By Noe Herrera
MODESTO, CA – A man, accused of felony domestic violence, had his charge reduced to a misdemeanor this week in Stanislaus County Superior Court after Judge Carrie Stephens considered his lack of criminal history, while still calling the incident “ugly.”
The man was represented at his preliminary hearing by Deputy Public Defender Tina Hutson, who argued that his felony domestic abuse charge should be reduced to a misdemeanor charge because “he has no criminal history [other] than an infraction for theft in 2008” and a previous DUI charge.
The man—not identified by the Vanguard because the charge is only a misdemeanor—was arrested in 2021 for domestic violence and for vandalism.
According to District Attorney Gloria Han, the man was irritated because the alleged victim did not allow him inside the house after blocking the door. The man then took down the surveillance cameras and threw them through the windows. Afterward, the man allegedly forced himself inside the home after the victim had gone outside to confront him.
PD Hutson argued there was no evidence of “traumatic injury” on the victim and that the injuries on the man’s face were evidence that the physical altercation was not one-sided.
Additionally, Hutson noted the incident happened in the man’s home, which meant he had destroyed his own property and that the vandalism charge should also be dropped.
Officer (first name not available) Crawford said that he did not notice any injuries on the man’s face before putting him in his police vehicle. Officer Crawford then took the man to the hospital where the man had a “scrape, cut, and abrasion to his forehead.”
After Officer Crawford asked the accused how he received his injuries, the officer said he “changed his story a few times between saying his wife did it, then saying [Officer Crawford] did it, and then saying he did not recall how it happened.”
In DDA Han’s questioning of Officer Crawford, she asked if the officer had noticed any differences between the images of the victim’s injuries and her actual injuries. The issue Han was raising was that the images were in black and white which, could misrepresent the severity of the victim’s actual injuries.
In closing arguments, Hutson maintained the accused had damaged his own property, including cameras that were registered to his name and a window that both he and the victim owned. Hutson said that the damages caused were also “not intentional.”
Han rebutted that “there was a traumatic condition” and that “the defendant’s conduct was very concerning especially because he called 911 and alleged that the victim had attacked him, and told the officer that the injury to his forehead was from the victim but then told his mother in the hospital that it was the officer who inflicted that injury.”
Han continued, “I think that the 17(b) motion (to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor) is not appropriate.”
Judge Stephens stated, “I have no evidence that [the incident] wasn’t intentional, I have circumstantial evidence that it was done when the defendant was angered at not being able to go into his house.”
Judge Stephens continued, “It is clear that (accused’s) conduct was ugly on that night. It was ugly because he tried to frame his ex-wife for conduct that she did not conduct. That is an ugly, ugly fact. However, given the defendant’s lack of history of domestic violence in the family and relative lack of criminal history… I am going to grant the 17(b) motion.”
She added that “the way the injury was inflicted was not completely intentional,” given the altercation with the door.
The vandalism charge remained, however, because the destroyed window also belonged to the victim, the judge said.
As an offer was being discussed between the two parties, Judge Stephens interjected, saying “in my opinion there needs to be alcohol terms. That is every bit as important as domestic violence terms. There would have to be alcohol terms… because that is the issue.”