By Julietta Bisharyan and Allison Hodge
WOODLAND, CA –– At the preliminary hearing for an alleged firearm, Yolo County Superior Court Judge Stephen L. Mock presided over witness testimony of three officers and denied a motion to reduce one of the defendant’s two felony charges to a misdemeanor.
The judge said there was some question about the evidence but still refused to reduce the charges.
Brandon Joseph Aguilera, represented by defense attorney Rob Gorman, appeared in court with two felony charges and one misdemeanor. Deputy District Attorney Jesse Richardson called three witnesses to testify on the confrontation that took place at a 7-Eleven gas station in June.
When the judge asked to identify the defendant in the room, all witnesses were able to recognize Aguilera.
The court first heard testimony from Officer Shayne Souza, who was dispatched to the scene with a report of a “Hispanic male adult,” with a black t-shirt and a black dog, threatening to shoot a store clerk.
Souza testified that he observed a person matching the description on-site, and arrested Aguilera.
He said he spoke with the store clerk who made the initial call for help.
According to the store clerk, the defendant had approached him while on a smoke break in front of the store. When the employee asked him to leave, the defendant allegedly took a firearm from his waistband and said, “I’m going to shoot you down.”
At that point, the store clerk called 911. He later told the officer that he was fearful for his safety during the confrontation.
When asked for the video surveillance footage from inside and outside the store, the clerk said he would have to speak to his boss about obtaining it.
Upon a search of the suspect, Officer Souza found Aguilera carrying a rolled-up piece of carpet with a pellet, or BB, gun inside and an orange flare gun in his front right pants pocket.
The next witness to testify was Officer Richard Wright, who took a statement from the store clerk.
The store clerk said he had problems with a local transient man, and that his superiors had previously advised him that if the person ever came inside then he should ask him to leave.
The store clerk also gave a slightly different version of events, in which he claimed that Aguilera came inside the store and, after being asked to leave, went for the gun at his side and threatened to shoot him.
The last witness to testify was Officer Ryan Eads, who was dispatched on a report of brandishing a firearm. Officer Eads offered similar descriptions of Aguilera.
Eads found additional unfired rounds of BBs and bullets, as well as a used methamphetamine smoking pipe, a bag containing a white crystal substance (later confirmed to be methamphetamine), and credit cards with other people’s names on them.
It was at this point in the testimony that defense attorney Gorman made a point about the difference in the clerk’s stories.
During arguments, Gorman suggested that the store clerk had lied in his statement to the police, saying that there are two vastly different versions of events that occurred in two different statements to the police within 15 minutes.
In the statement to Officer Wright, the defendant came into the store with his hand on the handle of a black firearm in his waistband and told the store clerk that he was going to shoot him.
In Officer Souza’s statement, however, the store clerk said he was outside on a smoke break and saw the defendant in the parking lot. There, the defendant allegedly threatened to shoot him.
Gorman emphasized the point that the store clerk said he needed to ask his boss first about giving the officers the video surveillance. He also argued that no firearm was pulled out and no threats were ever made to the store clerk.
Gorman believed the store clerk was being untruthful to the officers and concealed the video footage on purpose, most likely as a result of past altercations with Aguilera.
It is for this reason that Gorman submitted a request to reduce the felony charge of threatening a crime with intent to terrorize to a misdemeanor, stressing, “We’re talking about three bullets being a felony,” in reference to the extra bullets found in Aguilera’s pocket.
Gorman also pointed out that it is worth considering the veracity of the clerk’s statements in determining any possible felony reduction.
Based on the presented testimony, Judge Mock admitted that he found sufficient evidence to reduce the count to a misdemeanor, but denied the defense’s motion.
Judge Mock maintained that there is still the question of reducing section 422 of the California Penal Code from a felony, and ultimately kept Aguilera’s charge at the felony level.
Aguilera is still being charged for possession of a firearm, threatening a crime with intent to terrorize, and drawing/exhibiting a firearm in a threatening manner.
An arraignment was set for July 7, preceding a trial.