By Allison Hodge
SACRAMENTO, CA — A man with four prior convictions from more than 14 years ago was denied a request to remove a strike in Sacramento County Superior Court last Thursday, despite several letters in support of his progress and extensive arguments from his attorney.
Damon Rushin allegedly relapsed into criminal behavior and drug use in 2020. He is accused of stealing a truck, using crystal meth, and possessing a handgun. Rushin is charged with four felony counts and three misdemeanors, including possession of methamphetamines, drug paraphernalia, and Xanax for personal use.
Public Defender Damien Jovel filed the “Romero” motion to remove one of Rushin’s prior strikes, and asked Judge Patrick Marlette to consider the support the defendant received from his family and pastor through letters.
The defendant is a father of four children and grandfather of three children, whose first strike came in 1998. Jovel stated that, since then, he had only three other felony cases that all came within a year of the 1998 case.
Rushin’s last conviction was in 2007 for possession of drugs for sale, but Jovel reminded the court that he has not had any contact with law enforcement since, and has been doing extremely well.
The defendant was allegedly sober for 12 years before his relapse in 2020 and had a huge influence at his weekly worship services according to his pastor. Rushin also works as an auto mechanic and initially tried to start his own business, but was forced to close down during the pandemic.
Jovel emphasized that Rushin was crime-free for the last 13 years, contrary to the prosecution’s suggestion that he had been “consistently” in trouble.
The defense recognized the seriousness of Rushin’s relapse but highlighted that nobody was hurt in the most recent case. It is also alleged that the defendant did not initially steal the truck, and the defense plans to challenge this fact in the coming trial.
Jovel concluded with the acknowledgment that Rushin did relapse, but that he still has plenty of support from his community. The defense added, “He’s not the same man…we are asking the court to show mercy on this man that has shown he has been good for over 13 years.”
Deputy District Attorney Jordan Pitcher offered a short response and asked that the court not remove the prior strike in this case.
Pitcher reminded the court that Rushin was found in the stolen truck with crystal methamphetamine, a meth pipe, Xanax pills, and an illegally obtained handgun. He emphasized that this was not the first time the defendant was convicted of possessing guns and drugs, as the same crime was committed in 2007.
The prosecution stated that he, “Understand[s] he hasn’t committed anything since 2007,” but still does not want Judge Marlette to remove the strike.
In his decision, Judge Marlette seemed slightly conflicted and admitted that “He has a family to come home to and do well by, and yet we have this offense.” Despite the letters of support and extensive evidence of sobriety, Judge Marlette concluded that there was not enough reason to strike the prior offense.
Judge Marlette maintained, “Despite the considerable support he enjoys…all the factors do not amount to justification for dismissing this strike,” and added, “I appreciate the work you put into this, but I will not strike this prior.”