By Alexander Pleitez
WOODLAND, CA — In a preliminary hearing this week in Yolo County Superior Court, attorneys argued whether an alleged stalker’s actions of sending gifts and sliding letters under the door of a victim are menacing threats or harmless romantic gestures.
John Joseph Tomasello faces eight charges, a mix of stalking even when a temporary restraining order is in effect, contempt of court, and a hate crime. There were two witnesses present to give testimony.
From January 2021 to May of this year, John Tomasello allegedly stalked a woman, sending her gifts with objects, money, and food, sliding letters under the door of her apartment, and standing outside of her door for countless hours on end, often doing random things.
The victim withstood the stalking for months, until April 22 when she finally called the police and had the defendant arrested for stalking, and obtained a temporary restraining order in late April.
That evening, the victim was at home when she heard music coming from outside. She said she saw John Tomasello with a trolley cart and a Boombox on top playing music, before running away once he was spotted.
In the days that followed, the defendant continued to send letters, but instead of sliding them under the victim’s door, he sent them to the office of the apartment complex, which the victim stated was “manipulating the court system.”
Moreover, as time progressed, the defendant’s letters began to become more hostile, and in one case, even calling the victim bipolar.
Judge Stephen Mock commented, “He apparently communicated that he was interested in her romantically, but at some point, the tone of the communications had changed.”
On May 14, the victim spoke to Officer Erika Bohara at the West Sacramento Police department about the restraining order violation and spoke again on May 21, for the same reason, leading to John Tomasello being arrested for the second time.
The victim would also speak to Officer Samuel Gee on June 2 to garner information about the stalking where she revealed a multitude of Ring doorbell videos on her phone of the defendant commonly making his way to the front door of the victim.
In court, the attorneys, Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson and Deputy District Attorney Jesse Richardson, discussed the legitimacy of the fear the victim felt in regards to the actions of the defendant with the two officers mentioned earlier as witnesses.
Both witnesses would be questioned in their communications with the victim and what information they collected through their investigation.
Officer Erika Bohara for the West Sacramento Police department reviewed the discussions she had with the victim, including being shown videotapes of the defendant outside of the victim’s door that confirmed Tomasello’s actions.
Officer Samuel Gee told a similar story to the previous officer. But he added on that the defendant was “afraid for her life” in addition to fearing the possibility of being raped.
DDA Richardson said the victim had a reasonable belief to fear for her life, stating, “When you have a pattern of [repeated offenses] that’s the sort of conduct that creates an implied credible threat.”
PD Hutchinson defended Tomasello’s actions, suggesting the defendant’s action had a “romantic intent” and that “There is no evidence of a credible threat nor is there evidence that Tomasello meant to put her in fear of her safety.”
Judge Mock said that even “if the message of those letters were ultimately conveyed to [the victim] there would be a basis for prosecution.”
According to the judge, his repeated activities “indicated his obsession” with the victim and that her fear was objectively reasonable.”
In the end, however, the sentencing was delayed, and instead, there was an arraignment to discuss more of the facts with a date in July, but it’s clear the judge agrees that the defendant is guilty of both stalking and contempt of court as he has stated. But this case is not yet over.
Alexander Pleitez is a senior at South San Francisco High School planning to major in Political Science or Biology, currently residing in the Bay Area, and hopes to sharpen his writing skills and garner work experience with new opportunities.
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