By Michael Wheeler
SACRAMENTO, CA – There was a little twist Monday here in Sacramento County Superior Court at Vannoy Sutton’s preliminary hearing on domestic violence charges.
The case followed an inverted script. Sutton’s girlfriend, whom he is accused of assaulting during a domestic incident, completely recanted her police statement instead of testifying against him,
The girlfriend/”victim” said Sutton, charged with inflicting great bodily injury, battery inflicting serious bodily injury, and attempting to prevent or dissuade a witness from attending or giving testimony, had not assaulted her at all.
The date of the incident was not specified, but the woman testified that she had become enraged when an unknown woman called Sutton’s cell phone and began telling her what she was doing wrong in the relationship.
The alleged victim testified that the COVID-19 pandemic had caused her a great deal of economic stress, as trying to support her family dovetailed with her anxiety, for which she took multiple medications.
After briefly speaking with the woman, the alleged victim stated that she went into the couple’s bedroom and “slapped [Sutton] out of his sleep.”
Once awakened, Sutton then held her down to prevent her from slapping him but did not attempt to harm her. The victim admitted she told police that Sutton had choked her and put his hands around her neck, but that had not actually happened, and she had never lost consciousness.
When asked by prosecutor Mitch Miller why she would have lied to police, she replied, “I was mad, I told them a whole lot of stuff.”
Both Sutton and the alleged victim threw things at each other, and the alleged victim told police at the time that when she tried to call 911, Sutton attempted to prevent her from doing so before she was able to escape to the bathroom and call the police.
Alcohol also played a role in the dispute, as both parties had been drinking.
The alleged victim told the court that she spilled wine on herself but then informed the police that it was urine. Of the entire incident, she stated that everything that she had said that day was out of anger and not true, confessing, “I just said what I said, I didn’t care.”
The couple initially met in Bakersfield before moving to Sacramento in June of 2020. The alleged victim informed the court of the challenging process she went through trying to track down someone to recant her police statement to, saying that no one would listen to her.
In a notarized letter she provided to the court, in which she stated that she did not wish for anyone to press charges on her behalf, she wrote, “Whatever I said when I was under duress was over-exaggerated and not true.”
Defense attorney Charles Pacheco directly asked her why the court should believe her statement.
“I’ve been telling this story since it happened,” she said. “That’s why it’s taking so long, because I never got to fix it. I’ve been going in a circle.”
Witness David Cropp, a former police officer who now works for the Sacramento Regional Family Justice Center, testified that, in cases of strangulation, loss of bladder control can occur before loss of consciousness.
“Many times victims of strangulation do not have any memory of losing consciousness,” said Cropp, adding it was common for victims of domestic abuse to recant statements they made to law enforcement regarding the abuse that they had suffered.
Judge Shelleyanne Chang still decided to order Sutton be held to answer in the case.
However, a complication emerged when Judge Chang stated that she believed Sutton had not been in compliance with a previous court order to attend three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings per week.
In fact, he had been attending meetings, but less frequently than the stipulated requirement, and also appeared to have been attending the wrong program. Sutton protested, saying that he believed that he had been attending the program that he had been ordered to.
However, Judge Chang ruled that he was non-compliant with the order, and ordered him remanded with no bail.
The busy schedule of Pacheco complicated the immediate scheduling of a trial date. An arraignment for the trial was scheduled for May 28.
Michael Wheeler is a junior at UC Davis, where he studies History and Economics. He is from Walnut Creek, California.
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