Defendant Misses Court Date After Allegedly Being Kidnapped in El Salvador – Judge Unsympathetic

By Sophia Barberini


SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Judge Richard Darwin of San Francisco County Superior Court refused Tuesday to provide any alternatives to a monetary bail for a defendant who claims he missed court because he was  kidnapped in El Salvador. He’s now in custody on $50,000 bail.


Defendant Jose Beltran-Gomez missed a court date in April 2018 after he allegedly stole items from a Macy’s department store, resulting in a warrant being issued for his arrest. The warrant led to the defendant being arrested at an airport in Sacramento as he returned from El Salvador. 


Deputy Public Defender Nikita Saini advocated for the defendant to be released on his own recognizance or that the judge find a “non-monetary alternative to his incarceration,” explaining the extraneous circumstances the client faced while he was out of custody. 


Following the defendant’s initial arrest, explained Saini, he went to El Salvador to visit his family, “hoping to be there for a short period of time.” 


While in El Salvador, the defendant was kidnapped, she said, held there for approximately a year and two months. It was only through the help of the US Embassy, said Saini, that the defendant was able to be released. 


Despite these circumstances, Judge Darwin was unsympathetic, stating that the kidnapping only “accounts for one of the three years he was missing.” 


“Unless he can post bail,” asserted Judge Darwin, “he is going to remain detained.”


Attempting to change Judge Darwin’s mind, PD Saini explained that the defendant has reason to stay in the area and return to court, citing his housing with his father and grandmother. She also explained that the defendant was facing a “pretty low level felony.” 


Unconvinced, Judge Darwin stated, “I have very good reason to believe he is not going to come back. Last time we released him he went to El Salvador.”


PD Saini attempted to offer GPS monitoring as an alternative to monetary bail and pleaded for Judge Darwin to come to a different conclusion. 


“No other non-monetary alternative has been tried at this point, so I am requesting that the court give Mr. Beltran-Gomez the opportunity to show that he will return to court,” she pleaded. 


Despite her efforts, Judge Darwin maintained, “I am going to keep bail as set at $50,000 based on his history of not coming to court in a period of three years. I find that there is no non-monetary alternative to ensure that the defendant will come to court.” 


In response to Judge Darwin’s decision, PD Saini requested a bail review hearing which is set for July 20. 

About The Author

Sophia Barberini, from San Mateo, CA, is a fourth-year student at UC Berkeley. She is double majoring in Political Science and Legal Studies and hopes to pursue a career in law.

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