Judge Initially Balks, but Works Deal with DA and Defense to Offer Rehab Program to Man Charged with Felony

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By Shady Gonzales

MODESTO, CA – The judge had questions despite both defense and prosecution counsels presenting a joint request to the Stanislaus County Superior Court last week to release Robert Howard—facing a felony charge related to having a billy club, also known as a baton, in April—to the Jericho Project.

The Jericho Project was established in 1995 to offer a treatment program for recovery from substance abuse and criminal behavior.

The prosecution and defense counsels in the case submitted a request in which Howard would return to court after 60 days in the program to present his progress following a 45-day blackout period.

In response to their request, Judge Dawna Reeves inquired about what would happen to the open felony charge.

Deputy District Attorney Vita Palazuelos first said she agreed with the plan, to allow Howard the opportunity to “get clean,” and noted that once his 60-day completion of the program was up, Howard would have attained credit for time served that could then be used to further settle the felony charge.

Defense Attorney Rebecka Monez also clarified for the court that Howard had been “very proactive in reaching out [and applying]” to various programs in Stanislaus County to aid in his recovery prior to being taken back into custody.

Judge Reeves, while showing appreciation for Howard’s efforts, firmly stated that she would not allow Howard to attend the Jericho Project while he has an open felony case.

Following an offer by Judge Reeves to further discuss the case, the case of Victor Howard was called to the court again roughly one hour later.

Both counsel and Howard came to the agreement that Howard would submit a no contest plea in his felony case.

Judge Reeves allowed sentencing to be put over in response to this plea and Howard to be released to the Jericho Project.

If Howard completes the Jericho Project’s one-year required program, the People will allow him to withdraw his plea to the felony charge and would dismiss the case against him.

If Howard fails to complete the Jericho Project, the People will suggest a 16-month sentence for his charges.

Howard is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 15 to submit proof that he is on the path of successfully completing the Jericho Project.

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