Defense Attorney Claims Victim is Less Vulnerable because of Older Age––Judge and Prosecutor Disagree; Bail Remains $250,000

By Mary Magana-Ayala

WOODLAND, CA – In a bail review hearing late this past week in Yolo County Superior Court, Judge David Rosenberg disagreed with the defense attorney who claimed the victim in a human trafficking case is not as vulnerable because she is of older age.

Judge Rosenberg denied the motion to decrease bail, stating he will not “second guess” another judge’s decision at the $250,000 bail amount for Conte Lesean Watson, charged with seven felonies pertaining to human trafficking of an adult for commercial sex.

Deputy Public Defender Peter Borruso argued, “This was essentially a four-day domestic violence case, this was not a young victim, this is someone who was 41 years old and I would look at that as not being an aggravated circumstance but a mitigating circumstance.”

Judge Rosenberg interrupted stating, “The fact the alleged victim is 41 years old rather than 21 years old is mitigating?”

Defense Attorney Borruso responded, “Correct, and I can explain why.”

Judge Rosenberg stated, “I wish you wouldn’t.”

But Borruso continued, “We look at the vulnerability of the individual, one of which is age and so when looking at age she is not as vulnerable as someone who is 15 or 16. This is someone who was in a dating relationship with Mr. Watson.”

Deputy District Attorney Rachel Raymond stated, “I think the age of the victim is totally irrelevant except for charging, whether we have a minor or an adult, here we have an adult… she can still be a vulnerable victim.”

According to Borruso, Judge Samuel McAdams stated that the case was essentially a four-day domestic violence circumstance.

DDA Rachel Raymond in her argument noted, “Judge McAdams’ comments about this being a domestic violence case are really irrelevant… the evidence shows the victim was trafficked…”

Judge David Rosenberg stated, “I am not going to dwell on those comments.”

In his argument, Borruso noted that at the time of arraignment an officer filed a motion to increase bail only by probable cause without any evidence presented.

“Should it have been raised? Not based on what the court was presented with, when we look at the change in circumstances,” said PD Borruso, who noted messages were provided between the complaining witness and the accused, who was arrested Sept. 13.

Borruso said the complaining witness didn’t bring her phone until eight days later, suggesting there is evidence that the complaining witness deleted messages from her phone that were helpful for Watson’s case.

According to the public defender, the victim said, “I wanted to make sure he was arrested and went to jail.”

DDA Raymond argued the bail “rests on the sound discretion of the judicial officer, and the arresting officer can submit a declaration” under law, adding, “I am very concerned about his ability to obtain firearms illegally. It seems that prison sentences don’t deter him from obtaining illegal firearms. In this case he had a stolen firearm out of the state of Texas.”

According to DDA Raymond, the victim in the case is still in fear of Watson.

“If this was a simple human trafficking case and Mr. Watson did not have prior criminal history then we would be talking about a bail schedule, but it’s not and there is a lot more going on here. There is sodomy, arrest with a firearm, the victim in this case was held against her will for four days, and the victim was forced to prostitution advertisement,” stated DDA Raymond.

In his last remark, the PD let the court know Watson’s mother is currently undergoing cancer treatment.

Judge Rosenberg said the primary difficulty was an officer filed an affidavit to increase bail lacking concrete grounds other than what was encompassed in the charges.

“If that was submitted to me I wouldn’t have found sufficient grounds, but it wasn’t submitted to me. It was submitted to another judge who found it appropriate,” Judge Rosenberg said, and decided not to reconsider setting a lower bail.

“You are asking me to second guess and supersede a decision made by another judge, I can’t do that. If Judge Dyer found an increased bail appropriate, I’m not going to second guess him… This court will not do that. A judge set bail at 250 (thousand dollars) and it will remain.”

Trial is set for Jan. 10, 2022, and the prosecutor is seeking 55 years in prison.

About The Author

Mary Magana-Ayala is a junior at UC Davis double majoring in Political Science and Chicano Studies. She is from Watsonville, California.

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