By Jacob Mccollum and Mia Machado
FRESNO, CA – Both Fresno County Superior Court Judge Francine Zepeda and Fresno Deputy District Attorney Nicole Idiart last week were shocked to hear that a defendant was unable to appear in court.
“Is he on vacation?” the DA asked glibly.
But, in fact, defendant Charles Brown—no information if it was “the” Charlie Brown from the comics—was not on vacation, not in county jail as it was thought, but in state prison. Without being sentenced.
When Assistant Public Defender Scott Kinney explained that his client was unable to appear because he had been told that his client was no longer in county jail, he was met with incredulity from the court.
“I didn’t hear any such thing? Why do you know something I don’t?” the frustrated judge demanded of PD Kinney.
“Charles Brown couldn’t have been sent to prison, I have him on for sentencing,” she continued. “How could he have been sent to prison? I didn’t send him to prison.”
PD Kinney repeated that that was the only information that he received from the deputy. Judge Zepeda then asked on what possible charges the defendant could have been sent to prison. DA Idiart confirmed that there were no additional cases filed on Brown that would have resulted in his being sent to prison.
“Unless he was extradited, which he shouldn’t have been,” the equally confused DA said.
Judge Zepeda paused to try to track down Brown’s whereabouts. The system confirmed he was still registered in the Fresno County Jail.
Since the jail records showed Brown being held on the open felony case before the court, and she confirmed he has a no-bail probation hold, the judge demanded, “I would like him brought to court.”
However, after the deputy called the jail, he confirmed to the court that Brown had been sent to prison and was already there.
“He can’t go to prison, no one sentenced him to prison,” Judge Zepeda yelled. She accessed the court register and said that Brown was still listed as being in jail.
“I show him on the jail screen…I don’t know how you could send him to prison without a court order,” the judge continued. Baffled by how a human being could both be and not be in the county jail, the court moved on to other business before revisiting the issue.
Later when they readdressed Brown’s case, Judge Zepeda conveyed to the courtroom that it appeared Brown had been transferred to the prison for “some kind of assessment,” according to the Watch Commander. “I think they will probably turn around with him very soon, because I don’t think the jail has the right to ask for an assessment,” she said.
“He’ll be back sometime,” DA Idiart assured.
After another hour passed, Judge Zepeda explained to PD Kinney that “for some reason [the defendant], even though he shows on the jail screen, was transported for an evaluation or assessment.” Judge Zepeda admitted she was uncertain which judge ordered the request or “if any judge ordered it.”
After taking a closer look at Brown’s case file, Judge Zepeda realized why the defendant had been transferred to state prison.
“I think I just found,” she paused to laugh, “okay in his probation hearing case, it says ‘notice of admission and progress report filed by state hospital.’” The note read that he was admitted to Patton State Hospital on April 27 of this year, and that they planned to report the mental confidence of the defendant after an evaluation.
“You know what,” Judge Zepeda sighed, “they totally screwed up the dates.”
Attorney Kinney clarified that Brown had previously been sent to the state hospital for evaluation—a year ago—but that the hospital never came to pick him up. Attorney Kinney said they completed an evaluation on their own and declared competency, but that the state hospital “must have picked him up again without seeing that.”
The state hospital had completed their request, a year late.
“For goodness sake, Judge Zepeda exclaimed, “poor Mr. Brown, he’s probably wondering why he’s there.”
Judge Zepeda decided to issue a continuance for Brown’s case to June 4, when the defendant will have returned to the Fresno County Jail.
Mia Machado is a junior at UC Davis, currently majoring in Political Science-Public Service and minoring in Luso-Brazilian studies. She is originally from Berkeley, California. She is a team member on the Chesa Boudin Recall – Changing the Narrative Project.
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