COURT WATCH: Mother’s Plea for Son’s Probation Overlooked; Defense Calls Probation Accused’s ‘Last Chance’

By Sarah Chayet and Mariceli Tapia

MODESTO, CA – Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Carrie Stephens this week decided to send an accused person to prison, despite the defense’s request for probation and drug treatment and the emotional testimony from the accused’s mother that she believed her son’s drug problem had been ignored by peace officers so he couldn’t get help.

Judge Stephens cited her reasons for not allowing probation as a lack of “statutory eligibility,” because the accused’s charges were considered violent and showed an escalation in the context of his criminal history.

The accused had been initially charged with second-degree burglary; while on probation, he was charged with a violation for allegedly having a weapon. While in custody for this violation, the accused, along with a co-accused, were charged with assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, which was filed as a felony and a non-strike.

However, Judge Stephens agreed with Deputy Public Defender Rebecka Monez’s statement that the incident was “not serious or violent.”

Deputy Public Defender Jared Wyman Jordan requested probation on behalf of the accused and relayed information received from conversations with the accused about his experience with drug abuse.

“A lot of (the accused’s) issues that have come up the last couple of years—and for the record, the entirety of my client’s criminal history is before the court this morning—a good chunk of that is attributed by (the accused) to drug use,” said DPD Jordan.

“That, of course, doesn’t excuse his conduct, but in the probation report, I think it’s significant to note that he was using up until the date of arrest, and he has disclosed to me that he was experiencing withdrawals still on the date of this incident,” continued DPD Jordan.

“As a term of probation, (the accused) would like, if the court is willing to grant him probation, for him to be placed into drug treatment as a condition thereof,” added the public defender.

The probation officer present for the accused’s case, however, advised the court against probation as an option and recommended the accused serve time in jail.

“On his current probation case…he’s been on probation since August 2022. He received a 365-day sentence originally. He’s already served 90 days locally for probation violation,” said the probation officer. “We feel he is not amenable to probation services at this time. Based on that information, we would be seeking a state prison commitment in that matter.”

In reaction to the probation officer’s recommendation against the accused receiving probation, DPD Jordan continued to argue probation would benefit the accused.

“What I think (the accused) is asking for is another chance…I acknowledge that probation is accurate with their statement regarding the amount of time he did on that case, and the amount of time he’s been on probation for that matter,” said DPD Jordan.

“I think, functionally, this would be his last chance, no matter how this goes, because if (the accused) comes back before this court on any sort of violation, the court is not going to have much choice but to send him to prison,” Jordan added.

At this time, DPD Jordan revealed the accused’s mother was present in the courtroom and willing to testify to her son’s behavior and potential for rehabilitation.

“With a little bit of help, I don’t think this court is going to see (the accused) again,” said DPD Jordan before the accused’s mother took the stand.

“I am requesting that you send him to probation and allow him to go into a treatment program,” said the accused’s mother. “All through his life he’s been a good kid.”

She provided a brief history of the accused’s upbringing. She stated the accused had been treated poorly by his father at a young age, which she believed caused the accused to develop feelings of anger. These feelings, she said, were mostly managed by staying active in after-school sports.

However, the accused’s mother testified, they experienced financial hardships when she was transferred to a different location for work and was “unlawfully terminated.” After this, the accused’s mother said they became homeless.

“(The accused) was never used to living like that,” said the accused’s mother. “It was a very difficult time for us.”

The mother noted the first charge her son received involved a large amount of drugs. However, she said, he had never been arrested and charged for drug possession despite what she recalled to be an officer’s awareness of such possession.

“It angered me that they didn’t charge him with that, because I felt like they did that on purpose so that he didn’t get a treatment program,” the mother said. “They’d rather give him a felony.”

According to the accused’s mother, the accused had confided in her while in prison for a previous probation violation, promising that “when I get out, I want to go to a treatment program.” According to the accused’s mother, the accused had intentions of addressing his drug and behavior problems.

However, the accused’s mother had worries about his mental health, stating he is “less confident in himself… like he is worthless or something, and he is not.” As time passes without the accused receiving treatment, his mother suggested, he has shown a loss of hope or confidence that he will be able to participate in rehabilitation, compared to when he first entered custody.

While Judge Stephens acknowledged and sympathized with the accused’s mother’s statement, she ultimately decided that the accused should not get probation, stating, “I know I’m spending a lot of time on this, but I do want to get it correct.”

In her closing statements, Judge Stephens explained the reasons why she would not be granting probation for the accused, and one of the main reasons was technical: a person usually becomes statutorily ineligible for probation if they have two prior felony convictions, explained Judge Stephens.

“I know that generally speaking, an individual that has a prior strike, even if it has been stricken, is sentenced to prison, and that is a basis of presumptive ineligibility of probation,” said Judge Stephens.

If the offense was declared neither serious nor violent, Judge Stephens asked probation what the basis of the violation was. The probation officer responded, citing “the fact that he has been on probation, picked up this offense while serving a probation violation.”

Judge Stephens made note of the positive factor that the accused “acknowledged wrongdoing at an early stage of the proceedings.”

However, Judge Stephens ultimately felt the negative factors outweighed this positive; she considered the accused’s two prior felony convictions, the vulnerability of the victim, inflicting cruel physical injury, the accused’s role in the assault as an active participant, a perceivable increase in the seriousness of conduct, and the performance of prior probation being unsatisfactory.

Judge Stephens also believed that if not imprisoned, the accused would be a potential danger to society, explaining, “I am sympathetic to (the accused’s) background, but I cannot grant probation simply out of sympathy. Therefore, probation is denied.”

“Though his criminal history is not as significant as (the co-defendant), the conduct is what has weighed this court to deny probation and sentence him to the mid-term,” continued Judge Stephens.

Because of this ruling, the trailing probation matter for the accused was terminated. The accused was sentenced to the middle term of three years.

About The Author

Sarah graduated from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo with a bachelor’s degree in English with a Technical and Professional Communication Certificate. In addition to being an author for the Vanguard Court Watch Program, she is a proofreader at CalMatters and works as a museum guide.

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