Woman Facing Felony DUI Represents Self in Jury Trial, Claims Officials Targeting Her over Family Court Matters

By Leila Katibah

MODESTO, CA – The accused, a mother representing herself in a jury trial in a felony driving under the influence (DUI) case here in Stanislaus County Superior Court last week, represents a group of mothers who claim disenchantment with Stanislaus County courts, attorneys, judicial officers and police.

The accused alleges she is among several mothers in the county who lost custody of their children to their alleged abusers after reporting abuse, and were subsequently removed from their homes and isolated from their children.

Now facing felony DUI charges as a result of what she claims to be an unlawful, targeted DUI traffic stop, the accused is defending herself in this jury trial amid her several custody battles—in which she alleges misconduct and targeted harassment by county police officers, attorneys and judicial officers.

On July 11, 2020, the accused was pulled over by Sgt. Jeffrey Harmons and Sgt. Juan Arroyo in a DUI traffic stop, which she claims was unwarranted and unlawful. 

Judge Ruben A. Villalobos noted the court dismissed the count of driving on a suspended license, because it was later shown to not be expired, under COVID-pandemic exceptions.

When the accused asked the arresting officer, Arroyo, if there was a warrant to search her vehicle, seize her belongings, and draw her blood, during his testimony, Judge Villalobos stopped her, noting the matter had been settled in court that the warrant had been issued via email to the officers.

After asking if the emailed warrant be submitted to court as evidence as there was no probable cause for the search, Judge Villabolos denied her request and urged her to move on from the matter of the warrant, or be in direct contempt of the court.

Body camera footage was shown of the traffic stop by Deputy District Attorney Daniel Lucas Newton. The accused pleaded the footage not be shown in front of the jury. Judge Villabolos ruled the footage would be shown, and deemed the accused’s call for redirection inappropriate.

The accused addressed testifying Officer Arroyo, claiming he moved his entire body back to position the camera in an attempt to publicly humiliate her. After Judge Villalobos told her twice to address the courtroom directly rather than Officer Arroyo, whom she alleged is lying, she stated the courtroom was rearranged so that DDA Newton could show modified body camera footage and transcripts.

Judge Villalobos corrected her, saying nothing has been rearranged, that the technology in this courtroom predates the filing of this case.

The accused stated the video showed her and her family being abused by law enforcement and serves to further victim-shame her. She states the officers took her child, held her down, violated the law, and proclaimed that the testifying officer belongs in jail.

The accused wanted her fiancé, “a real man,” in the room for support if the video were to be shown. Judge Villalobos responded by letting her know anyone could be in the courtroom as an audience member.

The accused requested a redirect with a video and transcript showing the officer lying about having a warrant. Judge Villalobos let her know he will consider any relevant and admissible evidence submitted to the court.

She asked, “Are we going to arrest him when we find out that it’s true?” to which Judge Villalobos replied, “I am not a law enforcement officer.” He announced a short recess after.

The body camera footage showed the accused being held down by officers as she yelled profanities at them. She asked to see a signed warrant, which the officers did not show her.

In the footage, conflicts from her child custody case arose after she stated her daughter is being sexually abused and self-harming while placed in the custody of the father, whom the accused alleges was previously prosecuted for possession of child pornography.

As she was held down, officers drew her blood, with the intention of sending it to a forensic lab to test the blood-alcohol levels. The testifying officer claimed the reason for this was because she refused any on-field testing, such as a breathalyzer.

The accused alleged the blood sample the officers took from her was tampered with during discovery in an attempt to validate the unlawful traffic stop, with her evidence being that the vial containing her blood was unsealed.

Before the accused walked out of the courtroom during the video showing, she objected to part of the footage which mentioned her other family court cases. Judge Villalobos denied the objection, but said her other court cases must not be mentioned in front of the jury. The footage resumed playing when she came back into the courtroom.

The judge asked her to please be seated, to which the accused replied “if he [DDA Newton] can be standing up, so can I.”  

DDA Newton asked the testifying officer if the video was an accurate representation of the events that took place during the accused’s arrest, to which he replied yes.

The accused noted she asked the officers to see a warrant 17 times during those moments. Officer Arroyo claims he showed her an emailed warrant on a cellphone. The accused added the phone he showed her had a black screen, and that the video she plans to submit to discovery will prove she was just shown a plain black screen, not a warrant.

The accused then asked the witness if it is true you need a warrant to arrest someone if the officer did not witness the crime happening. Initially, the judge allowed him to answer, but revisited his ruling, declaring it is not for the officer to say, as it is a legal issue for the court to resolve.

The accused noted she had prior history with the testifying officer, claiming he was called to her home before this arrest regarding a domestic violence situation. She noted that the night of her arrest, officers visited her children’s residence. Officer Arroyo stated he was unaware of this incident.

When trying to address her comments in the video regarding her daughter being sexually abused, the judge did not permit the testifying officer to answer whether he was aware it was happening or not.

The accused asked the officer if they stated, during her arrest, that they will go check on her daughter. He said he does not recall stating that, and noted that he did not check on her daughter. 

The accused noted, and Officer Arroyo agreed, that he told her where her daughter was at the time of her arrest. She claims this is what made her emotional and upset, as seen in the body camera footage.

After DDA Newton’s objections regarding questions about her daughter were sustained, she noted there were nine male persons present during her arrest, who held her down and stuck a needle in her to draw blood.

The accused insisted on revisiting the issue of whether the officers had a warrant. She argued another officer on the scene, Officer Rodriguez, professed, “Hey man, if there is no signature on that warrant, we don’t want no part in this.” 

When Officer Arroyo was asked if he heard this, he stated his attention was divided so he was unsure. She requested to have the emailed warrant subpoenaed once again, but the judge denied her request, saying the matter of the warrant had previously been settled.

Officer Arroyo claimed to not have known what happened with the blood sample after sending it to the lab in Modesto. The accused asked if he was aware it had been tampered with, to which he replied he was unaware.

She asked Officer Arroyo if he knew of a lawsuit filed by the accused against the county and several other parties, in an attempt to show how she is habitually targeted by law enforcement.  

Another witness, a criminalist working at the California Department of Justice, was brought in after Officer Arroyo’s testimony concluded. She was questioned regarding blood sampling and blood-alcohol levels

The accused’s jury trial will resume Monday morning.

About The Author

Leila Katibah is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is double majoring in Sociology and Middle East Studies with a minor in Professional Writing. After graduating, Leila plans to attend law school to pursue a career in Public International Law.

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