The Vanguard Week in Review: Court Watch (May 3 to May 7, 2021)

The Davis Vanguard is an online news forum that provides coverage of criminal justice reform and courts throughout California and the nation. In 2006, the Davis Vanguard began to cover Davis and Yolo County groundbreaking, local news concerning government and policy issues affecting the city, schools, and county. The team has grown to about 40 to 50 interns who monitor and report on live court proceedings in more than six different counties throughout California, from the State Capitol of Sacramento to the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley and Southern California. 

Compiled by Stephanie Boulos 

Monday – May 3, 2021

Sacramento County Superior Court 

Christopher Datu – Dept.  61:  Christopher heard a number of motions, requests for continuance, and plea hearings in Dept. 61A of the Sacramento Superior Court. In this department, Abel Gonzalez-Silvas entered a no-contest plea to the felony of defacing real property above the amount of $400. After a few requests for continuance and motions to dismiss were heard, Joseph Tobin was called in to be the Spanish translator and the plea hearing commenced. Upon reviewing the relevant facts, Judge Geoffrey Goodman confirmed that Gonzalez-Silvas had thrown a rock at the victim’s car and proceeded to strike said victim with a stick. Gonzalez-Silvas earned a second charge for assault which was dropped prior to the no-contest plea. Judge Goodman gave Gonzalez-Silva credit for time served and ordered him to be released same day. Restitution for the hearing was also held against Gonzalez-Silvas along with formal probation.

Will McCurry – Depts. 45, 63:  Will sat in on Sacramento Superior Court Depts. 45 and 63. In Dept. 45 Public Defender Alexis Payne appeared 977 for the defendant Jonathan Spaulding. There was a quick meeting with Deputy District Attorney Allen Tsikerman who filed a motion to include information with Spaulding’s altercation at a Kaiser. The information was very brief but his motion was granted. In Dept. 63 Will  saw were continuances, a few brief bail hearings, and preliminary hearings that were scheduled.

Fresno County Superior Court

Ankita Joshi – Dept. 10: Ankita monitored Fresno County Superior Court Dept. 10. There were many continuances granted, including time waivers and bench warrants. In one such case, Judge Francine Zepeda refused to move forward on a case where the District Attorney’s office was trying to combine and add charges for two different crimes without allowing the defense enough time to prepare. Both defense attorneys were present in court, and voiced their disapproval of their ability to move forward that day, since they were not given any time to prepare beforehand. The DDA on the case argued that the defense attorneys in both cases had been given notice that the charges may be combined earlier in the case proceedings, and should be prepared to move forward. However, Judge Zepeda maintained that being given notice is not the same as having time to prepare. As a result, the case was continued to a later date to give ample time for both defense attorneys to prepare for the new charges.

Ned Meiners – Dept. 32: Ned Meiners was in Fresno Superior Court, Dept. 32 on Monday, when over the course of the hearing several defendants failed to appear because they had been turned away from the court, presumably due to concerns about overcrowding. These included Oscar Caballero, Joseph Campor and Savannah Cruz. Noe Curiel returned from the State Hospital was certified mentally competent to face charges. Arthur Calderon plead guilty to a DUI charge and Alan Amey to assault with a firearm. Eric Carillo attempted to plead to child molestation but stated he had reservation about his plea and was only accepting it because the potential sentence if he were found guilty at trial was 75 to life. This was not acceptable to the judge. He suggested he discuss it with his lawyer, and when they returned from recess, Carillo pled no contest.

Derrick Pal – Dept. 1: A judge tries to advise an agitated defendant against representing himself in court, eventually caving in an arraignment here in Fresno County. Defendant Domingo Ramos is charged with two counts of resisting a peace officer, one count of deterring an officer by threat or violence, and one count of trespassing and refusing to leave private property. Judge William Terrence began the hearing, asking the defendant why he would not accept an attorney to be appointed to him for his cases. “It’s not necessary, I don’t think it’s necessary,” stated defendant Ramos, standing his position that he is capable to represent himself.  Judge Terrence, however, tried to get through to the defendant, stating that defendant Ramos would be at a “significant disadvantage” in representing himself because of his lacking ability to read and understand English and also having only up to a sixth-grade level education. As Judge Terrence continued questioning defendant Ramos about his decision to represent himself, the defendant became increasingly agitated, yelling that he understands everything, and the judge keeps repeating himself.

Judge Terrence tried to explain, “The issue is as to whether or not you understand the nature of the proceedings against you, and sir it’s very important to me that you understand that an attorney can be appointed to represent you from the Public Defender’s office.” Judge Terrence added that there are “very good attorneys” that could be assigned to the defendant and asked again if defendant Ramos wanted to proceed without one. Agitated and seemingly unsure of how to proceed, defendant Ramos’s matter was put off shortly, where when is case was called again, he finally agreed to being appointed a defense attorney. Upon hearing this, Judge Terrence, now satisfied, stated “Thank you, the Public Defender’s office is appointed. We’ll trail the matter to allow Ramos the chance to speak to his attorney.” No further hearing dates have been set at this time.

