By Ashton Yuan, Fatimah Patel and Daniella Dueñas
WOODLAND, CA – Defense Attorney Jose Gonzalez suggested—at a preliminary hearing this week in Yolo County Superior Court that—that “I don’t think anybody in that video is a saint” after the court viewed a recording of a parking lot dispute that now is scheduled for trial.
Officer Guillermo Zuniga testified in the prelim that on Sept. 16, 2020, he was dispatched to a local Dollar Tree to handle an altercation involving assault with a deadly weapon.
Officer Zuniga said, based on his conversation with the victim and the video surveillance footage provided, the accused had parked a white Jeep (without a placard) in a handicap spot, and, when told by the victim to move, parked by a red curb.
The victim, said the officer, allegedly proceeded to pepper-spray the accused, who responded by pulling a shopping basket out of the trunk and swinging it at the victim twice. The basket did not make contact. The accused went back to the car and drove in reverse toward the victim, who moved onto the curb to avoid being hit.
The accused was charged with a felony for assault likely to produce great bodily injury and a misdemeanor for battery on a person.
Deputy District Attorney David Lawrence Wilson first asked Officer Zuniga to recall the details of the incident, and he recalled that the victim did tell the accused to move her car twice and was met with resistance.
Defense Attorney Gonzalez argued it is unknown if the victim knew whether or not the accused was disabled, although there was no displayed placard or license plate.
Gonzalez and Officer Zuniga clarified there was a long distance between the accused and the victim, with Gonzalez stating that “no contact was made, so the spitting never actually hit [the victim].”
The defense also argued excessive force from the victim, who chased the accused to her car and pepper-sprayed her as she tried to get away, and the victim’s compulsion to follow the accused to the car, not moving away from the driver’s side.
“He remains at the side of the Jeep keeping my client from leaving when it’s clear all along my client is trying to get away from him,” Gonzalez explained.
“There’s a number of issues that are going to have to be sorted at trial,” noted Gonzalez, “And that is ultimately whether or not either one of them were privileged in the use of force.”
Despite not having clear evidence, Gonzalez argued that it seemed that the victim pepper-sprayed his client, the accused, more than once and that it was the accused who was simply trying to get away.
He argued his client did not have the intention of hitting or running over the victim, but that the jerking of the car was her trying to get him to move. He asked that if the court found enough evidence to sustain that she had purposeful intent to attack, that they reduce her charge to a misdemeanor.
Judge David Rosenberg ruled the accused “had the opportunity to just drive off in the Jeep,” but the fact that she instead braked and advanced forward with such a large vehicle made the situation dangerous.
Judge Rosenberg concluded that although “there is jury appeal on both sides” and that he is glad that neither party was hurt, “the society can’t tolerate this kind of conduct,” and the case was going to trial.