COURT WATCH: Deputy Public Defender Raises Concerns about Possible Misidentification of ‘Transient’ Man – Judge Disagrees, Keeps $10K Bail 

By Nico Ludwig-Stock

WOODLAND, CA – Deputy Public Defender Sarah MacDonald raised several concerns—including a lack of evidence and conflicting eyewitness testimony—in a preliminary hearing last month at Yolo County Superior Court.

One witness initially described the man she said fraudulently used a credit card as a white male, when it was “clear that (the accused) is not white,” said the defense. The accused is Hispanic.

The accused is charged with two counts of using personal identifying information of another to obtain goods. There is also an enhancement for “circumstances in aggravation.”

Deputy District Attorney Alex Kian called the first witness of the day: a police services specialist. In DDA Kian’s direct examination, the witness explained she assisted fellow officers in their investigations and that she has been in her current role for the past six years.

DDA Kian asked about the victim’s statement in the case. “Did he say he lost his wallet?”

“He said he misplaced his wallet and a credit card was being fraudulently used,” responded the witness.

This prompted an interruption from DPD MacDonald.

“What was the witness’ title again? I’m not sure she’s qualified to testify to hearsay.” A back and forth on the matter ensued, and ultimately Judge Daniel Wolk and the attorneys agreed that since the officer had been working longer than five years in her field, she is qualified to testify.

DDA Kian resumed his direct examination of the police services specialist, who testified a witness said the alleged victim had lost his wallet, but kept one card active for Apple wallet usage.

The victim told police they then realized there were charges on his card they didn’t recognize, including purchases at Bros Liquor, Motel 6, Shell Gas station, Taco Bell, and a declined purchase at Target.

Two police officers investigating the case informed the witness they believed they knew who was using the credit card based on Target surveillance footage. They identified the man as the accused in this case.

On cross-examination, DPD MacDonald asked the witness about the man she observed in the Target surveillance footage: “You reported that there was a white male adult, thin build, baseball cap, green checkered shirt, t-shirt, teal shorts, and that was the extent of what you saw in the video, correct?” The witness agreed.

The next witness was a police officer who investigated the case, and on direct examination, he explained he had “a lot” of prior contact with the accused, and that when he saw the surveillance footage he believed “there was a resemblance to the defendant.”

The officer then described interviewing the accused about the incident. During the interview, the officer had shown the accused a still image of the Target surveillance footage to which the accused allegedly replied, “Oh that’s me.”

According to the officer, the accused had also pulled out two debit cards from his front shirt pocket, neither of which belonged to him. He said he found the cards on the ground.

On DPD MacDonald’s cross-examination, the witness was reminded of a report he wrote about this interaction with the accused that detailed the accused had actually stated, “That’s me, or well, it looks like me,” but then later claimed he had a friend with a mohawk who it could also be.

Upon further questioning, the officer revealed neither of the debit cards the accused had in his possession belonged to the victim in the case. The only follow up he got from the cards was that one of them belonged to a woman who had thrown it out because it was expired.

DPD MacDonald asked the court not to hold the accused to answer to the charges, noting a concern there was not enough evidence connecting him to the alleged offenses.

“If this is to be proven at prelim, the prosecution needs to prove…the defendant willfully obtained someone else’s personal information, and…he willfully used that information for an unlawful purpose, and that they did not have the consent of the person that owned that personal identifying information,” said DPD MacDonald.

“The missing link here is element two,” added DPD MacDonald. “The Target surveillance video is really the only identifying information connecting the accused to the case, but then we have differing descriptions of race here, too. We have in some cases (the accused) described as a white adult male, but it is clear that (the accused) is not a white adult male.”

“The accused’s statement of ‘oh that might be me,’ can’t be the reason he’s held to answer to these charges…having old cards on his person is not enough either,” DPD MacDonald explained. “That indicates to me that somebody might be dumpster diving, and (the accused) is transient in the area.”

DDA Kian countered these concerns about possible misidentification by saying this would be up to the jury to decide. There is enough circumstantial evidence present to suggest the accused is guilty, argued DDA Kian.

Regarding element two, DDA Kian argued, “There is no reason to believe he was coerced into using the card. Nothing suggests he mistakenly used it. He doesn’t have a wallet and only uses cash.”

Judge Daniel Wolk agreed with the DDA on this matter, ruling, “The standard for prelim is relatively low. Court believes sufficient evidence has been presented to have the defendant be held to answer for both counts.”

DPD MacDonald asked if the accused could be released on Supervised Own Recognizance, and the matter of the accused’s current bail of $10,000. DPD MacDonald asked if it could be lowered to $5,000 because of the accused’s transient and low income status.

DDA Kian argued against this, citing the accused’s other active cases, and history of failing to appear. “He is a flight risk… and his criminality is a problem, ” said Kian.

Based on his review of the SOR report, Judge Daniel Wolk said he felt the $10,000 bail was reasonable to protect the public and assure the accused’s presence in the court. He acknowledged that the accused would not be able to afford that amount, but nevertheless felt that $10,000 was appropriate.

The accused is ordered to appear for an arraignment and trial setting later in January.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for