Yolo County Superior Court: 

Kathryn Wood – Dept. 7. Kathryn Wood viewed a number of continuances and preliminary hearing resolutions. In one case, defense attorney Allison Zuvela stated that the defendant wanted to reject the 2-year probation resolution. Judge David Reed agreed that an upper prison term was not justifiable. Additionally, Judge Reed believed that the defendant would benefit from services provided and wanted to “encourage him to use mental health and job services in the community.” In another case, the defendant was charged with attempting to escape from jail and identity theft. Zuvela advocated for the individual to be provided with counseling and educational services for substance abuse.

Tuesday May 4, 2021

Sacramento County Superior Court 

Leah Timmerman and Koda Slingluff – Dept. 61: Leah and Koda saw Judge Geoffrey Goodman preside over Sacramento Dept. 61 this Tuesday afternoon, hearing numerous cases which carried over from the morning as well as a full afternoon calendar. One defendant, Timothy Johnston, got out on bail even though he had two armed robbery charges. Johnston’s lack of a record was one of the main factors for Judge Goodman’s decision. “These are serious charges but I don’t think necessarily every robbery case with a gun requires holding without bail, so I’m imposing the strictest possible probation,” Goodman explained. There were two cases of child molestation, both of which had enhanced penalties because of the prepubescent age of the victims. There was also a grand theft case where a woman, Keneisha Jennings, stole $987 worth of items from Walmart, she pleaded no contest to the charge and will receive 16 months in jail.

Wednesday May 4, 2021

Sacramento County Superior Court 

Alexander Ramirez – Dept. 61: The department had a large calendar; there were a few interesting cases. There was a case where a no contact order was tried to be lifted by the person the no contact order was put in place to protect. The victim themselves said that the restraining order was a mistake. There was also a case where an incarcerated man was in court for a motion for dismissal, but there was a back and forth between the public defender and the attorney. If the man was to be released, he would have to see jail psychiatrics and was pretty much guaranteed to qualify for JPS; a form of jail health services. The prosecution requested to deny the dismissal for I believe an undetermined amount of time because of his long list of prior offenses, but the public defender believed to “Trust the process of JPS.” The man was released, with heavy objection from the prosecution.

Kelly Xiao Luo and Koda Slingluff – Dept. 63: During their session in Sacramento Superior Court 63, they chose to write about Defendant Jesse Rayburn’s, who was written about by the Vanguard two times in the past. Both times were about Rayburn’s behavior in court and his eagerness to represent himself for his pro per case. In the court hearing today, it was with Judge Marlette and DDA Wall who were discussing Rayburn’s trial date. The day went rather long because of Rayburn’s continuous questions, ending with Marlette joking with the bailiff about how tedious it had been. He commented, “I don’t know how long he’s gonna make this because he’s gonna get into troubles,” after Rayburn left the room. Rayburn’s constant interruptions and comments in the courtroom is the highlight of today’s article.

Fresno County Superior Court

Derrick Pal – Dept. 1: A judge made a clear warning that a defendant is to obey all terms of his release, or the court will “essentially be out of options” and put the defendant right back into custody in an arraignment here in Fresno County. Defendant Jadden Harrington is charged with one count of misdemeanor battery. Judge William Terrence began the hearing, asking about the “facts that give rise to the necessity” for a criminal protective order. Deputy District Attorney Brian Exline explained that the defendant, who was allegedly intoxicated, argued with the victim at home which led to the victim being pushed in the chest multiple times, causing her to stumble. Additionally, the victim corroborated that the defendant may have a drug problem. Deputy Public Defender Jacob Leitner-Zieff argued, however, that the defendant recognizes the issues he needs to work on, and “he is ready and willing to do so.”

After reviewing the information presented, Judge Terrence confirmed the court will issue a full no-contact order. Defendant Harrington is ordered to attend and complete at least 6 AA and NA meetings, and additionally is not allowed to use or possess any alcoholic beverage or illegal narcotics.  Judge Terrence warned that if these terms are violated, “this court will essentially be out of options, Mr. Harrington, and you will likely find yourself right back in custody here at the jail, do you understand that sir?” which Defendant Harrington acknowledged. A future hearing is set for May 19.

Yolo County Superior Court: 

Alexander Ramirez – Dept. 1: After Sacramento ended around 3:30, I popped my head into Yolo 1 to see what was happening. There was a two hour long stream, so I tried to get as far as I could into my shift or until I found something. An interesting case that I wrote about was on a man who was muted in court while explaining that his car was impounded and that he has a job interview tomorrow. He was hoping for OR, but he was muted while he was talking. He was in for a felony and misdemeanor, but to straight up mute him was pretty weird. Bail was set at $100,000 for him.

