By Ganga Nair
SACRAMENTO, CA – What began as a disagreement over car ownership culminated in defendant Pablo Zamora facing multiple criminal charges of threats and burglary.
In his preliminary hearing Thursday in Sacramento County Superior Court, presided over by Judge Laurie Earl, defense attorney Jesse Ortiz and prosecutor Saron Tesfai got into a heated discussion on whether Zamora’s statements to his family were in fact threats.
The first witness called to the stand by Tesfai was Sheriff’s Deputy Casey Rubinoff, who recalled the events of May 19. He went to a Sacramento home, responding to a call stating that the defendant assaulted his mother, and was suspected to have a firearm.
Upon speaking to the victim, Rubinoff stated that the defendant allegedly kicked open the locked door of his mother’s apartment an hour prior, demanding that Zamora’s mother give him the keys to the car and a pink slip.
The officer said he was informed the situation stemmed from an ongoing vehicle dispute between the two; the victim refused to give Zamora the keys.
Zamora allegedly responded by taking the victim’s iPhone, $500 cash, the victim’s social security card and ID. The defendant stormed out the apartment complex to the front yard area, with his mother following suit.
They argued again, and allegedly, Zamora, “took the glasses off his mother’s face, snapped them in half, and shoved his mother.”
It was when the victim was on the floor that she saw the “black handle of a handgun.” The defendant and his mother continued to argue until the defendant’s sister showed up at the scene, as she tried to “help her mom with the situation.”
When the fight finally ended, Zamora looked at his mother and said, “If I go to jail, you’re as good as dead.”
Zamora then left the scene in a pick-up truck with his brother, and his mother’s belongings were not returned. Rubinoff then encountered Zamora on June 9 in a community park, and he “immediately knew who he was.”
When Rubinoff asked Zamora for his name, the defendant said his name was not Pablo, and “he identified himself as Richard.”
Rubinoff informed the defendant that he was looking for a man by the name of Pablo Zamora, and searched the defendant. No weapons were found, and then the deputy arrested Zamora.
Rubinoff recalled that Zamora initially compiled, but when asked again about his name, Zamora quickly became agitated, stating, “Fine. I’m gonna film you.” Rubinoff then tried to place the defendant in handcuffs, but he ran away.
Zamora was eventually caught and tackled to the ground, landing on his back. When Rubinoff began to place the defendant in handcuffs, he said, “I did not do anything, I did not do anything.”
The two struggled until Rubinoff’s partner, Deputy David Meza, showed up at the scene. Upon his arrest, Zamora began to threaten the two officers.
Defense attorney Ortiz questioned the time of the victim’s call, asking why she did not call sooner.
Deputy Rubinoff responded, explaining that the officers could only respond to the scene an hour earlier because “myself and all my partners were tied up on a stabbing incident.”
Ortiz went into detail about the car keys, the reason for Zamora and his mother’s disagreement. Although the defendant’s mother said that the car was under his name, Ortiz stated that the vehicle was in fact owned by both the defendant and his mother.
Rubinoff responded saying that the car’s ownership was “more in dispute” than clearly defined.
Defense pointed out that no evidence collection or examination was done to confirm the allegations Zamora’s mother made, regarding her glasses and the kicked down door.
Deputy Meza was then called to the stand, where he provided additional information.
Similar to Deputy Rubinoff, he recalled going to the defendant’s mother’s home, and speaking to the defendant’s sister. She recalled seeing her mother being restrained by her brother, Zamora, when she rushed over and tried to call 911. This was when Zamora snatched her phone, preventing her from contacting the police.
The defendant’s sister then rushed to the apartment complex’s security guard, who refused to help, saying that it was “a family matter.” Zamora noticed that his sister went to look for help, thus he threatened to shoot her, allegedly stating, “I have my gun, don’t make me shoot you. Your kids already don’t have a father, don’t make them not have a mother as well.”
Defense then questioned Meza, pointing out the fact that a security guard was never found, thus there was no proof. It was also made clear that the defendant’s sister did not hear Zamora threaten his mother, and that Zamora’s sister did not suffer any injuries. His sister did have her phone when Meza spoke to her, but it is not clear when or how the phone was retrieved.
Ortiz concluded that Zamora only entered the house for keys, and “altercations aside… he took her phone, but there is no evidence that he had that intent.” Defense focused on the charges of the alleged threats, outlining that it was conditional, and in order to meet the standard for the charges of threats, they must be unconditional. Thus, one of the counts should be dropped.
Tesfai argued that all charges should be kept, with Zamora’s clear intent shown in his actions. In regard to vehicle ownership, “I don’t think it would be a true defense in this situation.” He argued that the threats, even if they are conditional, can be clear threats in specific circumstances. In the case here, “all we know is that both of them saw the end of a firearm, and that they were threatened that if they pursued this with law enforcement, they would be shot.”
Judge Laurie Earl decided that three of the four counts should be maintained, with one count of threatening dropped on the grounds of a lack of evidence. “The court cannot hear evidence….Zamora was to sustain fear based on the statements.” Zamora’s trial date is set for Sept. 27.