By Cynthia Hoang-Duong, Alphaeus Bey, Ximena Cesa
WOODLAND, CA – During a hearing here in Yolo County Superior Court this week, Deputy District Attorney Casper Gorner opposed a defense motion to reduce a crime to judicial diversion—charges would be dismissed if the alleged wrongdoers followed the courts orders—despite their lack of criminal history.
The co-accused, brothers, are charged with four related violations of California’s Fish & Game Code related to a hunting incident last year, including hunter trespass, unlawful taking and possession of a deer while violating the code, and failure to immediately tag the deer.
Deputy Public Defender Cheyanne Martin, joined by defense attorney Ava Landers, began the hearing by reminding the court that their clients have been present for every court date.
Regarding their Fish & Game violations, DPD Martin stressed the co-accused’s clean criminal record, noting that despite their years of hunting experience, the brothers have never received a hunting infraction until the current case.
She also recounted how they trespassed into the property because they followed a deer that they worried was injured, believing it was the “humane” thing to do (to kill the deer). Martin emphasized how neither individual attempted to hide this fact, admitting to their trespass.
Given the unique nature of this case and the lack of ill intent, the defense attorneys requested judicial diversion for their clients, with DPD Martin claiming there were no other individuals more suitable.
She noted nothing indicated the co-accused would not comply with the reasonable condition the diversion court would grant.
Upon hearing that the defense sought judicial diversion on the grounds of no ill intent with no prior criminal record, DDA Gorner disagreed, arguing since the accused both have hunted on the lands for a number of years, “they knew exactly what they were doing” and therefore the diversion was not “appropriate.”
To support this, Gorner attempted to present in-person testimony from a fish and wildlife representative although he had already provided statements in the declaration.
Gorner stated the inclusion of the testimony would measure the effectiveness of the defense proposal, and requested the court hold an additional hearing later that afternoon to allow the testimony to testify.
Immediately responding to the DDA’s request, DPD Martin and defense attorney Landers vehemently protested the inclusion of new witness testimony and the hearing.
Claiming their right to discovery, the attorneys complained they were only aware of the information provided in the written declaration and were not prepared to “just [be] thrown into the hearing.”
And because the instant proceeding was not a contested motion, the defense attorneys urgently requested Judge Sonia Cortés to rule against it.
However, DDA Gorner clarified he is not providing additional evidence. Instead, Gorner argued he wanted to provide the same evidence in a more humanistic approach by allowing the victim to share their feelings on the matter, something that cannot be interpreted simply by reading the declaration.
DPD Landers disagreed, maintaining there is no need for a victim impact statement because the witness will reiterate information already clearly provided in the declaration.
Judge Cortés decided that an afternoon hearing would not be necessary because there was no need for a further statement from the representative, also ruling the defense was not prepared.
Given that neither brother has a criminal history, the judge granted judicial diversion for a period of 18 months with the conditions that they obey all laws and complete a hunter safety education course.
They were also prohibited from trespassing on Yolo Land and Cattle property and from obtaining a hunting license for one year.
Understanding that the decision had been made, Gorner petitioned for the brothers to complete 40 hours of community service.
In response, the defense explained the co-accused are already heavily involved in community service, claiming that additional hours to their heavily involved community schedules would not be just punishment for their misdemeanors.
Instead, they asked if community service was required, whether the co-accused would be able to serve it within their current capacity of service.