By Oliver Camarena
WOODLAND, CA – The testimony portion of the sex crimes trial of Jose Trinidad Perez Meza, for alleged assaults in 2018 and 2020, ended Thursday in Yolo County Superior Court with both the defense and prosecution resting, subject to the admission of certain exhibits.
Meza is facing two counts of assault with intent to commit mayhem, rape, sodomy, or oral copulation; sexual penetration against will; sexual battery; attempted rape by force; assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury, 2nd degree robbery, preventing or dissuading a witness/victim by threat or force; and preventing or dissuading a witness/victim from reporting.
Deputy District Attorney David Robbins Thursday called Sgt. Hiroshi Yaguchi, a domestic violence and sexual assault detective for the Santa Rosa Police Department. After going over Yaguchi’s training and experience, DDA Robbins asked about the sexual assault case he was assigned in June of 2018.
Yaguchi spoke about the SART kit, a sexual assault kit used to collect DNA evidence, and what he’d collected from the hospital and put into evidence from the victim of the sexual assault that night in Santa Rosa. He also spoke about how some of the victim’s clothing was booked into evidence.
The officer noted the victim had met with a sketch artist, and positively identified a sketch that was drawn that night depicting the assaulter.
DDA Robbins asked about the night of June 19, a few days after the sexual assault in Santa Rosa, where Yaguchi went to the apartment complex of the victim to review and collect surveillance footage of the suspect and to distribute that footage to the media and to use as evidence.
A stipulation was agreed by both the prosecution and the defense that gave Yaguchi the ability to testify about the interview with the victim of the Santa Rosa incident which was done through a qualified Spanish language interpreter.
The victim described her assaulter as having a “heavy build, Hispanic, and with a goatee,” according to Yaguchi.
After referring to his transcript of the interview, Yaguchi gave a visual description of what the suspect was wearing the night of the assault. He said that when he showed the victim a still from the security footage taken the night of the assault, she flinched but confirmed that the person in the still resembles her assaulter.
The victim saw the man who would later attack her when she left her apartment—the man stood out to her as she knew everyone in her complex and this man was a stranger. After she used crutches to make her way to her car, she heard footsteps and was tackled to the ground where the man reached down the back of her dress and started “clawing” at her vagina.
According to Yaguchi’s victim interview, the man used “a lot of force.”
Yaguchi then detailed the rubbing and penetration, as he understood it through the interpreter, even though the victim said that there was no penetration. He said that the demonstration the victim was doing while explaining with her hands to show what her assaulter did to her made him think that there was indeed penetration.
In his experience, he said, victims don’t always understand what penetration means as it pertains to the crime.
The victim told him the attack lasted roughly 10 seconds and Yaguchi tried clarifying with her if the assaulter’s fingers did penetrate her labia, though the Spanish to English barrier and going through a translator made it difficult.
DDA Robbins finished his questioning by asking about the victim’s injuries to which Yaguchi said she has scrapes on her legs and the woman reported a bump on her head.
During cross-examination, private defense attorney Jesse Ortiz, III, confirmed that as far as what the victim was telling Yaguchi during the interview, he was only hearing it primarily through the interpreter.
After some back and forth clarifying what was said during Yaguchi’s testimony, Ortiz argued penetration of the labia is what Yaguchi interpreted from the interview, not what the victim actually said and not what is reflected on the transcript of the interview.
DDA Robbins objected to this, claiming that it was a violation of agreed-upon stipulation, with Judge Tom Dyer sustaining the objection.
Ortiz asked if Yaguchi recalled questioning the victim about where she was touched and if recalled her telling him that she was touched “on the outside and not the inside.” After Yaguchi confirmed, Ortiz referred to the transcript quoting, “Yes, he didn’t put his fingers in.”
Ortiz referred to the transcript again and clarified with Yaguchi that the victim was covering her privates with her hand during the assault. Ortiz asked why Yaguchi never asked the victim if she moved her hand at all during the assault, wondering how there could be penetration if she had been covering with her hand.
The officer responded that hands sometimes move during assaults. Ortiz replied, that as lead detective, how did he not ask her how she got penetrated if her hand was in the way?
Yaguchi once again cited difficulty in the interpretation during the interview as it had been difficult to ask clarifying questions through the Spanish to English translation.
The victim did affirm that there was skin to skin contact, but never said directly, as the transcript reflects, that she was penetrated. The transcript only reflects that she was touched around the butt and anus.
Ortiz concluded by arguing that what Yaguchi interpreted in his testimony is not what was said in the interview transcript.
DDA Robbins started his reexamination by stating that Ortiz had only asked about and shown a small part of the interview transcript. In his interview, Yaguchi said he asked two rounds of questions, the first round being general questions and the second round being more detailed.
In the second round, with the information and visuals that the victim described the attack with, it was Yaguchi’s understanding that the suspect reached down from behind the victim, down her butt, and clawed at her privates.
DDA Robbins also confirmed that the victim had responded to some of the detective’s questions before the interpreter had translated, meaning she understood some of what Yaguchi was asking.
Ortiz and DDA Robbins then went back and forth questioning Yaguchi about the details of the transcript and if the question about penetration was asked, or if it was just what Yaguchi interpreted from the details he was told and the visuals that the victim used.
Yaguchi said that, in his mind, it was distinct what she was demonstrating with her hands. Ortiz concluded by saying that what was in Yaguchi’s mind is not what the victim described in the transcript.
The final witness was a victim of a sexual assault in May of 2017. She recalled the incident after she had gone shopping at a grocery store. When she was walking home, she heard a biker behind and moved off the path so he could pass. As the hooded biker was coming towards her, he pulled up next to her, grabbing her butt and pushing her up against a railing.
When she screamed the biker took off, though she later saw him coming back around. She ran to her house and locked the door, calling her father and then the police.
Officers later showed her surveillance footage from inside the grocery store where she was shopping that day. She recognized herself and later saw the same man who would later assault her in the footage. She identified that man as the same one sitting in court, Jose Meza.
Despite her testimony, Meza is not facing any charges for that sexual assault incident in 2017.
The prosecution then rested, subject to the admission of certain exhibits, with the defense also resting.