By Natalia Claburn
SACRAMENTO, CA – A defendant has been charged in Sacramento County Superior Court with aggravated assault for allegedly following a random person around a park, hitting the victim’s hand with a stick and threatening the victim with deadly bodily harm.
He was ultimately released without bail—but because of very extenuating circumstances.
On an unspecified date in Sacramento County, defendant Rafael Perez is accused of approaching a man whom he did not know in a public park and yelling, “Stop messing with my family, you don’t believe in God, I’m gonna break your knees, I’m gonna leave you in peace,” with that last phrase insinuating ‘I am going to put you in the ground,’” explained Assistant Public Defender Maura Janice delaRosa.
It was at this point that a neighbor, who lived near the park where the incident took place, and an off-duty law enforcement officer noticed that something was wrong and walked toward Perez and the victim. DelaRosa stated that when the neighbor and officer interacted with Perez he essentially just “wandered off.”
Delarosa proceeded to read an account of the incident, claiming that Perez was “accused of holding a stick and kind of using it to hit [the victim’s] hand in an almost aggressive manner.”
She continued by saying that Perez’s behavior was toward a stranger, claiming that he is not a normally violent person and that his actions were the result of some underlying mental illness.
“Now that my client’s aware that his behavior can lead to him being in jail, I think he has more insight into what’s going on and incentive to retrieve treatment,” argued delaRosa, clearly attempting to show the judge and prosecutor the defendant regretted his behavior and simply could not understand the consequences of his actions at that time because of his mental instability.
Perez does have a prior record, though his charges only included a DUI in 1999 and “some 14601 type behavior, thereafter, going through ’07,” a charge given to individuals who are driving with suspended or revoked driving privileges, said the PD.
DelaRosa asked the court to “release Mr. Perez on his own recognizance or, in the alternative, to significantly reduce bail” because of the defendant’s reduced financial status.
When Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie inquired about Perez’s financial situation, delaRosa stated that Perez has “access to $1,800 for the totality of supporting his family at this time.”
DelaRosa continued describing Perez’s familial situation, attempting to sway Judge Eurie to be more lenient.
“[Perez] has been in Sacramento for over a decade, he has three children—two of which are out of the house, one is still 10—and his mother needs my client’s help,” said the public defender.
Perez’s unfortunate familial situation did not end there.
DelaRosa added, “His mother is sick, potentially dying. He’s needed at home for that reason as well.” It did appear that the defendant’s sick mother would not be able to provide the best care for his children.
Another persuasive aspect of Perez’ case was that “he has health conditions that have caused him to be taken to the hospital for breathing problems,” which is a worrisome health issue during the COVID-19 pandemic as coronavirus severely impacts the lungs of those who are infected.
Finally, delaRosa stated that Perez “has a lot of expensive tools that he works with that he’s afraid will be lost if he is not released and able to pay rent now that it’s July 1, because he is afraid the landlord will simply dump his property. That will set him back years in his employment.”
Prosecutor Heather Phillips argued against releasing Perez, explaining that because the victim was random, “it seems like, given his mental health issues that he’s struggling with, that he’s a risk to just anybody, not just a specific individual.”
Furthermore, Phillips listed new points that Perez had failed to appear in court for a previous misdemeanor charge “not once but twice,” and she, therefore, believes that “bail should remain as set.”
Making another emotional appeal, delaRosa said that she forgot to mention that Perez has said “he was sorry that his words hurt people. He is remorseful and regretful…for his behavior.”
DelaRosa argued that continuances are being scheduled a month to two months in advance, which would leave Perez in a county jail for a long time rather than a mental health facility or program that could help treat whatever mental issues he is facing.
After hearing arguments from both delaRosa and Phillips, Judge Eurie decided to grant Perez a pretrial release and requested that he come back to court on Sept. 2. As the courtroom was finishing its hearing, Perez exclaimed, “Thank you so much! Thank you, thank you,” as he was led out of the courtroom.