By Fiona Davis
SACRAMENTO – The “overly aggressive” conduct of a parking enforcement officer provoked an alleged assault on two parking officers, claimed the defense attorney for the accused in a preliminary hearing held here Wednesday in Sacramento County Superior Court.
While the presiding judge ultimately reduced all felony charges to misdemeanors, calling the case “borderline,” the defense lawyer’s characterization of the incident led to a heated exchange between the defense and judge.
The accused (the Vanguard does not publish the names of misdemeanor defendants) was arrested in August 2021, after an alleged altercation that occurred between him and two parking enforcement officers.
He was then charged with two felony counts of battery of a judicial officer, and one misdemeanor count for allegedly exhibiting a firearm in a “rude, angry, or threatening manner” outside of self-defense. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
At the hearing before Judge Stephen Acquisto, Deputy District Attorney Adriana Garcia called on two Sacramento County law enforcement officers who responded to the alleged incident that took place.
While questioned by the prosecution, each officer testified that on the day of the alleged battery, the two reported victims—a male parking enforcement officer and his female co-worker—stated that they had been standing in the road while on duty when the defendant drove up to them from the “wrong side of the road.”
The alleged victims stated the accused then stepped out of the car with a metal baseball bat and confronted the male parking enforcement officer over a ticket that had been written by the male officer for the car of the man’s girlfriend.
“(He) didn’t appreciate that,” one testifying officer said in regard to the parking ticket.
During the altercation, the accused reportedly struck the male victim with a “half open, half closed” fist, and “shoulder checked” the female officer when she attempted to break up the fight between the two men.
Later that day, the man was identified after his license plate number was run by one of the alleged victims. When speaking to one testifying officer, the man agreed that he had been “involved with” parking enforcement officers that day.
While the prosecution emphasized the man intentionally instigated this reported altercation, the defense’s questions appeared to place blame on the male parking enforcement officer.
Under the cross-examination of Assistant Public Defender Benjamin Charles Scarfe, Officer Kyle Simmons—one of the testifying officers—stated that the accused approached the male parking enforcement officer earlier that day as he was writing the ticket for the accused’s girlfriend’s car.
Based on Officer Simmons’ testimony, this ticket appeared to be the second one placed on the car that day, which the defense attorney suggested had caused the defendant to become upset.
“[The] second ticket caused (him) to be quite upset,” PD Scarfe argued.
Simmons confirmed that during this earlier interaction, the accused alleged that the parking officer had been “overly aggressive,” and had unnecessarily escalated the situation.
In his questioning, Scarfe seemed to suggest his client reported that the parking enforcement officer had “challenged him to a fight” and had gotten “into a fighting stance.”
While the public defender asserted that this alleged account had been given by the accused, Simmons did not recall the defendant ever stating this.
While questioned by the defense, Simmons stated that the defendant alleged that he drove to the parking enforcement officer in order to report the “overly aggressive” conduct of the parking enforcement officer to his female co-worker.
Simmons also stated that one of the victims had reported that the accused at one point tried to distance himself from the altercation, but the suspect reported that the male enforcement officer was continuously “closing the distance” as the civilian attempted to create space between himself and the parking enforcement officers.
Additionally, while the male parking enforcement officer had told responding officers the accused had raised the metal bat “as if he were in a batting cage,” the female parking enforcement officer, as well as a separate eyewitness, recalled that the bat remained at the defendant’s side throughout the alleged altercation.
The defense also questioned the level of injury sustained by the alleged victims.
The testimony of both testifying officers indicated that the alleged female victim had not sustained any injury from the reported shoulder check.
The alleged male victim reported that he had “redness and swelling” caused by the accused striking him in the head. However, responding officers did not notice any visible injuries on him at the time, and forensic photographs taken of the alleged area of injury were not available to be submitted as evidence.
After both the prosecution and defense submitted their cases, Judge Acquisto asserted that—based on his understanding of the testimony presented—the accused had, in fact, sought out to confront the alleged male victim for simply receiving a parking ticket.
In response to this characterization of the client, Scarfe began to make arguments despite having already rested his case, reiterating the allegedly aggressive behavior of the parking enforcement officer.
Visibly frustrated, Judge Acquisto quickly cut off the post-preliminary defense by stating, “I’m not inviting further argument. Can you please stop talking and listen? … Because that’s the phase that we’re in.”
Judge Acquisto ultimately ruled to reduce the felony battery charges to misdemeanors. He stated that while the reduction did not mean he wasn’t “offended by (the) conduct,” he felt that the incident was “a bit borderline.”