By Hannah Adams
MODESTO, CA – Potentially incriminating video surveillance suggesting Ruben Anthony Rosales and Jamal Adam Younan had committed physical violence against peace officers while the two were in custody was shown here in open court in a preliminary examination in Stanislaus County Superior Court last week.
The surveillance also revealed potential police brutality.
The original complaint featured two charges, a charge of battery against a custodial officer for each accused.
However, Patrick Hogan, the district attorney of this case, included a third charge for both accuseds: knowingly bringing in controlled substances to a jail or prison.
Both accused pleaded not guilty. The judge determined the case should go to trial.
DDA Hogan then requested that Stanislaus County Sheriff-Deputy Fernando Salgado be designated as the investigating officer of this case; Reeves agreed. Hogan followed by requesting Deputy Aaron Aguilar as the first witness.
In his first line of questioning, Hogan confirmed that Aguilar is employed as a full-time custodial deputy at the Stanislaus County adult detention center. He confirmed that Aguilar was at the scene of the crime conducting a security check with his partner, Deputy Victor Santoyo.
Aguilar stated that he witnessed Rosales physically striking Santoyo in the face twice. In response, Aguilar called for help, then intervened in order to stop the conflict. He managed to subdue Rosales by taking him to the ground.
Aguilar also noted Younan attempted to engage in the fight, stating the accused jumped on Santoyo and him and he felt Younan’s weight on him. Officer Aguilar declared that he shouted “stop” repeatedly to both, but was ultimately ignored.
Defense attorney Wagner started his line of questioning by asking Officer Aguilar if Rosales had shed blood after he was tackled by Aguilar, to which he responded, “Yes.” When asked how much blood, Aguilar stated “a good amount.”
Wagner then asked how Rosales sustained his head injury, and Aguilar admitted that he had used his “RCB,” a rapid containment baton that extends.
Attorney Monez started her line of questioning by asking Officer Aguilar to confirm if Younan was in handcuffs during the altercation. Following Aguilar’s confirmation, she asked him if at any point his handcuffs had come off, to which Aguilar responded, “No.”
Then she asked if shouting “get on the floor” was a standard operation in this kind of situation, and Aguilar confirmed that it was the correct procedure since deputies are trained to give verbal commands before they resort to violence.
Hogan then called Officer Salgado, the second witness, to the stand.
Hogan started his line of questioning by asking Salgado what his occupation is, to which he responded that he is a full-time peace officer. Salgado mentioned that he has been employed in this occupation for two months.
Salgado confirmed that he was called to the adult detention center at the time of the incident. After the altercation had passed, Salgado was tasked with writing a report, taking statements and viewing the surveillance footage of the incident. After confirming that the surveillance footage featured the incident and was downloaded, Hogan ended his line of questioning.
Hogan called Officer Santoyo, the third witness, to the stand.
As the surveillance footage played, Santoyo described the scene in detail, mentioning what he and Aguilar were doing and what they were witnessing.
Once the court had reviewed the surveillance footage, Hogan switched the focus of his line of questioning. He asked Santoyo about pruno, an alcoholic beverage that can be made from ingredients such as fruit and orange juice, products that can be easily accessed in a prison environment. Santoyo confirmed that he knew what it was and how it was made.
Santoyo said he found the drink in a cell, and the substance smelled of alcohol, implying that it was pruno. When Hogan asked which cell the pruno was found in, as well as which inmates were in that cell, Santoyo revealed that the pruno was found in Rosales’s and Younan’s cell.
Following that revelation, Hogan asked Santoyo if, at the time, he smelled alcohol on Rosales and Younan; Santoyo confirmed that he smelled alcohol on them. Hogan then asked if the prison was adamant about the prohibition of alcohol on the complex, to which Santoyo stated that the complex has in-house rules, posted signs and a handbook that prohibit the possession of controlled substances.
Once Santoyo affirmed that he was confident Rosales and Younan possessed pruno, Hogan returned to his original line of questioning in regard to the incident. DDA Hogan asked Santoyo to confirm if both he and Aguilar gave verbal commands before resorting to physical violence during the altercation. Santoyo confirmed that he and Aguilar followed procedure, using physical violence only as a last resort.
Wagner’s first question to Officer Santoyo was if the pruno had been sent to the Department of Justice for alcohol-content testing. Santoyo admitted that it had not been officially tested, and was instead thrown out following the incident.
