By Taylor Smith and Sonia Wong
WOODLAND, CA – Deputy District Attorney Jing Ko arrived at Yolo County Superior Court last week, fully expecting to go to trial. It wasn’t to be.
Instead, Ko learned private defense counsel Hendrick Crowell, Jr., was motioning the court for a delay because of his client’s ill health.
Ko said she was not only well prepared for a trial, she was also well prepared to criticize Crowell, noting, as proof, evidence of a phone call they had exchanged only hours before their trial readiness conference was set to take place in which Crowell said he wanted to now push back the trial.
Upon beginning the conference, Crowell informed Judge Daniel Maguire he needed the trial date vacated because his client suffers from ataxia—a medical condition which had resulted in “lost movement in his legs and arms. He is very hard to understand … he can’t even walk and he is having a hard time even talking.”
Ko did not hesitate to request a chance to speak, and explained that the case has been ongoing since January of 2021, adding Crowell had set the trial in June of this year; she said he had plenty of time to not only discuss the case but also to get to know his client and his health conditions that could incapacitate him from participating in his own trial.
She noted she and Crowell had previously spoken with Judge Dave Rosenberg—the primary judge on this case—when she had indicated she noticed a pattern from Crowell of “setting cases for trials only to vacate” them, which Ko said felt like a continuous waste of time and resources.
In this conversation with Judge Rosenberg, Ko also recalled that Crowell directly told Judge Rosenberg that this case must be tried rather than resolved, to which Crowell visibly shook his head on his Zoom camera.
Then, DDA Ko, said, in reference to the phone call just hours earlier with the defense, “Today at 10:17 a.m., Mr. Crowell called my cell phone while I was in court. We had a lengthy conversation … he told me he really wants to vacate the trial because he just needs more time to go over the DMV discovery that was discovered to him on Dec. 7, 2021.
DDA Ko continued, “I told him the People will object,” she said. “Then at 11:14 a.m. he called me and left me a voice message. Then at 11:39 a.m., he texts me and informs me that his client is now suffering from ataxia. People object to defense.”
She concluded her statement by reiterating the defense’s statement is very last minute and they have no record of its truth even though they have had the discovery for almost a full calendar year.
DDA Ko strongly suggested she doubted Crowell was just learning of this medical condition “between 10:17 and 11:14 a.m.”
Judge Maguire questioned Crowell, starting by asking how long his client has been suffering from this condition. Crowell was unsure but offered to present proof of his client’s recent doctor visits. He insisted that he did not know of the diagnosis until the day of the hearing.
Crowell explained he was unclear in his conversation with Ko, stating he meant to clarify he did not need more time to review the discovery but rather he wanted to review it with his client. He claimed when he tried to set a meeting with his client, he was informed that his client was immobile and partially mute.
Making it clear that the trial would be continued to a later date, the judge pressed Crowell as to whether his request was on the basis of his client’s health or his own lack of preparation, to which Crowell responded “if it’s necessary, I would suggest that we continue it to provide that proof [of five doctor visits in the last month].”
“The court probably needs something more than just that he’s seen a doctor. I guess the other question is why didn’t you read discovery with him earlier? This case has been pending since 2021,” commented the judge, questioning Crowell about how long he has known about his client’s condition and whether or not it he knew would prevent him from being present in court.
Crowell only stated he did not previously know the name of the condition or that his client would not be able to be in court until the morning of the hearing.
By this point, DDA Ko was eager to join back into the conversation, noting the defense also had the police report since May of 2021, in which it is clearly noted that the accused has a condition called ataxia.
She also pointed out that there is body camera footage from the police in which it is apparent that the accused has no issues speaking, and that they have had this footage for more than a year.
Judge Maguire gave the final word to Crowell, who stuck with his previous claims and offered to try to arrange a meeting with the court and his client alongside his aunt who would help him communicate.
The judge concluded by remarking that, while Crowell has had abundant time to go over the case with his client, if the accused “is incapable of sitting through a trial, that would be grounds [to vacate the trial]. The problem is I don’t have any proof of that.”
Judge Maguire assured the two attorneys that the trial will indeed be continued and that they both need to be prepared. He gave them time to talk off camera.
Crowell and his client are to present a doctor’s note to the court and the trial is to be continued at that point.