By Samuel Van Blaricom
WOODLAND, CA – A combination of miscommunication between the courts, attorneys and felony suspect John Rangel, along with COVID complications, caused Rangel to attend his Yolo County Superior Court preliminary hearing last Friday without representation.
This prompted Judge Timothy Fall to reschedule the hearing for after the holidays.
Rangel, who appeared on Zoom, waited through the entirety of the scheduled docket until Judge Fall asked that his attorney, whom he believed at the time to be court-appointed counsel Rodney Beede, be brought up from a different department at Yolo Court.
After some minutes, Robert Gorman, a court-appointed attorney who works with Beede, arrived to try to clear up the confusion. He stated that the court-appointed attorney that was actually assigned to Rangel’s case was David Nelson, for whom Beede originally stood in for at an earlier hearing.
When trying to figure out how the mix-up happened, Deputy District Attorney Michael Vroman explained, based on his notes from a hearing on Oct. 1.
“I was present in court on Oct. 1 in Dept. 14. At that time, the Public Defender declared a conflict [of interest]. Mr. Beede was present. He accepted appointment for the counsel for Mr. Nelson,” he stated.
Gorman cited a text that he received from Beede, stating that he believed Rangel was with a co-accused and on schedule for a settlement conference in a different department.
“He said that he believed that Rangel and (the other accused) were on for a settlement conference in [dept.] 12,” said Gorman. He then qualified this statement, saying that Beede does not always “proofread his texts,” meaning that what he was told might not be representative of what Beede thought.
But, according to Judge Fall and the case file, there is no co-accused in Rangel’s case.
Judge Fall then turned to Rangel, asking if his lawyer told him he was expecting to have a preliminary hearing.
Rangel responded, “I think so.”
Not entirely convinced by the answer, Judge Fall then asked Rangel if he had had any contact with either Beede or Nelson after the Public Defender’s Office declared a conflict of interest.
“Have you been able to meet with an attorney yet, sir?” he asked
“I tried, but nobody was ever able to tell me who my attorney was,” said Rangel.
Rangel then explained that he was exposed to COVID, which further complicated his attempts to get in touch with the law office after he finally got clarification.
“At first [I was told] it was Mr. Beede, and I couldn’t get ahold of him because I was exposed to COVID, so it has been kind of hard,” he continued.
“That answers all of my questions as to what we need to do today, sir. I’m going to find a pandemic-related basis for putting this over,” responded Judge Fall.
By the end of it all, Gorman gave Rangel his phone number so that he could put him in contact with Nelson after they left the courtroom.
The next court date will be a preliminary hearing on Jan. 7.
Rangel is being charged with three felony counts from Aug. 7, including possession of personal identification information of more than 10 people with felony intent to defraud, and grand theft.
He also has two misdemeanor charges for possession of a narcotic controlled substance and the unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.