COURT WATCH: Friday PM – Witness Testifying in Gonzalez Trial States Another Witness ‘Bragging’ about Involvement in Murder

By Nico Ludwig-Stock, Kayla Meraz and Audrey Sawyer 

WOODLAND, CA – During the jury retrial of Justin Gonzalez for murder Friday afternoon in Yolo County Superior Court, witness Jacob Rangeo claimed an earlier witness, Ruby Aradoz, was “bragging about the homicide case.”

Rangeo said when he asked why she was not in jail instead of Gonzalez, Aradoz suddenly stopped wanting to discuss the case and moved on to a different subject.

In all, three witnesses: Alan Mecias, Rangeo, and Probation Officer Sergio Pimentel were called to testify Friday.

Mecias shared on the stand he had been in a car accident many years ago with the accused Gonzalez, and they had been close friends as teenagers. When asked about the impact of the car accident on his life, the witness admitted that he almost died, and that the accident had left him with brain damage.

When asked about symptoms, the witness pointed out memory loss.

Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson asked him about any time he spent at Casa Del Sol trailer park, to which the witness replied: “I was never there, honestly.”

DPD Johnson asked if he recalled speaking with an investigator at the Public Defender’s Office. While at first the witness stated he had nothing to say and that he didn’t know anything, he then corrected himself saying: “I went to talk to you guys but in reality I didn’t know anything.”

Taken aback, DPD Ron Johnson asked: “Are you saying you lied to the investigator?” The witness admitted that he had.

As the questioning continued, the witness responded with statements such as “I don’t remember anything” and that he did not want to be there.

Judge Samuel McAdam stepped in to remind the witness that he needed truthful answers because “that’s what the job of the witness is,” and that he needed him to cooperate.

Following these statements from the judge, DPD Johnson continued, asking if the witness knew Ruby Aradoz. The witness said he did not, but then altered his statement and said they had only met once.

DPD Johnson inquired further, asking if the witness had told the investigator he had been in the car with Ruby, Amanda, and Melinda. He was asked if he recalled telling investigators he waited in the car while the girls left, and heard some noises while waiting. The witness denied having said any of these things, repeating that he “was never there” and didn’t know anything.

At this time, Deputy District Attorney Robin Johnson interrupted, asking if she and DPD Johnson could approach the bench. After several minutes of conferring with the judge, the public defender questioned the witness again about the altercation he saw that night.

The witness at first said, “I plead the fifth,” refusing to answer. Then DPD Johnson asked, “Do you recall telling us that you saw Justin that night but that he wasn’t involved?” and asked if he recalled “telling us that when the guy got stabbed, Justin was not in that circle of people?” The witness replied no to both questions.

During cross-examination, DDA Robin Johnson inquired further about the time the witness spent at the Casa Del Sol trailer park and how well he knows Aradoz. The witness stated he had been to the trailer park, but does not remember when he had been there last, and doesn’t go there often. He also repeated that he had only seen Aradoz once, but does not recall when he saw her.

Upon further questioning by prosecutor Johnson, the witness repeated he does not recall ever going to Casa Del Sol trailer park, and he does not recall being there with Aradoz. When asked if he recalled speaking with Sandra from the Public Defender’s office or DPD Johnson, he said “no.” He only recalled speaking with her Friday, when she reminded him he had to come to court.

When asked about his memory issues, the witness replied his memory is “bad, like bad.” DDA Johnson asked if “today’s memory lapse (is) more because you don’t wanna be here? Or you really don’t remember.” The witness responded that he really did not remember.

DPD Johnson briefly redirected, asking whether the witness was reluctant to speak to the Public Defender’s office. “No,” he replied. DPD Johnson then clarified that the reason the witness was there was because he had been subpoenaed.

Rangeo, who is currently incarcerated, was the second witness called to the stand because of his association with Ruby Aradoz. He was friends with the brothers of Aradoz, and noted during testimony a get-together with a group of eight to nine people.

