By Benjamin Porter and Ana Arce
SACRAMENTO, CA – Julio Cesar Martinez appeared over Zoom before Judge Helena R. Gweon of the Sacramento County Superior Court for a preliminary hearing last Friday facing a host of charges, including three counts of sexual assault relating to an incident that occurred in Sacramento’s Northgate Park earlier this year.
This hearing consisted mainly of the sworn testimony of Detective Jose Yepes, who works for the City of Sacramento as a police detective on the sexual assault unit. As part of his follow-up investigation, Yepes testified that he spoke with the alleged victim to verify that the statement she gave to officers at the scene was accurate and to note any additional details.
Deputy District Attorney Scott Schweibish asked Yepes about the victim who reportedly went to the 7-Eleven on Northgate Boulevard around 2 a.m. to purchase snacks and lottery tickets.
“She stated that she went inside the store to buy these items,” Yepes said. “When she came out, there was a gentleman who told her that he ‘wouldn’t let people bother her,’ and she went into her car and sat down.”
That person, who was later identified as Martinez, then walked over to her car, where they talked for a few minutes. After the victim asked Martinez if he “would like to smoke some marijuana,” they agreed to drive to Northgate Park in their separate vehicles. Upon arriving at the park, they both sat in the back seat of her vehicle.
“They began talking and smoking and eventually ended up kissing each other,” Yepes said, adding the victim admitted the kissing was consensual. But Martinez allegedly then pushed her down into the backseat, slapped her on the face, struck her on the shoulders, and held her down, said the detective.
“She said, ‘No, no, stop,’ and he basically continued to hold her down,” Yepes said. She said the word “no” repeatedly while Martinez forcibly removed her clothes.
Martinez allegedly said, “No one can hear you,” and that she was “never going to see her family again.”
Yepes said the victim told him she feared for her life and that she did what she felt was necessary in the situation to try to redirect Martinez in order to avoid being raped and to survive.
This redirection included kissing him on the cheek at one point when he became verbally aggressive and performing oral sex on him.
“She ‘had to do what she had to do,’ were her exact words,” Yepes said. “She was in fear for her life and was afraid he was going to rape her and kill her.” These details help strengthen the prosecutor’s case that the interaction began as consensual but later became nonconsensual, despite the victim’s having “invited” Martinez to the park to smoke together.
Later in the hearing, Martinez’s court appointed lawyer, Joseph Farina, tried to use the victim’s words that she “acted like she wanted to do it” in order to suggest that Martinez might have misinterpreted her behavior.
Farina also called attention to the fact that Martinez, who required a Spanish interpreter for the hearing, speaks very little, if any, English.
It is unclear whether Farina was trying to indicate that the language barrier may have played a role in Martinez’s failure to cease the sexual contact, but had Farina made this point explicitly, it likely would be rendered moot anyway given the aggressiveness of Martinez’s physical behavior, verbal threats, and the fact that “no” also literally means “no” in Spanish.
Farina’s cross-examination of Yepes also included questions regarding details that the victim added to supplement her original statement and implied criticisms of Yepes for not looking harder for “discrepancies” between her statement at the scene and her follow-up interview with Yepes.
After Farina concluded his cross-examination, Judge Gweon stated that there was “sufficient cause to believe that the defendant is guilty therefore ordered held to answer.”
After a few minutes of haggling over scheduling, Farina appealed to Judge Gweon that Martinez, who has been ordered to remain in his home, be allowed to return to his work as a drywaller in order to continue supporting his wife and children, as well as his parents in Mexico.
“Since Mr. Martinez has been out, he has not gotten into any further trouble,” Farina said. “I don’t believe he even has a criminal record. Like I say, this is creating a financial hardship due to his inability to work. I’m asking the court to reconsider that condition [to confine him to his home] and allow Mr. Martinez to be able to work and support his family.”
However, DDA Schweibish argued that changing Judge Marlette’s previous decision to restrict Martinez’s movement would be misguided due to “the nature of the assault, the fact that there was alcohol involved, and that his employment does not restrict his employment does not restrict his movement throughout the county, or really throughout anywhere in neighboring counties as well.
“The victim expressed great concern for Mr. Martinez being out of custody and moving freely about the community,” Schweibish added. “She is still in fear of him, expressed that she still has nightmares and concerns about what had happened, and the People have concerns as well.”
Farina attempted to assuage these concerns by saying that Martinez would be “supervised” while working on drywall in people’s homes.
After hearing both arguments, Judge Gweon denied the motion, saying that the facts show that Martinez “poses a danger to the community and the victim” and that the facts had “not changed” since the question was litigated before.