The suave, ineffable James Perkins bowed out last week. Took his leave, as it were, from his lovely wife and beloved hometown of Ukiah. Went on a kind of sabbatical, you might say. He’ll be relaxing and reminiscing for approximately the next 16 years from his suite on Pelican Bay, Crescent City.
Mr. Perkin's prolonged respite was awarded him despite the best efforts of Public Defender Linda Thompson, togged out for Perkins' dispatch in L.L. Bean fly-fishing tweeds. Ordinarily, he would have gotten maybe eight years.
Ms. Thompson was disgusted with Deputy DA Shannon Cox. Ms. Cox wanted a strike offense for Perkins, therefore doubling his time. Perkins hadn't done that much bad, Thompson argued. All he did was beat a Mexican vineyard worker half his size nearly to death.
“Ha!” Thompson coughed in the kind of Tourette's explosions she often communicates in while the room waited for a translation. It turned out to be a Romero Motion to dismiss the strike, contending that the offense Perkins was convicted of didn’t rise to the strike level and it was only his race — black — that made it so.
America is a complicated place. Here we had a cross-dressing public defender arguing against a white female prosecutor that the black defendant hadn't really beaten the non-citizen Mexican immigrant as badly as he had. The cross-dressing public defender, natch, steadily suggested that her “client,” Mr. Perkins, was the victim of racism.
Speaking to the Three Strike law in regards to the Romero Motion, Judge John Behnke said, “What the Legislature intended was longer terms for felons who repeatedly commit serious and violent crimes. And in order to dismiss this strike I’d have to find that it was in the interest of justice. That would be very difficult to do. I would have to find where the defendant’s actions fell outside the three strike law by way of the Romero Motion. But I cannot and I will not do that.”
The “nickel prior” — which Thompson wanted thrown out along with the rest, would have to be doubled to 10 years, as well as the three years for the assault: a total of 16 years. Since it’s a strike, 85% will be served, mandatory.
The victim, Juan Gonzalez Ramirez — who nearly starved to death while his jaw was shattered in several places — rose to speak his piece with the help of ace court interpreter Tim Baird.
“I’ve written a letter to the court depicting what happened to me and how I feel… as well as what consequences this has had on my life. I still have pain and difficulties as a result, but I’m not here to ask for anything for myself, other than justice… Excuse me for my hesitation, and for my inability to speak…”
“I have read your letter,” Judge Behnke said, “and I will consider the things you said in it as well as what you’ve said just now.”
“I’m grateful for everyone who helped me, respected judge," Ramirez said, "and only ask that the person who did this to me, that he get the maximum sentence. Thank you.”
Thompson started right in on the need to give her client the mitigated term – “he’s really a nice guy,” she insisted.
Deputy DA Cox smiled indulgently at this and said, “Yes, he’s quite the charmer. He went down to probation and charmed all of them — he’s done it many times before, and he’s really good at turning on the radiant charm. But we all saw it was just a mask when the jury came back with the guilty verdict — then the mask slipped and we saw the real James Perkins.”
Judge Behnke nodded his head in recollection of Perkins going off at the bad news the jury brought back.
Cox resumed, “There are no mitigating factors in this case, your honor.”
Behnke said, “Yes, and I have a problem with defense’s argument that jealousy is a mitigating factor. Especially when the defendant says he didn’t do it. This was a brutal attack and the victim was vulnerable. It has resulted in a significant long-term injury, with pain and other complications two years later. So I’m going to be imposing the strike and the enhancements, Ms. Thompson.”
“My client puts me in a difficult position, saying he didn’t do it and then falling on his sword,” Thompson said.
“I’m going to sentence him, not you, counsel.”
“This should be a seven year term without the nickel prior, judge.”
“I appreciate your position, but I’m troubled with a couple of things. Mr. Perkins spent a lot of his youth incarcerated. Then he got out and committed a couple of heinous crimes. He went back to prison, he was paroled, and it seemed he was on a good trajectory. Then the anger came out again. The GPS plotting was pretty substantial evidence that he committed this crime even though he denies it. He was on the strictest form of parole and probation we are capable of, counsel, and you’re asking the court to consider that he’s not a threat to the community?”
Perkins is going to Pelican Bay.