New Arrest Leads to Heated Discussion with Judge over Relevance in Sentencing Hearing

By Alex Jimenez 

ALAMEDA, CA Inoc Meneses Castano was here Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court for sentencing in a probation violation matter—but his recent unrelated arrest became the primary focus and the cause of a heated debate between his lawyer and the judge.

Alameda Assistant Public Defender Allison L. Fisher immediately insisted that the new arrest had no bearing on the sentencing, sparking a lively discussion with Judge Thomas Nixon and Deputy District Attorney James Scott Ford. 

“I think it goes to whether or not he continues to commit crimes and I have figured out what to do with him,” said Judge Nixon. Fisher disagreed with the judge, arguing that as it relates to sentencing, the court could only consider what was presented in the last hearing and conduct relating to probation. 

According to the judge, when considering the appropriate punishment, the continued criminal activity of the individual or lack of criminal activity is taken into consideration.

Judge Nixon explained that in many cases public defenders ask the courts to consider a defendant’s good behavior. The judge indicated that he takes that into consideration but questioned why he wouldn’t take continuing criminal conduct into consideration as well. 

Both the judge and Fisher disagreed in theory when Fisher noted, regarding the new charge, that an arrest is merely an allegation and not proven conduct. Fisher strongly charged it would not be adjudicated in this court or any court in Alameda, prompting a response from the judge. 

“I don’t agree that I can’t consider it, but I do agree that there is no evidence beyond the fact he was arrested, so all I can consider is the fact that he was arrested,” said Judge Nixon. 

Fisher went on to say that the threshold for an arrest is low and is not necessarily indicative of continued criminal activity. 

“The fact that someone is arrested does not have much weight in whether they actually committed the crime,” she said.   

At this point the conversation shifted to Castano ‘s inability to enter in a residential treatment program.

Center Point, the agency in charge of placing people into a treatment program, denied Castano services initially because he was not a resident of Alameda County, and that he would have to contact Contra Costa County. 

However, Contra Costa Center Point determined that “the level of use” did not qualify him for a residential treatment program and instead recommended him for an outpatient program. 

Despite court orders, Castano was not in a residential treatment program but attended AA meetings in the meantime. Given the pandemic, PD Fisher had argued that getting into a residential treatment program was difficult, but nevertheless Castano had shown a “good faith effort” to get in place with treatment resources. 

Fisher requested more time to get Castano into a program, but Judge Nixon would once again disagree with the defense argument regarding good faith efforts as it relates to this new arrest.

“Most people don’t get arrested every other month so I guess I am having a hard time accepting that he’s using best efforts,” said Judge Nixon.

Fisher once again emphasized the difficulties that the pandemic has brought in the defendant’s ability to enter into a residential program. 

Some confusion arose as to the exact provisions that were set regarding sentencing as it relates to jail time and the amount of time Castano would spend in the treatment program.   

The judge then decided to continue the matter for the following week so that he could thoroughly review the transcripts and documents.  

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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