By Roselyn Poommai and Hongyi Wen
SACRAMENTO, CA – “There’s no amount of monitoring that would protect the victim’s safety,” said Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Stephen Acquisto Wednesday about defendant Tyrone Joseph, who faces several charges after allegedly striking his 78-year-old aunt with a metal chair and threatening to kill her after an argument.
The judge then refused to release Joseph—facing felony elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon—on any bail amount, and ordered him held until his trial July 12.
Court records show that on Jan. 21 at around 6:33 a.m., Officer Michael Smith responded to a senior citizen apartment complex after a resident, Ms. Doe, had pulled an emergency cord.
Smith was notified that the resident had been assaulted by her nephew. After arriving, he observed “blood on her shirt, on her neck, and on her right cheek,” which originated “from the top of her head.”
Earlier that morning, defendant Joseph and “Ms. Doe” had gotten into a verbal dispute after he attempted to hit her barking dog. Allegedly, Joseph became aggravated and broke a glass against a pillar separating the apartment’s kitchen and living room.
He then allegedly “took a red metal chair and swung it backward and hit her in the head” with it.
Before leaving the apartment, the defendant repeatedly threatened to kill Ms. Doe and refused to return the victim’s apartment keys. “I’m gonna kill you, [expletive] before I leave you, and your dog.”
This altercation followed another incident four days prior where the defendant “grabbed her [Ms. Doe] by the hair and threw her to the living room floor” after he was asked to move out for frequent substance use.
At the scene, Officer Smith recognized broken glass on the living room floor and the weaponized red chair, unfolded and upside down on the ground. CSI arrived on the scene to photograph the victim’s injuries, capturing the aunt’s recently blood-stained shirt and scalp in addition to bruises on her back and wrist from the prior incident.
Deputy District Attorney Mitch Miller later presented these photos to the courtroom during the hearing.
During the cross-examination on Officer Smith, Assistant Public Defender Gina Le attempted to establish that the victim’s memory was “fuzzy” due to her age and previous history of stroke and back surgery.
She argued that there was insufficient identification information to prove that the defendant in the courtroom was indeed the victim’s nephew, bringing up Officer Smith’s initial hesitancy to identify the defendant through the virtual Zoom platform accurately.
PD Le added that the suspect’s “kill statement” was simply a “hyperbole” without sinister intent. However, DDA Miller asserted that there was no other way to make the defendant’s statement a “stronger threat.
“The only way to make it clearer… is for him to literally add to the end ‘and that’s a threat,’ and there’s no legal requirement that he says that,” he said.
Judge Stephen Acquisto ruled that the defendant was sufficiently identified and agreed with the prosecution on the defendant’s intent.
Leaning toward rescinding Joseph’s current bail, Judge Acquisto said that “it doesn’t get any more violent than a threat to kill someone. I don’t care what you pay. You need to be in custody until the trial,” and he said that no amount of money would “render her safe because there’s still that threat out there that’s very concerning.”
Judge Acquisto cited the new California Supreme Court Case In re Humphrey. He stated that the Humphrey case establishes that pretrial release should be the norm, and pretrial detention should not be the norm.
Judge Acquisto said, “In re Humphrey, which essentially establishes that pretrial release should be the norm. There can be pretrial release on conditions; there can be pretrial release on money bail that is affordable. Pre-trial detention…is not the norm and should be reserved only when there are limited circumstances. Some of these limited circumstances are where there is evidence of violent acts and threats of violence.”
Judge Acquisto said that he was contemplating granting Joseph a pretrial release before reviewing all the evidence presented in court.
“Based on the evidence I have, we have a 77- or 78-year-old lady. She had a stroke. She was physically attacked and abused by Mr. Joseph, which is an active great violence. But then there is the threat about killing her as well.”
PD Le argued that there are many situations where there are defendants with allegations of attacks and acts of violence in the context of misdemeanor released on an O.R. (own recognizance).
“If this is a misdemeanor, I would’ve released him.” Judge Acquisto interjected.
Judge Acquisto pointed out that Joseph’s charges are much more grave than a misdemeanor, and that no pretrial conditions or amount of money would adequately protect Ms. Doe if Joseph were granted a pretrial release, insisting, “These are felony-level charges, felony levels of circumstances, it is felony-level conduct, it is felony level of violence, and it is felony level of threats.”
Le maintained that there is no evidence of Joseph continuing to trespass on the victim’s property or contact her in any way after the incident on Jan. 21, 2021.
Acquisto questioned when Joseph was arrested, to which Le answered that Joseph was arrested on the same day. Le said that Joseph did not attempt to call or contact Ms. Doe from the jail.
Le believes that there are alternatives to detention to protect Ms. Doe. She insisted that the public and Ms. Doe would still be protected if Joseph were released with an attached GPS electronic monitoring device, arguing, “Releasing him on electronic monitoring or GPS, he is under more supervision because he is being tracked on where he is going,” she said.
Judge Acquisto agreed that releasing Joseph without any conditions would not be ideal. “Right, I would not be comfortable with that.” However, Acquisto also believes that GPS electronic monitoring would not be sufficient protection for Ms. Doe.
“It’s a device, but even if someone’s monitoring the tracking in real-time 24 hours a day… if someone had threatened to kill me, I don’t know if I would feel all that safe just by the fact that they are tracked,” he added.
Le disputed that the court also needs to consider the question of safety from Joseph’s perspective. She argued that GPS electronic monitoring devices will ensure Joseph maintains good behavior since his activities will continuously be monitored.
DDA Miller sided with Judge Acquisto and believed that the GPS electronic monitoring devices would be insufficient to protect the victim.
“We all know that it [GPS electronic monitoring device] is not able to be monitored in real-time…coming from the juvenile division where we do a lot of electronic monitoring, the violations are found out after something happens,” he said.
Miller concluded that the options the court has right now are to either release Joseph with a GPS monitoring device and a stay-away order from the victim, or hold him in detention. He believes that, in this case, pretrial detention is more appropriate.
Regarding the bail, Miller suggested the court either disregard bail or set a bail amount the defendant can afford.
Judge Acquisto ruled that no conditions attached to pretrial release and no monetary amount of bail could adequately ensure the victim’s safety due to the severity of Joseph’s charges. Joseph will be on pretrial detention without bail.
Hongyi Wen is a junior at UC Santa Cruz majoring in Sociology. He is from Guangzhou, China.
Roselyn is a second-year undergraduate double-majoring in Psychological Science and Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. A native of Los Angeles, California, she is passionate about the role of human behavior in the criminal justice system.
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