Competency of Accused Challenged after Rejection of Generous Plea Offer for 2 Felonies

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By Ozzy Hernandez 

RIVERSIDE, CA – It was a busy day in the courtrooms at the Riverside County Superior Court Hall of Justice late this past week—judges were overrun with cases, which meant some morning hearings were abruptly moved to other courtrooms with different judges.

This was the case with Brittney Jean Whitman, first heard in Courtroom 53 with Judge Gail O’Rane, then to 43 with Judge Matthew Perantoni due to the former’s “busy calendar.”

Whitman and her ex-boyfriend Mark Ebbert were arrested on Aug. 29, 2021, for assaulting a convenience store clerk. They were both charged with two felony counts of inflicting jury and bodily harm to the victim.

Ebbert pleaded guilty and is currently serving time in prison.

Whitman was released on her own recognizance upon his conviction, but was rearrested on Feb. 7 for assaulting the same convenience store clerk. She has been in custody since then.

After leaving her chambers, Judge O’Rane indicated to Deputy Public Defender Andrea Tran she would reduce Whitman’s two charges to misdemeanors if Ebbert pleaded guilty, which he did. But she did not make that official and the matter was moved to another courtroom.

Whitman’s case was then picked up by Judge Matthew Perantoni. Both lawyers also met with Judge Perantoni’s chambers before the hearing commenced.

“After carefully reviewing the facts of the case, I would be willing to do the same as Judge O’Rane’s indication on the matter,” said Judge Perantoni.

Deputy District Attorney Ashlee Bell was representing the People and did not object to the judge’s offer.

The reduced charges would come with “formal probation” as well as credit for serving time on the same previous charges, which was a total of 77 days.

Otherwise, the accused would be looking at “up to four years in state prison for each charge” explained Judge Perantoni.

But then things took a strange turn.

The accused Whitman was reluctant to accept the plea deal. That’s what it seemed like at first, but she decided to accept the plea. But, after a short break, it was determined that she redacted her plea.

“I would rather go to trial,” said Whitman.

Upon hearing this, DPD Andrea Tran motioned a 1368 (PC § 1368, regarding mental competency), questioning her client’s competency.

The matter is going to be heard March 3, pursuant to the 1368 motion, where Whitman will be evaluated by a court-appointed doctor.

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About The Author

Ozzy is a fifth year college student double majoring in Political Science and Performing Arts at CSU Channel Islands. He plans on attending law school and become an attorney. On his free time, he loves to indulge in the theater and embark on outdoor adventures

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