Fort Bragg gangster Ivan Sanchez survived an effort to indict him on the attempted murder of his girlfriend last week. The indictment failed — not due to any impression of innocence Sanchez made on the judge, and not because of any defense talent on the part of his public defender, Louis Finch. Sanchez eluded the murder charge because his victim was too scared to testify against him.
Last week, we brought you the preliminary examination of Mr. Sanchez on a separate charge of assault with a deadly weapon on a rival gangster, Richie Olstad.
The term “gangster,” as applied to the people like Sanchez hardly conjures images of Al Capone, but it's the word Fort Bragg's low rent punks think applies to them.
During the prelim we learned that Sanchez has made a career out of assault, intimidation, threats and attacks on behalf of the Crazy Vatos Controlas, the southsiders-Sueño street gang in Fort Bragg. This week, we learned that Sanchez’s girlfriend has been used as a practice dummy for the tough guy to hone his assault skills on, those skills consisting of kicking, punching, slashing, stabbing unresisting persons.
The girlfriend, Karina Martinez, 20, was understandably afraid to confront lover man on the witness stand, and it took all day to find her and bring her to court. But Miss Martinez's best friend and her little sister both testified against Sanchez, painting a picture of the savage abuse endured by Karina Martinez.
Ms. Martinez’s best friend, Brittany Callison, testified that Karina came to her house at about 7:30 the evening of August 26th. She was covered with blood, her face was swollen and bruised, and she was crying uncontrollably.
“She was a complete wreck,” Ms. Callison said.
“Did you ask her what happened?” Deputy DA Shannon Cox asked.
“I sort of knew what happened. ‘Did he do this to you?,’ I asked her, and she said yes. He had upset or hurt her many times before. This time she said he beat and kicked her and attacked her with a knife.”
“Who did she say did this to her?”
“Did she tell you her boyfriend’s name?”
“No, she never would. But they’ve been together since she was 15 and everybody knows who he is.”
“Objection,” said defense counsel Lewis Finch of the Office of the Alternate Public Defender. “She has no personal knowledge that ‘everybody’ knows of the relationship.”
“Sustained,” said Judge John Behnke.
Ms. Cox asked, “How long did she say this attack lasted?”
“Over two hours,” Callison said. “She said she blacked out from being kicked in the head. I begged her to let me take her to the hospital, but she didn’t want to go. And when I finally convinced her to go, she didn’t want to tell the hospital staff what had happened to her.”
“Did you tell the staff what she had told you?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Then what happened?”
“The police came. They tried to talk to her, but she was pretty rude; she didn’t want to talk to them.”
“What did you do then?”
“We left the hospital after 1am and she stayed with me for a few days.”
“How was she doing?”
“Objection,” Finch said. “Relevance.”
“There’s an allegation of great bodily injury as an element of the charge,” Behnke noted, “which makes the victim’s well being relevant. The objection is overruled.”
“She was a wreck. Her face was swollen and bruised, her stitches had to be cleaned and the bandages changed every day. She cried all the time.”
“Nothing further,” Cox said.
Judge Behnke asked, “Cross exam, Mr. Finch?”
“Yes, briefly, your honor. How long have you known Karina?”
“Do you know how many guys she’s slept with since then?”
The public defender's gallantry on full display, and there being no objection to this insulting and wholly irrelevant question, the witness calmly considered it before she said, “Just Ivan.”
“She told you that?”
“Why, yes. She did.”
“And you see her every day…?”
“No, not every day.”
“Do you talk to her every day?”
“Yeah, we do talk every day.”
“And yet she did not tell you the name of the person who hurt her?”
“No. She didn’t have to.”
“Just a second,” Judge Behnke said. “Did she tell you it was Ivan?”
Finch said, “When Officer Awad questioned you at the hospital, he said the boyfriend was trying to stab her, correct?”
“Karina said he came at her with a knife and when she grabbed the blade, that’s how she injured her hand.”
“The officer told you that, correct?”
“I don’t remember the officer saying that.”
“But you did not witness the assault yourself, correct?”
Prosecutor Cox called Officer Christopher Awad of the Fort Bragg Police Department, a rookie with a year and a half on the force. He said he was dispatched to Chestnut Street on a report of a male dragging a bloody female in the street. When he got there he found a man named Tyler Baker who stated that Ivan Sanchez was the male dragging the bloody female.
Finch objected, saying this was inadmissible hearsay.
Judge Behnke corrected Finch by pointing out that under Proposition 115 the testimony of the officer repeating what a witness told him was admissible. Most laypersons know this fact of courtroom procedure, since it was voted into law by ordinary taxpayers to save on the expense of lengthy prelims.
Cox asked, “What did Tyler Baker say?”
Awad: “He said he saw Ivan Sanchez dragging a bloody female in the street.”
Cox: “Was Mr. Baker able to identify Ivan Sanchez?”
Cox: “Are you familiar with Ivan Sanchez?”
Awad: “Yes. I’ve had numerous contacts with him in the course of my work.”
Cox: “Were you able to make contact with him in this case?”
Awad: “Yes, briefly, at first. I contacted him at his front door. He had something in his hand so I drew my weapon and ordered him out, at which point he stated ‘Fuck you’ and slammed the door. We were later able to speak with him through a window.”
“Did you explain why you wanted to contact him?”
“I did. He said nothing like that [the assault on his girlfriend] had happened.”
“How long after this did you respond to the Coast Hospital?”
“About an hour.”
“What did you find there?”
“Karina Martinez was beat up pretty bad, but she was uncooperative with me, didn’t want to speak with me at all, in fact. She stated she had gotten hit but wouldn’t say by who.”
“Did you see Ms. Callison?”