“Ruby (Aradoz) was bragging that Velazquez stabbed someone for her, telling everyone that she did it,” Rangeo said. The witness continued to testify Aradoz was standoffish after he mentioned Gonzalez.

He stated he noticed a shift of her body language after he raised the question of “why is he (Gonzalez) in jail and you aren’t?” He found that it was “weird how the situation played out,” considering Ruby ended the conversation after that statement and “no longer seemed willing to brag.”

Rangeo said he was under the impression that Aradoz, if she cooperated, is “out of it” given what Aradoz was implying in terms of being dismissed from this case. This was further explained in the redirect by DPD Johnson, that the witness perceived it was “morally wrong” Aradoz was not serving a sentence for murder but Gonzalez has been imprisoned for seven years and counting.

The redirect led by DPD Ron Johnson questioned the witness, inquiring as to when his last encounter with Gonzalez was, to which he said yesterday. It was further explained that both Gonzalez and the witness are in the same section of the jail for “dropouts” referring to his terminated affiliation with the Varrio Bosque Norteño gang, also known as VBN.

The redirect also questioned if any of the Rangeo testimony had been influenced by interactions with Gonzalez to which he replied it was not. The witness also noted his ‘interaction’ with Gonzalez was in relation to doing his job cleaning and that they did not see each other every day.

The last witness of the hearing was investigator/probation Officer Sergio Pimentel. Referring to Thursday’s hearing, he mentioned another detective who had been working with Aradoz.

Video footage was played for Aradoz, who had expressed shock at the detective, saying that she had an entirely “different idea of where they were at” and was wondering what she was doing over there.

Around 30 seconds after that, Aradoz told officers there is still “so much that she does not understand about what happened that night” and that she did not even recall being at a mentioned corner talking to anyone.

Aradoz later told the detective, he said, that Gonzalez was trying to attack her during that night and that he had been cursing at her while holding a knife, and that she did not know why he did it. On Velazquez, she seemed to mention not being aware of where he was, though it was noted that Aradoz was having difficulty trying to remember the situation before saying this.

But after Aradoz was questioned about Gonzalez, she had told the detective that she had never met Gonzalez before in her life. When the detective had inquired that he was there at the time (of the stabbing), Aradoz said that she did not believe so.

While the majority of this portion of the hearing revolved around Aradoz, there were also mentions of Raquel Ponce Perez, who had been shown a “six pack” (a series of photos of different individuals) and asked if she was able to identify anyone in the pack.

Gonzalez, whose photo was one of the pictures included in the pack, was not pointed out by Perez, despite her having seen him multiple times, six various times notably (along with Velazquez).

DPD Ron Johnson proceeded to attempt to discredit Perez’s prior testimony, by demonstrating that her witness accounts were inconsistent with video evidence. He asked Pimentel if he had heard Ponce’s prior testimony.

When he said no, DPD Johnson posed a hypothetical stating, “If she were to have testified that, like she told you, she walked west on Los Portales, turned left on Fiesta, was in front of number 59 when the boys passed running, and then ran after them north on Fiesta Way, and that’s when she saw the incident, we would know that’s not true, correct?”

Pimental replied, “Correct.” The DPD continued “because we can see visibly on the video that that’s not true.” “Correct,” replied Pimental.

While DPD Johnson was cross-examining probation Officer Pimentel, the officer said they stopped investigating Amanda Huffman as a suspect as, aside from one video of her disappearing or going after Isaiah Magone, they have no other evidence that she was in the area when the victim was stabbed.

Before Pimentel was excused, it was noted that the People have been shown video footage, as sometimes information is shown to prove the witness was not being honest, to help recollect information, to help identify individuals, or to show what they are wearing. Pimentel pointed out Aradoz had admitted to not only lying in prior court proceedings, but in interviews as well.

About The Author

Audrey is a senior at UC San Diego majoring in Political Science (Comparative Politics emphasis). After graduation, Audrey plans on attending graduate school and is considering becoming a public defender.

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