By Mia Machado, Allison Hodge, Alex Jimenez and Sam Zou
FRESNO, CA – In the sentencing hearing of a domestic violence case, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Francine Zepeda denied a defendant’s probation request, asserting any case involving a knife and strangulation—“no matter how little (criminal) history” the defendant has—warrants a prison sentence.
Juan DeJesus Genaro, represented by private attorney Emily H. Takao, appeared in court Monday morning for the sentencing in his domestic violence case. DeJesus Genaro is already serving time for a case involving assault with a deadly weapon.
Prior to sentencing, the court heard from the defendant’s victim, who with the help of a Spanish interpreter, described how DeJesus Genaro allegedly beat her while she was pregnant.
Standing only a few feet away from the defendant, the victim explained that “he would never take mercy on anything that he would do to me.”
Despite agreeing with defense counsel Takao and Deputy District Attorney Carl Monopoli, sentencing defendant to a planned middle-term sentence of three years (the maximum was four), Judge Zepeda denied the prospect of probation, given the severity of the abuse outlined by the victim and police reports.
When defendant DeJesus Genaro spoke out of line and questioned testimony given by the victim before sentencing, Judge Zepeda warned that “the more you deny, the more you’re going to get a higher sentence.”
As routine practice before the sentencing of a defendant, Judge Zepeda allowed the victim to read an impact statement.
Since the letter was submitted in Spanish, Judge Zepeda allowed the victim an opportunity to have the interpreter translate selected contents on the letter so that the defendant and his attorney could also hear it.
During her statement, the victim admitted that she was nervous.
“What matters to me is that he has to pay for everything he’s done to me, because he never…he would never take mercy on anything that he would do to me,” she said, “I almost died twice because of his fault.”
She explained that the worst incident of violence that she can’t forgive was when DeJesus Genaro hit her while she was pregnant with her son on Aug. 31, 2020.
In the middle of her statement, however, Spanish interpreter Lorenzo Hortado asked Judge Zepeda if he could call in another interpreter, finding it too confusing to translate for the victim while the defendant—also needing an interpreter—interjected with his own remarks.
The victim proceeded with her statement when another interpreter arrived at the courtroom.
“I will remember this for the rest of my life due to all the scars he left on my body,” she continued. She claimed that she would not forgive the defendant for what he did, and asked Judge Zepeda for a 10-year restraining order.
Judge Zepeda told the victim that she heard her requests, and assured her that she will issue a restraining order approaching the end of the sentencing.
Although the victim verbally confirmed that she was not willing to forgive the defendant and that DeJesus Genaro should “pay for everything he did,” it was not until DDA Monopoli’s turn to speak did records reflected that the victim had asked for and “always wanted the max,” suggesting the maximum sentence possible for the defendant.
Defense Attorney Takao reaffirmed that she did not agree with the offer for a maximum sentence. The DA concurred with Takao, adding that a longer sentence could incur immigration consequences.
As the victim took a seat on the front row of the courtroom, Takao asked the court for probation on behalf of her client, citing his minimal criminal history.
Under the supervision of probation, Takao believed that her client would also benefit from participating in the Batterers Treatment Program—a set of 52 weekly domestic violence classes that persons convicted of certain domestic violence offenses must complete as part of their terms of probation.
Replying to Takao’s request for probation, Judge Zepeda explained her inclination to refuse probation for the defendant.
Judge Zepeda argued the victim suffered from strangulation and physical threats from the defendant using a knife. The officers noticed “red marks and bruising on her necks; scratches, different injuries…the fact that she said she lost consciousness, he threatened to kill her…”
Despite the defendant lacking an extensive criminal history, Judge Zepeda maintained her decision to deny DeJesus Genaro probation.
She explained that “any use of a knife, gun, or strangulation, I believe is warranted to [a] prison case.” Based on this reasoning, Judge Zepeda denied the defendant a chance for probation.
The defendant attempted to cut into the conversation while Judge Zepeda was still trying to explain her decision to deny probation.
“She said she was pregnant in August, and she wasn’t pregnant in August,” claimed DeJesus Genaro. Judge Zepeda, however, warned DeJesus Genaro that any further denial of events would only hurt his sentencing.
“The more you deny and question what the victim says, the more likely you are to get a higher sentence,” Judge Zepeda elaborated. She advised that the defendant should refrain from denying the victim’s statements when police reports indicated otherwise.
“I just don’t want to hear a denial of everything she [the victim] just said,” commented Judge Zepeda.
DeJesus Genaro continued to clarify that he did not use a gun on the victim. Judge Zepeda replied that she never said that the defendant used a gun but only a knife.
Reiterating her reasoning for not offering probation, Judge Zepeda continued and emphasized that DeJesus Genaro pressed the knife against the victim’s neck and chin, cutting her, and resulting in a laceration.
The defendant also allegedly once poured alcohol on the victim’s wounds. Judge Zepeda thus emphasized that these specific details of violent behaviors and occurrence of harm warranted a sentence without probation.
Judge Zepeda denied probation, and DeJesus Genaro will serve three years in state prison. Judge Zepeda agreed that DeJesus Genaro suffered from substance abuse and, as a result, ordered him to go through a substance abuse treatment program while incarcerated.
A 10-year criminal protective order was also issued for the victim. The defendant is not permitted to own, use, or possess any firearms and must surrender to authorities within 24 hours of receiving the order.
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.
Allison Hodge is a rising senior at UC Davis, majoring in History and Political Science. She is originally from Clovis, CA, and is pursuing a career in civil rights and/or constitutional law.
Alex Jimenez is a 4th year Political Science major at the University of California, Berkeley. He has future aspirations to attend law school and is from Pleasanton, Ca.
Sam Zou is currently a third year Political Science major student at UCLA. Within the field of political science, he is particularly interested in political economy and international politics. He hopes to contribute his passion for political science through contributing to the local community and beyond.
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