Domestic Violence Victim Testifies to Recorded Phone Calls in Trial, Illustrating Alleged Threats; Defense Pushes Back

By Alexa Kendell

RIVERSIDE, CA – The trial of Joe Ortega reconvened late last week here in Riverside County Superior Court with the victim testifying to the jury about alleged acts of violence—from assaults to threats—she suffered at the hands of Ortega.

Ortega is facing multiple charges including violating a restraining, protective, or stay away order, and threatening someone with death or great bodily injury. 

The victim used her time on the stand to tell the stories of multiple incidents in which Ortega abused her, noting that the accused allegedly threw electronics at her, threatened her with death or serious bodily harm, and physically assaulted her.

The defense was given their opportunity to cross-examine the alleged victim. Their strategy seemed to be to focus on the victim’s alcohol intake during the incidents, question the reliability of the events she claims to remember, present financial motives for lying or exaggerating, and interrogate her on how and why she continued to return to Ortega after the abuse.

During the cross-examination, the defense attorney began by focusing mostly on how much alcohol she had consumed during the events she recalled previously, although the victim repeatedly said she could not “remember” how much she drank. 

When the defense attorney eventually stopped asking her questions about her alcohol intake, he moved on to questioning how she was able to recall events that she previously claimed to have not remembered when originally reporting the crimes.

“I said I don’t remember … because I still had feelings for him, and I didn’t want him to go away for what he did,” said the victim, admitting under questioning that she did not tell the truth.

The cross-examination continued, with the defense asking the victim about how and why she had lied to the accused Ortega, noting that she had changed the restraining order against Ortega from a no-contact order to a no-negative contact order. 

This was likely the defense’s way of trying to convince the jury that the abuse might not have been as terrible as she is claiming if she continued to have contact with him. This strategy was used frequently throughout the cross-examination. 

Although the victim stated that she did not remember ever lying to Ortega, the defense read a transcript of her previously stating that she called Ortega’s mom and lied about changing the restraining order. 

The transcript continued to show the victim had also stated she did this in order to “get him over to [her] house. [She] knew [he] wouldn’t unless [she] lied to him.” 

After being read the transcript, the victim told the defense that she still does not remember ever making that statement. 

The defense then brought up three separate phone calls the victim recorded between her and Ortega. The one of most importance is the second one, in which you can hear Ortega telling the victim “I am going to beat your a**.” 

The defense attorney noted that she had secretly recorded these phone calls. This led the victim to immediately correct the defense attorney, stating that Ortega knew about these phone calls, therefore it was not a secret. Seemingly taken aback, the attorney said he would “take back the [word] secretly.

“So what you’re saying is that after the phone call, in which Joe said he was going to beat your a**, he called again and you answered the call, correct?”

The victim answered yes, but denied she has “anything to gain” by lying in court. 

Following the victim, a 14-year-old girl whose mother had previously dated the defendant was called as a witness. She told the jury about an incident in which she woke up early in the morning to her mother screaming at her front door. 

On the other side of the door was Ortega, allegedly violently yelling back at her. With a lot of emotion, the witness briefly explained the situation and how she called 911.  

The trial is ongoing.

About The Author

Koda is an incoming senior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Rhetoric. He is from Ventura, CA.

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