Emotional, Powerful Statement Marks Sentencing of Man for Officer Battery

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By Citlalli Florez and Taylor Smith

WOODLAND, CA – Charged with felony assault after an  altercation with an animal control officer last month, Benjamin Nelsen showed up to his sentencing last Friday in Yolo County Superior Court, which was marked by an emotional impact statement from the victim.

Nelson was charged with four separate counts – three of which were dismissed. The dismissed counts included assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury, vandalism and resisting or obstructing a public officer.

The final count, battery against a custodial officer, stood, with the accused pleading no contest to the felony count during a preliminary hearing while in custody with a set bail of $20,000.

Previously, during the arraignment stage of the case, there had been a motion for the accused to be released without cash bond in exchange for complying with a judge’s set requirements. This motion was denied by Judge David Reed.

The same motion, known as Supervised Own Recognizance (SOR) release, was later reintroduced and accepted by Judge David Rosenberg. The condition set was for Nelsen to remain in custody until a bed had opened up in an approved program for rehabilitation, given that the accused has a history on record for substance abuse.

Nelsen’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Daniel Hutchinson, commented on the possibility of modifying a stay away order that required he stay at least 50 yards clear of Yolo County Animal Shelter.

DPD Hutchinson requested the order be modified because the road outside the facility is a well-traveled main road that the accused would often need to drive on, thus causing him to unwillingly violate the restraining order.

Hutchinson also advocated to remove or reduce fines totaling $2,000 on the premise that Nelsen’s trailer home burned down and he currently does not have an income, rendering him unable to pay such fines.

The prosecutor for the case, Deputy District Attorney Michael Vroman, announced the animal control officer – the victim from the incident in question – wished to make a statement. Judge Rosenberg allowed for the statement to be made.

“When Benjamin Nelson entered Yolo County Animal Services on Aug. 3, 2022, his actions changed the lives of many,” she began.

She continued to highlight the impacts to her family and finances. The officer stated the attack changed the way she viewed the people she helped and explained how this incident affected her emotional, physical and mental state. She felt that her community and her colleagues have also been impacted.

“Not being able to be myself and take care of others is just as painful mentally as all of my physical injuries. To be told my injuries weren’t severe enough…” the victim trailed off.

Judge Rosenberg appeared moved and tried to find the words to respond to the officer’s account of what she had gone through after the attack. He said he thought the statement to be very “affecting” and acknowledged the officer’s pain.

He stated, however, that no matter the sentence he gave, there is no way that it could directly help the officer heal.

In proceeding to try to offer solace, he spoke directly to the victim, “If I could think of some option that would make you heal more quickly, I assure you that I would do that. All I can do at this point is acknowledge your pain, acknowledge the fact that this is not the kind of experience that you’re likely to get over in the short term, cross my fingers, and hope that you get over that in the long term.”

Ultimately, Judge Rosenberg determined the stay away order would be modified to a range of 31-50 yards away, and the fines and assessments were struck down to $370. It was also decided that the SOR release would continue under the conditions as previously specified.

As a closing statement, DPD Hutchinson spoke of a conversation he had with Nelsen. He recounted, “without any prompting from me, he wanted to express his remorse to [the officer] for what he did. I communicated that to Mr. Vroman that day.”

Hutchinson finally concluded, “This was obviously a horrible incident, but as the court can see from his prior record, this is not reflective of the life he has led for most of his life. It is our hope that with proper help something like this will never happen again.”

Nelsen was sentenced to 120 days in jail. He’s served 89 days and will remain in custody until a bed in a rehabilitation facility becomes available for him to reside, at which time his jail custody ends, and two years of probation begins.

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About The Author

Michele is a senior at UC Santa Barbara from Los Angles County.

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