Contra Costa Superior Court:

Ankita Joshi – Dept. 37: Almost all of the cases presented were heard for sentencing hearings or were continued to a later date. One of the cases that was continued included that of Defendant Charles Santiago Davenport, who was present on charges of elder abuse. The victim in the case, the defendant’s mother, was present in the court to request that the criminal protective order against her son be reduced to a peaceful contact order. However, the judge noted that she was not aware of all the facts of the case, and would thus be siding with the prosecution. Defense Attorney James Morrison argued that the presence and statement of the victim should be enough for the judge to make a decision. Regardless of this line of argument, the judge moved to continue the case to a later date so that the defense and prosecution could discuss the possibility to resolve.

Thursday May 5, 2021

Sacramento County Superior Court:

Christopher Datu and Natasha Feuerstein – Dept. 9: Natasha and Christopher watched two preliminary hearings in Sacramento Superior Court Thursday morning. In Dept. 9, defendant Jose Lopez was charged with a felony of alleged possession or manufacture of a weapon while serving time in prison. Lopez has two prior felony convictions and is thus eligible for three strikes life sentence. According to correctional officers, Lopez was seen picking up a white envelope that was slid under the door of an inmate’s cell. Suspecting contraband, an officer from the guard tower alerted a fellow officer to conduct a search. After searching Lopez, the white envelope was found in his back pocket.

The envelope contained a sharp object tucked inside a sheath. The defense argued that as part of Lopez’s job assignment as a porter, he is supposed to clean and pick up items from the tier passing where he was seen picking up the envelope. The envelope also does not signify contraband on its own, since inmates are allowed to possess paper and envelopes and pass them to porters in order to deliver them to the mailstream. Despite this, the court found there was sufficient evidence to believe Lopez was guilty, and further proceedings were set on the prison calendar for July.

Roselyn Poommai – Dept. 18: Roselyn witnessed a preliminary hearing in Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 18 for defendant Donovan Jordanscott, facing two counts of second-degree robbery. The victims indicated that they were misled to believe the defendant was female when initially communicating with one another through Snapchat. Although the defendant stood the dealers up the first time, they later met that night and were confused to see the male defendant arrive at their arrangement but continued the marijuana deal.

During the transaction, the defendant allegedly pulled out a gun and pointed the firearm towards the witnesses, prompting them to hand over their commodity before he fled the scene. Though no party was hurt, the case grew complicated as the witnesses provided conflicting testimonies about the story’s details. To further investigate the matter, defendant Jordanscott’s case will continue on July 28, 2021, in Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 61.

Leah Timmerman and Savannah Dewberry – Dept. 61: Leah Timmerman and Savannah Dewberry sat in while Judge Geoffrey Goodman presided over Sacramento Dept. 61 this Thursday afternoon. One defendant, Randy Overstreet, was denied his Romero motion to get rid of his strike from his record. The judge denied the motion because Overstreet had failed to register as a sex offender under a correct address in the three years he had been on probation along with the recency of his release and the severity of the crime committed. There was an audio and video issue with Deputy District Attorney Brian Morgan, Judge Goodman stated that he “sounded like a cartoon character” so the Humphreys motion was moved to Monday May 10.

Another defendant, Alagondro Paiva, was given no bail for a homicide that occurred in 2018. There was a difference of opinion between the defense and the Deputy District Attorney, the defense saw it as a petty dispute and self-defense while the DDA argued it was a calculated action. Judge Goodman stated it was a “sufficiently serious one-off” to not allow Paiva out on his own recognizance. He was worried about him not returning to court as he was facing a possible life sentence and feared for public safety due to past examples of low triggers towards violence.

Friday May 7, 2021

Yolo County Superior Court

Alexander Ramirez – Dept. 1: Alexander Ramirez saw on Friday two preliminary hearings that are estimated to take around 90 minutes each. The first hearing was about a robbery that happened at an AutoZone in West Sacramento, and I wrote an article about this case. There were three suspects of the robbery that included two males and a female, but only the two males were in court at this time. The public attorney brought in two witnesses. One was an employee at the AutoZone at the time of the incident, and the other was an officer that responded to the incident. After a short time of the suspects entering the store, they ran out with things like car stereos and car mats. There were two scuffles mentioned by the employees at the time, with one of the employees saying that one of the suspects reached for his waistband after the employee followed them to their car.

The vehicle that was used in the robbery was found at a nearby motel with nearly $700 worth of stolen goods, and all three of the suspects were arrested. The second preliminary case began shortly after a court recess, but it was cut off once it hit 4:30. From what was said by the single witness that was brought in, there was a 911 call that sounded like a domestic violence report, and when police arrived at the scene, a man was arrested. However, after arresting the man and finding that he was under probation, the officers present searched the hotel room where the couple was staying and found tools like a bolt cutter and crowbar. It turns out that the couple may have been connected to a robbery that occurred not too long before this case. The case was cutoff as the witness was going into the details of the robbery that occurred before this incident. This was scheduled to continue May 17.

I’m a second year Political Science and Philosophy major at UC Davis from SoCal, hoping to pursue a career in law!

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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