Judge Expresses Concern for Child Witnesses of Repeated Domestic Abuse

By Gina Kim

MODESTO, CA – Expressing special concern for child witnesses of repeated domestic violence, a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge denied a man’s request for release on bail in a pretrial hearing here last Thursday.

Lee Garza allegedly abused his former partner on multiple occasions, although there were some inconsistent reports, including some by minor children witnesses in the household.

Assistant Public Defender Amy Kennedy requested bail review because of Garza’s inability to pay the current $100,000 amount—$50,000 for the Feb. 1 altercation and $50,000 for Nov. 7, asking for the man’s release on his own recognizance or a reduction of bail.

Regarding the most recent incident on Feb. 1, Kennedy noted how the two witnesses of the altercation, minor children of the alleged defendant and victim, stated in an interview that their mother “was in no way physically attacked by their father.”

Police reports indicate the children were “willing to speak with them,” and were deemed “forthright and honest.” Moreover, further inspection of the alleged victim did not reveal any of the injuries she claimed to receive.

“Significantly the children that were present gave an account that was drastically inconsistent with the alleged victim in this case,” argued PD Kennedy, adding that although Garza had two prior felony convictions, they were nonviolent offenses.

Judge Dawna Reeves inquired as to whether Garza was currently on felony probation. Though she was unable to confirm at the time, PD Kennedy suggested Garza might not be on probation because his most recent offense was in 2019, and two-year probation term would have expired.

The prosecution informed the court that in the previous Nov. 7, 2021, incident, Garza allegedly punched the victim in the head several times, pulling her to the ground where he kicked her. The victim attempted to call the police but hung up out of fear. When she told the suspect she would call the police, Garza allegedly punched her head again.

Officers in this case, as opposed to the February report, noted swelling to the victim’s head. The victim informed officers Garza became more aggressive after consuming alcohol, and since then she had decided to leave him.

“This was all done in front of two of their children, both of whom corroborated her [the victim’s] statements,” the prosecution stated, unlike the February incident when the defense claims the children didn’t report the abuse.

The prosecution further added how on Feb. 1 the victim called 911 because Garza was drunk and causing a fight, despite no longer living at the home. About 45 minutes later, the children called 911. Dispatch reported sounds of screaming and crying, as well as a male voice yelling.

At that point, one of the children informed dispatch the accused was assaulting their mother—the same child who would later report their mother was “no way physically attacked by their father.” Once law enforcement arrived, the male voice was heard again yelling from the front of the house.

The victim told the officer all of this arose when Garza became mad after their 13-year-old daughter refused to accept the broken laptop he wanted to gift to her, eventually leading to Garza yelling at the victim. The two adults then went into the bedroom where the victim claimed to be hit an “unknown amount of times.” Their television was broken by the end of the altercation.

The prosecution concurs the children never saw a physical violation, but it remained unclear whether they were also in the bedroom when the fight occurred. However, officers noted the victim had a cut to her lip, as well as a scratch and bruise to her arm.

More importantly, the February incident occurred while the protective order was in place, as Garza was on misdemeanor probation despite being out of the domestic violence incident from May of 2019.

The prosecution then cited Garza’s prior domestic violence arrests and warrants that have gone out on “almost every case” of his rap sheet. Whether or not the victim might not be safe, given the recurrence of assaults despite there being a criminal protective order in place, was a major point of concern.

In her final remarks, PD Kennedy added how her client was anxious to help his mother currently in the hospital with COVID, especially given his father’s recent passing in October due to COVID. “He is anxious for release to assist her,” Kennedy stated.

The court found most of its concern with the repeated instances of violence while children were present.

“The complaining witness has choices, and I’m aware that lots of times when there are domestic violence issues in the home it’s usually not completely one-sided, even if the physical part is,” stated Judge Reeves. “But if there’s children involved, I have to be very careful because they don’t have the ability to extricate themselves.”

The fact that there were four children present at the home during the altercations, inciting them to call 911 on numerous occasions, suggested the violence in the home might be “out of control,” said Judge Reeves.

The judge decided not to release Garza on bail pretrial. The court will reconvene for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 28.

About The Author

Gina is a sophomore at UCSB majoring in History of Public Policy and Law. She's an aspiring professional writing minor interested in studying law.

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