By Isabelle Brady
MODESTO, CA – Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Nancy Leo rejected a defense request in a preliminary hearing here Tuesday to reduce Dora Luz Cervantes Palominos’ felony to a misdemeanor in a case involving a bucket.
Per the alleged victim’s testimony, on March 2, 2018, she went to a bar with a friend after driving him around. As they were leaving, a woman behind the bar to whom she hadn’t spoken previously asked her, “Why are you behaving so badly?”
The victim testified that she replied “if I was behaving in such a bad way, then she didn’t have to serve us.”
Prompted to describe the “pail,” the victim described it as “a bucket…made out of metal, full of ice and beers,” adding Cervantes took the bucket in “both hands” and struck her in the forehead with it “several times,” causing her to bleed.
Officer Jonathan Blount later testified that other witnesses told him they’d seen a woman hit the victim with a metal bucket.
One said he was sitting on the end of the counter when he looked over and “saw a female hitting [the victim] with what was again described as a metal bucket.” Another witness named the woman who’d hit the victim as “Luz Palominos.”
The defense stipulated that she suffered “superficial lacerations, no concussions and no fractures.”
Under questioning from private Defense Attorney Carlos Fuentes, the victim said that she had in fact had some alcohol that night. But she added “since I was going to drive,” she said, “I wasn’t drinking that much.”
She denied having consumed eight beers when Fuentes asked, and said that she couldn’t remember if she’d told Officer Blount that she’d had that many.
Officer Blount later testified, “I believe she did say that she had eight smaller beers.”
Fuentes also asked the victim about her 2011 conviction for petty theft. She wouldn’t answer questions about that, explaining she wasn’t “going to answer a question about [her] private life.”
Deputy District Attorney Adam Bills objected on grounds of relevance, “due to the conviction’s age and severity,” while defense counsel Fuentes said that “credibility is very important here.”
Judge Leo said, “Had this been raised ahead of time, I would have not permitted it to come in for purposes of impeachment due to its age and the fact that it’s a misdemeanor conviction” so the victim’s prior conviction “can’t be used for purposes of impeachment.”
After testimony concluded, Fuentes requested “based on the totality of the circumstances…and based on the fact that the injury is rather superficial,” that the court entertain his motion to reduce Palominos’ charges from felony to misdemeanor.
“Although the witness kept it out of her testimony, she in fact had been drinking. Obviously that goes to the ability to perceive and recollect what happened,” Fuentes said.
DDA Bills acknowledged that “the fact that the victim had been drinking could be relevant to her perception as well as her recollection,” but said that matters less “when we have independent witnesses that verify her statements as well as corroborating injuries.”
Furthermore, DDA Bills argued, “I think the fact that the injuries were minor is fortunate for [the victim] but not necessarily indicative of the violence that was used here…I don’t believe the conduct is misdemeanor conduct despite the relative minimal nature of the injuries.”
The judge rejected Fuentes’ motion to reduce the crime to a misdemeanor, saying that she “concur[s] with Mr. Bills’ assessment.”