Wagner shifted the focus back to the incident, asking Santoyo how, based on the surveillance, Aguilar’s baton ended up in his hand. Santoyo explained that Aguilar was in a compromised position, and so he handed his baton to Santoyo to use since he was unable to. When asked why he didn’t use his own baton, Santoyo explained that grabbing Aguilar’s baton was faster than grabbing his own.
Wagner asked, “How many times did you punch my client?” Santoyo then admitted he dealt three strikes to Rosales’s facial area.
Wagner then asked, “Does your training instruct you to try and—if it comes to blows—disable them without hurting them substantially?”
After a pause, Santoyo responded with, “At that moment, I was in fear for my life, so, yes.”
Wagner clarified that he was talking about Santoyo’s training, not the incident itself. Santoyo explained that his training allowed him to use the level of force that was shown in the surveillance footage.
Wagner then reaffirmed, “Your training tells you that, at the point when someone is running from you, you are supposed to hit them three times in the face and strike them over the head with a baton?”
DDA Hogan then cut in with an objection, claiming that defense counsel Wagner misstated Santoyo’s testimony. Judge Reeves overruled the objection, allowing Santoyo to confirm if his training stated an answer to Wagner’s question. Santoyo said that his training did not answer Wagner’s question.
Wagner then asked, “Your training tells you to use the minimum amount of force required for the situation, correct?” Santoyo confirmed that is what is expected of him.
Wagner then asked if Santoyo considered three strikes to the head as a show of minimum force, to which Santoyo agreed. Wagner followed that by asking if Santoyo grabbing his partner’s baton was considered an appropriate decision.
In light of Wagner’s question, Santoyo admitted he was aiming for Rosales’s shoulder, but ultimately missed. Wagner responded with, “Does your training teach you about the accuracy of the batons and how to land blows where you want them?” Santoyo said yes.
When asked what caused him to miss, Santoyo said Rosales had moved up, trying to throw in another two strikes but missed. This ultimately led to Santoyo’s strike landing on Rosales’s head instead of his shoulder.
Defense Attorney Monez began her questioning by asking Santoyo what the policy was in regard to opening a cell’s door when two inmates are out at once. Santoyo explained that as long as one inmate is not near the door, and is not showing any intention of escape, then an officer is able to open a door safely.
Monez then asked Santoyo to confirm if the policy does not state that both inmates must be handcuffed before the door is open. Santoyo confirmed that Monez was correct.
Monez asked Officer Santoyo to confirm if the controlled-substance prohibition posters were posted in Rosales’s and Younan’s cell block. Santoyo said he did not recall.
Monez then asked Santoyo to reconfirm if the controlled substance prohibition warning was in the prisoner handbook as well, to which Santoyo agreed. .
Finally Judge Dawna Reeves began her own questioning, asking Santoyo to elaborate on moments from the surveillance clip.
Once they had played the clip, Wagner asked if there are any other surveillance cameras in the unit. Santoyo admitted that he did not recall how many cameras were in the unit, but he testified that there was one other camera that would have captured this moment.
Monez then asked if Santoyo knew what kind of medical treatment Rosales received following the incident. Santoyo admitted that Rosales was given stitches.
Monez then asked Santoyo to clarify if Rosales had gotten stitches or staples, which prompted Santoyo to revise his statement. He admitted that Rosales had gotten staples following the incident.
In light of the third count, DDA Hogan said the court was presented with sufficient, incriminating evidence given by Santoyo’s testimony. He also mentioned that the video showed a clear assault by both Rosales and Younan.
Judge Reeves asked Hogan to confirm if he was arguing that Younan’s use of his body weight is to be considered an assault on a custodial officer or as an aide to Rosales. Hogan declared that both are plausible, but ultimately cited the original charge of battery of a custodial officer.
Wagner then presented his argument: the substance could have been properly tested but was discarded following the incident based upon a smell.
Finally, Monez first commented on the third count, agreeing with Wagner with the same argument. She also claimed accused Younan had stood on the side watching until “custodial officer Santoyo essentially ‘split open’ inmate Rosales’s head with that baton.”
She asserted that Younan’s action should not be deemed as battery of a custodial officer, but rather as a defense of others.
Judge Reeves found there was enough evidence to show Rosales and Younan guilty of battery against a custodial officer and there should be a trial. She also agreed that, for the sake of trial, Santoyo’s testimony provided sufficient evidence to prove that charge in Count 3 had been committed.