By Shady Gonzales
MODESTO, CA – The accused was in Stanislaus County Superior Court Monday for his preliminary hearing on felony charges of inflicting great bodily harm onto an elder.
As the prosecution began to present probable cause for the case against the accused to proceed to trial, Deputy District Attorney Vita Palazuelos called Sheriff’s Deputy Reece Wallace to the stand to testify about investigating a call involving a fight between two roommates.
Upon arriving at the scene, Deputy Wallace said they found the victim in the case was an immobile 73-year-old elderly man lying in his bed, with a swollen and bloody lip.
Deputy Wallace recalled the room had a strong stench in it resulting from the victim having urinated and defecated in the bed in which he was lying. Because of the victim’s immobility, he was unable to get out of the bed without assistance.
The victim reported to Deputy Wallace that the accused had entered his room and punched him in the face three times before lifting him off of his bed and kneeing him in the chest. The victim claimed that this attack was unprovoked.
Upon hearing Deputy Wallace testify about the victim’s claim on stand, the accused erupted in a burst of panic and confusion. The accused attempted to whisper to his defense attorney, Reed Wagner, multiple times and continuously tapped his attorney on the shoulder to get his attention.
The accused told the court he wasn’t aware of these accusations being made against him and that he had simply gone into the victim’s room on April 4 to help the elderly man.
Both Judge Reeves and public defender Wagner attempted to calm the accused down and demanded that he refrain from interrupting the hearing.
As prosecutor Vita Palazuelos moved to identify the accused as the defendant for the record, Deputy Wallace pronounced the accused’s first and last name incorrectly. In response, the accused shouted “that damn man doesn’t even know my name.”
For the remainder of the direct examination of Deputy Wallace, the accused continued to tap on attorney Wagner’s shoulder and attempted to whisper in his ear. Wagner visibly waved off the accused’s taps and urged him to be quiet.
During cross-examination, Deputy Wallace recalled the manager of the group home the victim and suspect lived in together had found the victim on the floor and helped him back into bed after the altercation had occurred.
The manager of the home had not witnessed the altercation and Deputy Wallace did not question the manager himself.
Following the police investigation of the crime, the victim was transported to a hospital and put on what is referred to as a “5150 hold.”
This is a 72-hour custody hold in a hospital that is typically conducted when a mentally ill person is found to be a danger to themselves or others. However, it can also be conducted if an individual is considered to be gravely disabled.
Defense attorney Wagner requested Judge Reeves reduce the felony charges pressed against the accused to misdemeanor charges due to there being minor injuries on the victim, no injuries on the accused, no witnesses of any altercation, and a lack of overall evidence that proves the accused guilty of the crimes accused of him.
Prosecutor Palazuelos revealed that the accused already has three felony strikes on his extensive criminal record and argued that because of the victim’s vulnerable state, a charge reduction would not be reasonable.
Palazuelos also noted that in the last 10 years, the accused has served various prison sentences for violent crimes against other individuals.
Although Judge Reeves revealed that she did seriously consider reducing the felony charge to a misdemeanor, she decided against it because the violence was allegedly committed against an elderly and immobile individual, was unprovoked—and considering the accused’s recent felony charges.