By Casey Rawlings
SANTA BARBARA, CA – Juan Lopez appeared in Santa Barbara County Superior Court for a bail review hearing this week after being charged with multiple felonies, and because he failed to appear at his sentencing in October.
However, the court would soon learn there were many barriers preventing Lopez from attending his court date.
Assistant Public Defender Susan Sindelar said the accused missed court because “while he was out of custody he was living on the street, and was yelled at and attacked.” She added not only was he living homeless, but had other “challenges,” including being deaf.
Judge Raimundo Montes de Oca was sympathetic toward Lopez’ conditions, and said that he would grant him release “if Lopez understands his obligations and has a place that is reasonably safe to stay, and is able to report to probation, I’m inclined to release him under certain conditions.”
PD Sindelar emphasized Lopez’ ability to report to probation may not be guaranteed, noting “he has a lot of difficulties because in his last attack, his hearing aids were destroyed.” Due to his homelessness, she added, Lopez has no access to hearing aids, which retail for around $100, but range to $2,000.
Assistant District Attorney Justin Greene opposed Lopez’ release because of an outstanding warrant after Lopez failed to appear for his sentencing. Although Sindelar explained why Lopez was unable to attend, DDA Greene still argued this as an important element to restrict release.
Greene further argued against Lopez’ release because he was not in contact with his attorney, adding that Lopez violated his previous Cruz waiver release. A Cruz waiver is an agreement by a released defendant to stay out of trouble and to return to court for the sentencing hearing.
Greene argued, “If Lopez doesn’t show up or comply with any of his obligations, he is telling the court that in the future he is likely not to, as well.”
That statement initiated questions as to how a battered man without access to hearing aids, housing, technology, or transportation, is assumed to attend court on the correct date.
Eventually, the court came to the conclusion that Lopez will be released with supervision. The judge also ordered an investigation into the occurrences between the date in October when Lopez was supposed to return to court and the present date.
However, due to the lack of availability of American Sign Language Interpreters, Lopez had to wait in the room with the interpreter until available probation officers could come to report the discrepancy.
Officers weren’t available during the case, so it is unknown when Lopez will be able to communicate to probation due to the lack of accessibility.
Due to the necessity of the conversation, Lopez cannot be released until this occurs, the judge said, even though that is beyond the control of Lopez.
The judge affirmed that “I want probation to have contact with him so that I’m satisfied that if Lopez walks out of these doors, he knows what to do. And if he doesn’t do it, then there will be consequences to his case.”
Lopez’ next court date remains to be scheduled.