, settling instead on a value between the two asked for by Cress and Stafford. He again emphasized the prominence of the defendant’s criminal history in the rendering of his decision:

“I recognize the seriousness of the injury, but I also recognize Mr. Burney’s employment and his being 51 years old with basically no record. I’m going to lower bail to $25,000 in light of all facts and circumstances,” the judge said.

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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