Judge Keeps Felony Vandalism Charge for Alleged Kwik Mart Attack, but Releases Accused

By Katherine Coviello, Catherine Potente, and Veronica Miller 

WOODLAND, CA – During a preliminary hearing here in Yolo County Superior Court Wednesday, Judge Timothy L. Fall allowed a woman to be released on her own recognizance after being accused of felony vandalizing of a Kwik Mart in West Sacramento.

According to a complaint on June 2, 2020, Helen Farren allegedly vandalized the entrance to the Kwik Mart on West Capitol Avenue in West Sacramento.

The officer responded to a call made by the store manager, who complained to the officer that a female struck the store’s door with what he thought was a hammer.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time, stores closed at 8 p.m. Farren attempted to enter the store after the store manager locked the doors, according to the witness.

“She became angry and there was conversation where she was yelling at him. And then at one point she had pulled what he described as a hammer out of her backpack, or what he described as a backpack, and struck the door one time,” the store manager told the officer.

When asked what damages he observed, the officer said, “There was a crack, a horizontal crack that extended from the left side of the door to the right side of the door.”

The officer witness found a metal crowbar in Farren’s possession, which was consistent with the store manager’s description.

After striking the door, Farren walked away from the store and was found later in another store where she was cited with a misdemeanor and let go. It was not until later that the charges were changed to a felony.

According to the officer, the store manager “estimated the damage to be about $600.” However, there have not been any assessments and estimates made about the damage made to the door.

Deputy Public Defender Valerie Nuding found other inconsistencies between the observations stated in the store manager’s statement and officer’s findings.

Nuding observed the store manager stated Farren used a hammer to strike the window and was also carrying a backpack, while the officer confirmed that a crowbar was used and it was a purse not a backpack that Farren was carrying.

Nuding would use this to back up her argument that the charges should be dropped from a felony to a misdemeanor charge.

“In order for this case to proceed as a felony we have to have proof the cost of damage was more than… $400. At this point there’s an approximation with no explanation from how that number came to be. As someone who was upset and made other incorrect observations that night that we’ve seen, I think his observation of whether she was angry is also questionable because he clearly was making some incorrect observations that night,” argued Nuding against the holding order.

Nuding concluded her statement by doubting the court had shown malice enough for the holding order, given insufficient evidence and as the damage may not be more than $400.

Judge Fall found that, given the court was in a preliminary hearing—which has a very low bar for cases to go to trial—there was enough evidence to form a strong suspicion and that the threshold for a felony had been met.

Nuding argued against the felony classification, noting the officer at the time of the incident categorized it as misdemeanor conduct. She described how the defendant made one strike against a door that did not shatter and how there were questions regarding the damage estimate.

The court then looked at Farren’s record, which was described as “fairly low level and non-violent” by Nuding, but included several misdemeanors and a felony vandalism conviction.

Farren was also put on post-release community supervision from Yuba County in a separate incident following the alleged vandalism at the convenience store.

“This is not the kind of case that should be reduced at preliminary hearing,” Judge Fall ruled, but did decide to release Farren on her own recognizance as the Yuba County Probation Office is already supervising her release and all conditions of community supervision are also conditions of her release in Yolo County.

An arraignment prior to trail is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2022, in Dept. 7 at 9 a.m.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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