By Audrey Sawyer
VENTURA, CA — After multiple parties agreed to a plea deal, Deputy District Attorney Devin Mirchi attempted to convince the judge here in Ventura County Superior Court last week to withdraw the plea. Ultimately, Judge Patricia Murphy was not convinced and sided with the defense, allowing the original deal to stand.
The accused, who pleaded guilty to the charge of stealing a vehicle, had an original agreement mandating a maximum custody period of 180 days.
One of the impacted victims had provided a victim impact statement, stating, “I am told the defendant is charged under three statutes, the plea will convict one of the charges. This would mean that the defendant would be walking by my house again in July at the latest. I will not be able to replace the car he stole before he gets out.”
The victim added the same week the vehicle was stolen he broke his ankle. They do have another car, but it only seats five, not enough to accommodate the size of their family, he explained. He ordered another van for his family but the earliest time he will get it will be July.
The victim then claimed that perhaps all circumstances of the case were not clear at the time of the request of the plea deal.
“The recommended sentence is inadequate. There is damage to the windshield, and center console in the interior of the car. An estimate of $400 provided is not accurate, as I told the officers that the windshield alone ought to be $400 but could not estimate the total damage. I believe it would be over $1,000.”
Continuing, he said a mechanical inspection of the minivan had damage valued at $18,000—totaled—by an insurer, but the police report was never updated.
DDA Mirchi argued that in light of the victim impact statement and the fact that damage was more excessive than what they were led to believe, the original agreement of 180 days is not fair.
“I know it is unorthodox, sometimes we read cases quickly…and do not consider the secondary consequences of defendant conduct. Had I known the car was totaled, I would have said 365 days tops. If the court goes with a new recommendation, the defendant has a chance to withdraw his plea and restart the process.”
Assistant Public Defender Matthew Nemerson asked for the original plea deal to be upheld, noting, “He (accused) does not have any prior felony convictions that I can see looking over his history. He took responsibility for his actions and the court indicated 180 days tops. The defendant informed me that he is willing to serve the full 180 days and is not asking for any less.”
The PD added, “He understands the damages he has inflicted onto this family, deeply regrets his actions, and is hoping the court gives him the opportunity to be on probation. Of course, if he does not abide by terms of probation (including a stay away from their residence), he still is open to up to three years in prison for the violation of probation.”
PD Nemerson noted the drug terms and the stay-away terms, saying six months in jail for the first felony offense is appropriate, and asked the court to finalize sentencing.
Judge Murphy ultimately sided with the defense, noting, “No one should be put in that position as a victim, I understand these comments and concerns for his safety. The court has to evaluate a sentence and sentencing in light of criminal behavior and impact on the victim but also consistency in sentencing.
“Laws in California require me to consider rehabilitation as paramount, particularly for crimes that do not have physical violence or injury. I agree with Nemerson’s assessment of his criminal history, he has certainly endangered people by impaired behavior. He is still a relatively young man, and rehabilitation is the goal.”
Murphy stated that she intends to follow the original deal made, ruling the court has supervision over him. The felony charge in Count 1 has the imposition of the sentence suspended.
The terms are formal probation for two years on terms and conditions of probation, a stay-away order from the residence, and the 180 days (accused has credits of 92). The victim must be paid $500, with additional amounts to be later determined by the court and a state restitution amounting to $300.