Happy New Year, Ricardo!

by Bruce McEwen, January 11, 2017

Garcia

Winner of 2016’s Lucky To Be Alive Award, Ricardo Garcia, was sentenced to five years in prison early Tuesday afternoon by Judge Ann Moorman. The did not deviate from the recommendations of the probation report, the District Attorney's Office, a statement from the officer involved, and gave Mr. Garcia the aggravated term for the assault on a peace officer with a deadly weapon, i.e., machete; and three years concurrent for the assault on Mr. Ceja with a rock.

Restitution for injuries suffered by Mr. Ceja as Garcia, on his way to the big house, waived his right to attend the hearing on how much he’ll have to pay.

Public defender, Eric Rennert argued valiantly for leniency — having been put on the spot by (newly minted gold bars) Lt. Darren Brewster who came to court in a finely tailored charcoal & ash three-piece pinstripe. Brewster stood in front of the judge to urge her to give Garcia plenty of time to think about how close he came to getting his fool self shot and killed.

“I didn’t have time, or I probably would have,” Lt. Brewster told Judge Ann Moorman. “We were at such close quarters when he drew his weapon that I could see if I didn’t drop my gun and charge, I would have been cut.”

A lot of cops simply would have commenced firing.

Lt. Brewster was no stranger to Garcia; he’d been on law enforcement’s radar since he started tagging and trespassing as a juvenile. Deputy DA Joshua Rosenfeld read out his rap-sheet which, despite the prosecutor’s choice adjectives, wasn’t terribly awful. There was the tagging, the trespassing, drugs, alcohol, a broken restraining order… Garcia did have one successful graduation from probation, though. Public Defender Rennert crowed about it, too.

But Rennert’s best performance was criticizing first the Probation Officer’s report and recommendation, and then Deputy DA Rosenfeld’s characterization of it, and then made a plucky dash at minimizing “the officer’s” credulity as a victim of his “admittedly reckless” client.

Rennert said, “This was a West* plea, Your Honor. I’ve heard comments regarding my client’s remorsefulness, but Mr. Garcia acknowledged responsibility early on, he pled to the two counts; and it was only after the preliminary hearing that the felony charge was assessed and added on. I’m not sure how a person is supposed to comment… Some of the comments from Probation — the lack of cooperation, the lack of remorse, the lack of honesty… Where does that all come from? Probation got the date wrong on the last day my client worked — he’d been in jail over five months!”

Rennert had a point, here. They really do take the lace curtains down after the judges leave from a tour of the county jail. Unless you have a lot of pull, you don’t get all the latest updates on your smart phone in jail.

“And then we have this business about ‘not a suitable candidate for probation.’ Where does that come from? I don’t see that. Tagging and trespassing? Really? These are ‘successively serious crimes’? C’mon.”

There were several felons seated in the dock and they all perked up in their theater seats like they were suddenly watching a free movie. I’d like to get the concession for selling popcorn in the galleries whenever this happens. The prisoners could take it out of their commissary.

“But I wouldn’t call that ‘violent.’ Then we have the ‘serious offense’ — this next escalation in his progressively worse behavior — of the violation of probation for — what? —paraphernalia [my italics, judge]. Then there was the restraining order violation; the restraining order his sister had against him; and he spent a night at his mother’s house, at her behest was my understanding, and the sister too, who professed to be helping him with his drug problem.”

It was Lt. Brewster’s position — stated more as the conviction of a man who was in a position to know — that Garcia had been stone, cold sober. Brewster had said this at the prelim and repeated it at the sentencing and judgment.

Rennert for the defense of the indefensible.

“He told his Probation Officer, Your Honor, that he knew his actions were reckless. And that comment that he lied was about a job he’d lost after he was arrested. It was five months later. And there’s been some comments about his mental health and this also is what Probation tends to view as factors of aggravation rather than mitigation…”

Rennert, with his signature frown and frump, had set the court a hare a’ runnin’, and off they went, first the judge, then Probation, then the prosecution and back to defense for some spirited rebuttal and then the already broadcast consensus.

Rosenfeld had said, “You can debate the seriousness of his crimes, as counsel suggests, but this offense takes it out of that realm, and into a category where you can no longer argue for probation.”

Yup. A machete charge at a police officer is sure to get agreement.

Judge Moorman agreed, “Mr. Rosenfeld is right. This type of behavior is outside the category.”

Judge Moorman continued, “I did preside over the preliminary hearing, so I’m familiar with the facts.” She looked up over the top of her glasses at the defense table. “…and the defendant, although he did admit culpability in Count One, assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer… Mr. Garcia is presumptively ineligible for probation due not entirely to his youthfulness. However, this case — and although his record is significant, I agree it’s not remarkably egregious — but there is a category beyond which, the fact is, in my estimation, would never qualify for a sentence of probation.

“When you are in close quarters, a room or narrow passage, and you attempt to draw a weapon and strike an officer with a machete or whatever, Mr. Rennert, and I’m going to strike the word ‘violent’ and replace it with the word ‘serious,’ but I’m still going to impose the aggravated term of five years.”

“I’d like to address that,” Rennert said.

“You’ll have your chance, counsel. Now, let me finish. The three years for the assault on Mr. Ceja will run concurrent and an $1800 fine for the victim witness fund, $80 for the courthouse fund, $60 for a conviction fee… Another $1800 if you blow parole when you get out and you have 60 days to appeal.”

*(Nowadays, attorneys will plead “no contest” subject to or pursuant to People v. West. This means that the plea is entered to avail the client of a specific plea bargain, but without admitting the type of conduct that the pled-to charge alleges.

Some attorneys enter every plea subject to People v. West even when there is zero difference between the pled-to-charge and the allegation in the complaint. Such a practice demonstrates a lack of understanding of what People v. West said.

The savvy attorney who does such a plea correctly will really only specify that the plea is entered pursuant to People v. West when there is an amended charge that the client then pleads to for purposes of receiving a more lenient sentence.)

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