By Angelina Sang
SANTA BARBARA, CA – Judge Brian E. Hill oversaw two cases here in Santa Barbara County Superior Court this week in which those accused struggled to receive accommodations for medical and release issues, producing frustration for both the court and those incarcerated.
In the first case, at Edgar Jose Beltran’s preliminary hearing setting, his attorney, Meghan Brehrens, asked to recall Beltran’s case to bring up her client’s struggles with his braces.
“They need to be removed,” Brehrens reported. “They’re cutting into his jaw.”
After asking who put the braces on, Judge Hill asked if they were put on at the defendant’s request. Brehrens responded saying Beltran was arrested on a “Ramey warrant when he was out of custody and on bail, and now the jail won’t do anything about it[Beltran’s braces]. He needs to be seen by an orthodontist.
“The wires are breaking off in my mouth,” said Beltran. “I woke up and there was a piece of wire on my tongue that I could’ve swallowed. There’s the same problems happening with the lower left jaw, and on the upper right jaw one of the brackets fell off so there’s an inch long wire stabbing me in the back of the gums.”
“If Mr. Beltran needs to be seen by him [Beltran’s orthodontist] and it’s urgent and immediate we can do that,” Judge Hill replied. Hill explained that Beltran and the jail would need to coordinate with Beltran’s orthodontist at the orthodontist’s availability. “We can’t simply order the orthodontist to leave his present patients and go see Mr. Beltran at the jail.
“There’s some leg work that needs to be done,” Hill said, recommending Brehrens coordinate and schedule an appointment for Beltran.
“I think that the jail should coordinate it with his orthodontist,” Brehrens argued. “They’re the ones that are going to come back and say oh we don’t want to transport him. They’re the ones that are going to raise the issue. They should transport. They should set up the appointment.”
Hill interrupted, proposing that he could certainly put “defendant needs to be seen by jail medical regarding the orthodontic problem” on the docket. “I’m happy to do that,” Hill said. Brehrens, seemingly appeased, agreed to Hill’s proposal.
In another case, Juan Jesus Ortiz, III, and his attorney Robert Dahlstedt pushed hard to get Ortiz released. Dahlstedt began by asking Judge Hill for a pre plea report and to be heard on Ortiz’s release.
Immediately, Judge Hill denied Ortiz’s release. “He’s got way too many FTAs (failures to appear),” Hill stated. “I don’t think it’s realistic to think that he’s going to be released.” Ortiz’ charges consist of multiple felonies and misdemeanors.
Nevertheless, Dahlstedt urged Hill to hear his argument.
Dahlstedt explained to the court why Ortiz had missed his court date last week, telling the court the complicated situation, that Ortiz’s phone had been broken then later stolen, and Dahlstedt had to contact Ortiz through his mother who just had a serious emergency surgery on her neck.
After telling the court that Ortiz had been in regular contact with Dahlstedt and the court, Dahlsted said “the only reason he[Ortiz] wasn’t here was because his phone broke and I dealt with his mother who finally called him, and he called me that same day.”
Dahlstedt reported how he went to the clerk’s office Friday morning to schedule Ortiz’s court hearing for the next week, but in the meantime Ortiz was arrested on the FTA warrants.
“I’m asking the court to consider that he [Ortiz] was not a problem. There was not a new arrest. Warrants went out because he wasn’t here last Wednesday,” Dahlstedt clarified.
“Okay, understood,” Judge Hill replied. “I’m going to leave everything in the present status.”
Ortiz interrupted, telling Judge Hill and the court how he had planned to go back to San Francisco to the Victory Outreach program. Judge Hill and Dahlstedt continued to discuss the pre plea report order and case schedule.
“My car and my dog…it’s going to be towed,” Ortiz interrupted again. The court continued to schedule future court dates for the case. Judge Hill told Ortiz that they were finished with his case.
“How long do I have to be in custody for?” Ortiz asked? Dahlstedt told Ortiz he would be in custody at least until the 14th. “The 14th? Of next month?” Ortiz shouted.
Judge Hill again told Ortiz his case was done. “Take off your headset, stand up, they’ll know you’re done,” Judge Hill said.
The court moved on to its next cases, yet Ortiz remained in the room where he took the Zoom call. When an officer came to remove Ortiz from the room and asked how court went, Ortiz replied, “Empty promises.”