Poor Internet Connection Leads to Judicial Diversion Program Disruptions in Petty Theft Case

By Michael Apfel and Vaiva Utaraite

WOODLAND, CA – In a remote appearance for a misdemeanor petty theft case here in Yolo County Superior Court, the accused this week said she had difficulties connecting to the courtroom via Zoom—although it did work eventually.

“My internet went out on me,” the accused said. “I live out in the mountains.”

Judge Daniel Wolk said he would reissue the accused’s warrant because the accused needed to show proof of completion in her previously granted judicial diversion program, which she said she was unable to complete because she didn’t have access to a reliable internet connection.

Arraigned in April 2022, the accused maintains she could not reliably connect to virtual meetings required to complete her diversion program, leading them to refer her back to the court.

“The diversion program referred me back to you guys because when we tried to do a Zoom meeting with the three people from the community that are going to judge me to make this go away, we couldn’t get proper internet connection,” said the accused, adding, “They couldn’t reschedule it…I would like the opportunity to still do that so this doesn’t go on my record.”

The accused cited her good community standing in favor of another opportunity at judicial diversion, expressing her desire to keep her record clean.

“I’m a rotary club member, I made a mistake, and I just don’t want it on my record, so I don’t know what to do at this point,” she said.

Deputy District Attorney Ashley Harvey explained the prosecution’s course of action in this instance, which involved a potential but not guaranteed opportunity at a similar program.

“We have in our notes that we will do one further re-referral on RJP on a deferred entry of judgment basis, and (the accused) has been advised by the RJP that another no-show will result in RJP failure,” Harvey said.

The accused stated she understood the terms and wanted to proceed with the compromise, however, this meant the case would be passed and the accused would have to enter a plea. The judge proceeded to assign her to an attorney for the proceedings.

“[The prosecution] wants to do what’s called a deferred entry of judgment, which means that you are going to plead guilty today if you want to do this or no contest to the charge,” the judge explained. “If you don’t follow through with what you are going to do, the court will find you guilty, or it could, after a hearing, enter a judgment against you.”

The accused said she called the front desk to put her back on the calendar and that they would give her case to the court, and the judge recalled any related warrants.

The accused was arraigned for one count of petty theft, and the judge appointed the accused a public defender, ordering the accused to come back on Feb. 2 at 9 a.m. Released on her own recognizance, she was ordered to not come within 100 yards of the Walmart where the petty theft occurred. 

About The Author

Michael Apfel is a second year at USC majoring in Legal Studies and minoring in Sports Media Industries. He plans on law school after his undergraduate studies looking to work in social justice.

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