Off-Record Work by All Parties on Display in Otherwise Slow Day in SF Court

By Elena Rawlinson. 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harry Dorfman ruled on several cases involving probation programs and diversion efforts here Friday, but generally it was a slow day in Dept. 21.

But the cases called provided a peek into various ways diversion can play out depending on counsel, the defendant’s behavior, and the given programs a defendant has been advised to participate in during diversion. 

It also showed by trial counsel from both sides, probation and judge can work together.

The first case involved Antonion Hubbes, represented by George Lazarus, who had an extensive off-the-record talk with probation officer Stephanie Speech, Deputy District Attorney Michal Heartman, and Judge Dorfman. 

Speech explained that she had instructed Hubbes to check into HealthRight 360 rehabilitation on Tuesday, and as of Friday, July 9th he had yet to check in. She further explained that he had left several other programs and didn’t seem to take the opportunity presented by probation seriously. She concluded by suggesting that Hobbes be sentenced. 

Judge Dorfman called Lazarus into the conversation to hear his perspective on Hobbes’ situation. 

Lazarus said that he was “rooting for [Hobbes]” and although he didn’t fully understand why Hobbes wasn’t cooperating. He requested that Dorfman give him one more week to try and help Hobbes. This earnest plea for more time was denied by Dorfman, who expressed concern that Hobbes was not interested in taking advantage of probation.

Judge Dorfman further pointed out that Hobbes was ordered present in court unless he was in treatment, which he was not. Dorfman issued a bench warrant.

The second case focused on Don Rose. Once again, the judge initiated an off the record conversation with Public Defender Nikita Saini and DDA Heartman. Dorfman reviewed basic information about Rose—he had been on probation for a long time and had been given ample opportunities to remain in the community and out of prison. 

Despite these opportunities he hadn’t shown commitment to receiving treatment or following through with court ordered diversion programs, the judge observed. Saini agreed that on the surface this record suggested a lack of interest in taking advantage of probation, but she proceeded to offer a more nuanced and contextualized understanding of Rose’s situation. 

Saini first explained that she believed Rose needed some type of structured rehabilitation programing. She recognized that Rose had been given the chance to participate in Jericho rehabilitation, but she explained his lack of participation was an anomaly and not indicative of the apathetic attitude Dorfman feared. 

Rose was expected to enroll in Jericho right after he was released from custody in the early hours of the morning several weeks ago and he had a miscommunication that led to struggles with transportation. 

Dorfman responded by highlighting two additional, recent charges that had been brought against Rose. On June 4, Rose allegedly pushed a woman and took her car, and on June 30 he allegedly rode around SF in a stolen vehicle.

Public Defender Saini took an impassioned stand for her client, offering insight into Rose’s life and ambitions. Saini first pointed out that following the June 4 incident, the woman Rose pushed grabbed his backpack, which was later given to police. This backpack was used to ID him, however the police also found paperwork for community college. Rose intended to enroll in classes. 

Saini then drew the group’s attention to Rose’s adolescent struggles. Rose’s mother overdosed on drugs when he was 20 and months later his father committed suicide. After this emotional trauma Rose spiraled. 

PD Saini explained that Rose has never had a support system and he lost all of his family in his early 20s. Saini ultimately requested that Judge Dorfman put in paperwork for a ACMICK evaluation that another judge and potential jury could use to provide more context to their deliberations as they consider whether or not to release Rose from Custody. 

Heartman had no objections, so Dorfman agreed to Saini’s terms. Dorfman submitted his request for the ACMICK evaluation and turned his focus to Rose, who was present and in custody. 

Dorfman implored Rose to work with Saini, whom he lauded as an incredibly talented lawyer. With this send off, PD Saini packed up her things and Rose was escorted back to jail. 

About The Author

Elena Rawlinson is a 12th grader at the Nueva School in San Mateo who is interested in pursuing a career in law. She hopes to improve her communication skills and gain insight into the mechanics of the criminal justice system.

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