Amador County Judge Denies Racial Justice Act Motion in Case Where Complaining Witness Made Slur against Romani Man

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Jackson, CA – Amador County Judge Renee Day quickly dismissed a defense motion under the Racial Justice Act to dismiss a misdemeanor against a young aspiring paver for failure to have worker’s compensation.

The defense charged that the Amador County DA’s began investigating the young man—who was in Arkansas at the time of the hearing on Wednesday due to his wife expecting a baby—because of his Romani descent.

Defense Attorney Andrea Henson noted that her client had no criminal record, but the complaining witness, himself a former DA investigator, contacted DA Investigator Christopher Stone directly rather than the police after he observed the man paving his neighbor’s driveway.

The former investigator in November 2022 saw the pavers arrive at the neighbor’s home and made contact with the worker in charge, asking if they were “Gypsies.”  According to the filing by Henson, “The worker had a ‘strange and surprised’ look on his face.

According to the report, Investigator Stone noted that “Gypsy pavers” term was created due to theft scams from people portraying themselves as a legitimate paving company, going around soliciting work by stating they had leftover material and can give the home owner a good deal to pave or seal their driveways.”

Additionally, she mentioned, “they usually do not have a valid contracting license and/or workers compensation insurance, allowing them to undercut bids for jobs from legitimate licensed paving companies.”

However, the man in question had a valid contractor’s license issued on November 1, 2022.

Henson in her motion alleges that the defendant in this case was “racially and ethnically profiled and targeted because he is of Romani descent.”

Under the Racial Justice Act, she noted, the state legislature articulated its intent “to eliminate racial bias from California’s criminal justice system because in any form or amount, at any stage of a criminal trial, is intolerable…”

A defendant under PC § section 745, is entitled to relief when “an attorney in the case, [or] a law enforcement officer involved in the case… exhibited bias or animus towards the defendant because of the defendant’s race, ethnicity, or national origin.”

Here she argues the investigators engaged in “racist misconduct” when they “exhibited bias or animus towards the defendant” because of his race, ethnicity, and national origin.”

She asked the court for an evidentiary hearing and relief in the form of dismissal.

She noted that he had no criminal record, a new paving business, and had acquired worker’s compensation insurance.  Further, he had no complaints about his work and charges reasonable fees.

The only probable cause for investigation, she further added, was based on his Romani heritage.

In response Deputy DA Gabrielle Stidger argued that under PC § 745, the defense has not “met the burden” and that the facts of this case “doesn’t rise to prima facie showing” required under the law.

She argued, “The defendant’s motion mistakenly presents facts that are not consistent with the report, which are critical in the understanding of the factual basis.”

She disputed that the former deputy was “an Investigator employed by the Amador County District Attorney’s Office on the date of his initial observation or report to law enforcement.”

She argued he was “not a law enforcement officer or government agent when he observed or made a report of a possible scam occurring at a neighbor’s residence.”

The defense clarified that in fact he was weeks out of employment at the time of the incident and moreover, instead of contacting the police he contacted his former supervisor at the DA’s office.

The DA countered, when the former investigator “reported the potential of a theft scam by “gypsy pavers,” he is not a judge, attorney, or law enforcement officer involved in the case.”

She continued, “DAI Stone’s taking of the report and term ‘gypsy paver’ from a private citizen, or a recitation of the theft scam described by the term, is in no way exhibiting bias or animus towards the defendant.”

Stidger continued, “There are no facts presented, only assertions, that any party exhibited bias against the defendant based upon his race, ethnicity, or national origin. There are no racist or discriminatory actions demonstrated by any party in this case.”

She further argued, “Defendant presents no statistical evidence, aggregate data, or expert testimony to provide a prima facie case under Penal Code section 745, let alone a preponderance of the evidence.

“There is no indication the state seeks to obtain a criminal conviction based on race, ethnicity, or national origin; all indications are that the state filed a violation of Labor Code section 3700.5 based upon the facts of the case.”

Judge Day, while stating she hears the defendant’s concerns, concluded that the defendant has “not met the burden” and found that there the complaining witness was a civilian and therefore was not covered under 745.

DA Stidger noted that the offer of diversion still stands.  The case has been set for September 13 at the Amador Courthouse.

The defense will make a determination at a later point as to whether they should appeal this ruling.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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