COURT WATCH: Judge Reduces Charges Based on Insufficient Evidence in Family Dispute

LOS ANGELES- CA, MARCH 2: Los Angeles Superior Court Stanley Mosk Courthouse March 2, 2004 in Los Angeles Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

By Bergen Greenley

LOS ANGELES, CA –  Judge Cathryn F. Brougham reduced assault and vandalism charges from felony to misdemeanor for the accused in a dispute between brothers due to lack of evidence after a preliminary hearing this week here in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

On Dec. 26, 2023, the accused was alleged to have gotten into a dispute with his brother with whom he lives, and allegedly pepper sprayed his bedroom, used a baseball bat to destroy his furniture and hit his wall, and then chased the brother out of the house and hit him on the back with the bat. Deputy District Attorney Willow Karfiol showed a photograph of a large bruise on his back.

According to the accused’s brother, a glass table was shattered in the dispute (priced at about $150-$200), prompting the DDA Karfiol to motion to add a vandalism charge, which was granted by the judge.

The accused’s brother testified he originally entered the accused’s room because he believed that he had been stealing things from his room and wallet for about a year. When the accused realized his brother had been in his room, that is what sparked the dispute, he said.

According to the testimony of both brothers, the two still live together months after the incident, and they live in the house with their mother and stepfather. The parents were out of town on vacation at the time of the incident, so they were unable to corroborate or witness any part of the incident.

Deputy Public Defender Philip Dube questioned the brother about receiving medical care for his alleged injuries, because the police offered to call an ambulance on scene but the complaining witness brother refused and did not go to the hospital.

The accused’s brother said that he did go to the hospital days later, but could not recall when or what type of hospital, also saying that he ended up not receiving care because he could not afford it.

During cross-examination by DPD Dube, the brother’s story also changed when alleging what happened after the incident. He said he saw no neighbors and that none came to help, but then stated he used a neighbor’s home phone to call 911 after knocking on their door.

According to the accused’s brother, the police did not go inside on the day of the crime. The brother alleged this was because the accused barricaded himself in the house and would not speak to police. The baseball bat also was not recovered at the scene—the brother brought it in days later and said he found it upstairs.

The investigating officer, Detective Philip Milam, testified the bashed in furniture and pepper spray was never mentioned in the original report. He testified that no photos of the damaged room were taken. The bat was recovered as evidence, and it was made of wood with a noticeable crack on the handle. The bat was never DNA tested. This officer was not on the scene the day of the incident.

Then, the accused took the stand to testify for his innocence. He alleges he never hit his brother or any of his things with the bat, and he doesn’t know why his brother is making this all up. He noted his brother frequently throws “tantrums,” punching holes through doors and fighting with him and his parents. He alleged his brother has attacked him twice.

The accused alleged the day of the incident he came into his brother’s room and yelled at him for breaking his door and coming into his room, but he didn’t get violent. He brought a video into court from a camera he installed in the house showing his brother breaking into his room with the bat that day, but the video was not shown.

The accused noted he believes the bruise on his brother’s back may have been from kickboxing, because they have a ring in their garage and his brother trains about three to four times per week.

DPD Dube asked for a reduction in the charges because it’s a family dispute and the accused only had one prior conviction which was petty theft from 2004. Because of the lack of actual evidence, the defense believed it came down to a credibility call.

Judge Cathryn F. Brougham agreed, reducing the charges to a misdemeanor. She noted that the accused had a minimal record, and it came down to a dispute between brothers and deciding who was more credible.

The judge was disappointed that a police officer on the scene was not called in, as a whole chunk of evidence was missing from the story in that regard. There was no testimony of when or where the accused was arrested, except for the testimony from his brother.

About The Author

Bergen Greenley is a second year Public Affairs student studying at the University of California, Los Angeles. After completing her undergraduate studies, she plans on going to law school and going into the realm of criminal law to become a Defense Attorney. Her areas of interest include combatting mass incarceration and criminal justice reform.

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