Judge Denies Felony Reduction, Cites Defendant’s Prior Stabbing Threats, Sets Trial

By Allison Hodge

WOODLAND, CA – Following his preliminary hearing Wednesday, Sander Ian Findlay was ordered to stand trial after a probation violation, which was filed less than four weeks after sentencing for a stalking case in July.

Judge Peter M. Williams presided over the case in Yolo County Superior Court Dept. 8 and denied Deputy Public Defender Aram Davtyan’s Penal Code § 17(b) motion to reduce Findlay’s charge to a misdemeanor. 

The defendant is charged with carrying a concealed dirk or dagger and was previously sentenced to two years of probation following several convictions, including three counts of stalking and disturbance by way of loud or unreasonable noises. 

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Paul De Moura called Officer Nazariy Yakimchuk, who was dispatched and made the initial arrest on July 25.

Officer Yakimchuk testified that he arrested Findlay after he conducted a probation search of his person, and found a knife in the defendant’s back waistband. Yakimchuk stated that he had to lift the Findlay’s shirt to see the knife and that the weapon appeared to be a common kitchen steak knife with a four-inch blade.

Following initial testimony, PD Davtyan asked Officer Yakimchuk to clarify that Findlay had described himself as transient, and willingly told the officer that he had a knife before the search. Yakimchuk said that the defendant referred to the knife as a “tool” when asked about it.

Davtyan also made certain to emphasize Findlay followed all of the officer’s directions with no resistance. Yakimchuk did not find any other weapons while searching and, according to the defense, had no reason to believe that it was intended to be used as a weapon.

After dismissing Officer Yakimchuk, Davtyan made a short argument in defense of his motion to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.

The defense counsel maintained that transient people like Findlay may need tools like knives in their daily lives. The possession of such a knife, in other words, should not automatically make it a “deadly weapon” in this case.

Davtyan noted, “Sometimes [transient people] need that for protection, other times they need it for tools.”

The defense also argued that Findlay did not try to harm anyone, did not exhibit the knife threateningly, and was not trying to hide the weapon, as evident from the fact that the defendant freely told Officer Yakimchuk before he commenced the search.

Davtyan concluded, “Just because it’s concealed, that just means you have established the bare minimum of this code section…This case is worth, at best, a misdemeanor.”

DDA De Moura briefly responded to the defense and maintained that, while the defendant did not brandish the weapon, it was his prior behavior and threats from previous cases that made possession of the knife concerning. 

De Moura contended that Findlay had exhibited a pattern of behaviors and statements from his stalking case that elevated concern about possession of weapons, and asked for the charge to remain a felony.

Judge Williams reviewed the facts of the stalking convictions and concluded that the threats made toward the previous victim presented evidence to believe that the defendant may have used the knife as a weapon. 

According to the report, Findlay spontaneously threatened to kill the victim and “stab her with a sharp knife,” among other threats.

Judge Williams, thus, ruled that the possession of a concealed knife provided substantial reason to deny Davtyan’s 17(b) motion and advance the case to the jury trial stage. 

The case is set to reconvene on Aug. 26 for arraignment.

About The Author

Allison is a rising senior at UC Davis, majoring in History and Political Science. She is originally from Clovis, CA, and is pursuing a career in civil rights and/or constitutional law.

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