By Michael Apfel
MODESTO, CA – Judge Shawn Bessey set the accused’s bail for $3.5 million in his homicide case in Stanislaus County Superior Court this week, and even permitted the accused to travel to and from Amador County for work in the event bail is met.
In an early case management conference, the parties reviewed the accused’s bail, with the prosecution arguing for no bail. But, the defense argued the accused’s good community standing indicated that he should be granted bail.
“He has a job. He lives in Modesto. He owns a home. He has two children,” said the public defender.
Leading up to the fatal shooting of one man, the defense stated that there was an argument outside a restaurant in which witnesses heard the alleged victim threaten to shoot and kill people outside the restaurant.
“Witnesses heard the victim say ‘why are you staring at me so long? I’ll blow your freaking head off? I’ll come back and shoot up the place,’” said the defense attorney, quoting what witnesses heard the alleged victim say.
Gunshots ensued, and the alleged victim was shot. The defense contended there was no reasonable, direct evidence tying the shooting to the accused, pointing at the lack of a gun and conflicting witness testimony.
“A lot of the witnesses heard the argument but didn’t see the shooting. The surveillance in the area didn’t capture the shooting. The one possible witness to this shooting misidentified the shooter. She described the [other person] as the shooter. In fact, the police arrested [the other person]. They then released him,” explained the defense attorney.
The PD added, “Your Honor, I think there is no direct evidence indicating my client was the shooter. My client has a moderate criminal history, and we’re going to ask the court to set a reasonable bail in this matter.”
Deputy District Attorney Tracy Griffin pushed back, arguing bail should not be granted. The prosecution disagreed with the facts stated by the defense, stating there was an eyewitness that saw the accused shoot at the alleged victim’s car with a firearm. Griffin also stated that the argument’s contents were disputed, particularly as to which parties made certain threatening statements.
DDA Griffin argued evidence of the accused being an alleged flight risk, noting, “There is evidence in this case that, following the homicide, the defendant obtained new cell phones, he pulled a large sum of money out of the bank, he discarded credit cards, discarded clothing that was used during the homicide, and when he was arrested he had a duffle bag with clothing, toiletries, and a sleeping bag,” suggesting the accused was about to “flee.”
The prosecution also argued the violent nature of the homicide further proved bail was not appropriate, maintaining, “The facts in this case involve a high degree of violence. There were eight rounds shot at the victim’s car as he was driving in a busy street on Coffee Road on a Friday night at about 8:50 p.m.”
“Three of the rounds we know struck the vehicle, we know one of the other five struck another vehicle passing by. An innocent, bypassing vehicle was struck. That round struck the driver’s side door pillar about four inches from her head. She was very lucky she was not another homicide victim…the victim’s family is here today and would like to be heard if the court is willing to grant bail for the defendant,” the DDA added.
The mother of the alleged victim said, “My son was only 23 years old. He’s owned his own business since he was 18. He’s never been in any kind of trouble since he was a juvenile, and in adulthood he’s never been in trouble for anything. He has a family who loves him, and this person does not deserve to be out on bail. My son was gunned down in cold blood. They shot him, and then they shot him again.”
She added, “They ran up on him, and then they shot him again. [The accused] does not deserve to be out on bail. Anybody that has anything to do with this case does not deserve to be on bail. Period. He doesn’t own a gun, he doesn’t carry a gun, he doesn’t believe in any kind of violence.
“This was a senseless, tragic moment. It should not have happened. They shot somebody over words. So what’s going to stop him from getting out and getting into it with another person and shooting at them for saying something to him.”
The prosecution then reminded the court there was no evidence of a firearm in the alleged victim’s possession, supporting what his mother had stated.
“I don’t believe from the information I’ve received that there is any reliable evidence that the accused was the actual shooter your Honor,” said the defense attorney.
“The police did not find a gun. In regards to the bank, my client went to the bank just like anybody else does. My client didn’t purchase any phones. He wasn’t at the AT&T store. That was someone else. Your Honor, I understand the court has to take the evidence presented in the bail hearing as true, but the evidence is not as solid as the prosecution may think,” defense counsel added.
Judge Bessey set bail at $3.5 million, noting, “What we have is a complaint, and I have to treat the charges in that complaint as true for the purposes of bail review. I understand the emotions behind it. I understand the significance of losing a loved one, and the facts stated by the family related to their son being free from trouble and certainly a responsible adult and not having a firearm. I’m going to take that all into consideration, but as far as any factual disputes that are going on that’s not proven for the purpose of review, I’m merely going to go on the facts as stated in the complaint.”
Regarding the conditions of bail, the accused lives outside of the county, so his attorney asked if he could leave the county. The prosecution still stated he was a flight risk and was against him leaving the county, but ultimately said it was up to the court’s discretion to decide. The court allowed the accused to travel to and from Amador County so long as it was for work.