Ms. Cox showed Officer Awad some photographs of Ms. Martinez. The officer confirmed that he had taken them. They were photos of a pretty young woman’s red, swollen face, and her gashed hand.
Cox: “Did Ms. Callison tell you who did this?”
Awad: “All she could tell me was that it was her [Martinez’s] boyfriend. But I had talked to them [Sanchez and Martinez] together on other cases and they had told me then that they were boyfriend and girlfriend.”
Finch: “Objection. The testimony is vague; and how do we know any of this is in fact true.”
Behnke: “Your objection is overruled.”
Cox: “Did the doctor tell you anything about the injuries?”
Finch: “Objection. Calls for an expert opinion. The officer is not a medical expert.”
Behnke: “The officer doesn’t have to be an expert to relate what an emergency room physician told him. Overruled.”
Awad: “He said the victim had a concussion with multiple and extensive injuries consistent with being struck with a blunt object such as a fist or shoe. She also had lacerations on her hand and a laceration on her chest.”
Cox: “You also made contact with Jose Soria?”
Awad: “Yes. He said he saw a female running down the street and a male chasing her.”
Cox: “Did you make contact with Tyler Baker again?”
Awad: “Yes. He stated that when he first saw Ivan Sanchez and the female they were exchanging words, yelling, then he dragged her from the street and fled around a church. He said at first he was 85% sure it was Ivan Sanchez, but after he thought about it he was 100% sure. He was too far away to hear what they were saying, but they were yelling at each other.”
Cox: “Did you eventually serve Ivan Sanchez with a search warrant?”
Awad: “”Yes, on August 28th. There were other family members at the residence, his mother and his brother Mario, who was restraining a very aggressive pit bull. We found blood stains on a mattress that appeared to have been flipped over, along with a pair of shoes with similar stains and some cell phones.”
Finch: “I’m gonna have to object. The testimony calls for a scientific opinion.”
Behnke: “A lay person knows what blood looks like. Overruled.”
Cox: “Were samples of the suspected blood stains sent to the Department of Justice for analysis?”
Awad: “Yes. But we haven’t received the results at this time.”
Cox: “You found some shoes with stains?”
Finch: Objection, leading; that’s telling the witness what to say.”
Behnke: “No, it’s not. It’s restating the evidence. Overruled.”
Finch: “Okay, I’m gonna object as to relevance.”
Behnke: “That objection is also overruled.”
Cox: “When you served the search warrant, did you have an arrest warrant by any chance?”
Awad: “Yes, we did.”
Cox: “And, after his arrest, did you examine the defendant for any injuries?”
Cox: “Did he have any injuries or marks on him?”
Awad: “No injuries. But he had a tattoo on his chest.”
Cox: “What was the tattoo?”
Awad: “It said, ‘Karina’.”
Cox: “Nothing further.”
Behnke: “Cross, Mr. Finch?”
Finch: “No one identified the shoes you found as his — Ivan Sanchez’s — is that correct?”
Awad: “I believe so, yes.”
Finch: “And Tyler Baker said he thought it was Ivan Sanchez?”
Awad: “He stated he knew it was Ivan Sanchez.”
Finch: “That was changed after a bit, wasn’t it?”
Awad: “Yes, but I didn’t coerce him into changing 85% sure to 100% sure.”
Finch: “But you suggested it, didn’t you?
Awad: “No, I don’t recall doing that.”
Finch: “But you mentioned 100%?”
Awad: “I don’t recall it.”
Finch: “He wasn’t close enough to hear what was being yelled, correct?”
Awad: “Yes, that’s what he stated.”
Finch: “Did he [Baker] see him [Sanchez] strike her — did you ask if he saw him actually strike her in any way?”
Awad: “I don’t believe I asked that, no.”
Finch: “So what Baker saw was grabbing and pulling?”
Awad: “I’d say that was fair, yes. I believe he stated he saw him pulling her out of the road.”
The victim-witness, Miss Martinez, still hadn’t been found, so a recess was called. It took better than three hours to locate her and bring her to court, but it would take a hundred years to get her to talk.
A few phonemes, those basic bits of language, not quite a full syllable, was about the best she could manage. For answers in the affirmative she uttered something that sounded like “pffft.” For negative responses, we heard something like, “nuh.”
These primitive sounds nevertheless got us to understand that the witness lived in Fort Bragg, worked at Safeway and was friends with Brittany Callison.
“I’m having trouble hearing you,” Judge Behnke finally interrupted. “You may not wish to be here, but you were served with a subpoena and you have to answer the questions you are asked.”
Karina Martinez seemed to understand.
Cox said, “You know where Brittany lives. Did you go to her house on August 26th the day you were injured?”
After a long pause, Martinez answered: “Yeah.”
“What was injured?”
“I was cut.”
“Were you bleeding?”
“Were there any injuries to your face?”
“Did you have any injuries to your face?”
After a worried glance at the judge: “Yeah.”
“Were you in any pain?”
“Were you crying?”
“Did Brittany take you to the hospital?”
“Yeah. I had a catscan.”
“Did they give you any medications to take?”
“Did the doctors do anything to your hand?”
“Yeah, they stitched it up.”
“Do you remember telling Brittany what happened to you?”
“No! I don’t remember.”
“Do you remember the police officers coming to the hospital?”
“Was Brittany still there?”
“Did Officer Awad ask you what happened?”
“Where were you before you went to Brittany’s house?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you know where Ivan Sanchez lives?”
“Were you there?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Do you remember how your injuries happened?”
“No, I don’t remember.”
“Had you been with Ivan Sanchez that day?”
“Had you seen Ivan Sanchez that day at all?”
“I don’t remember.”
“You stated you had been bleeding — why was that?”
“I had an open cut.”
“How did that happen?”
“I don’t recall.”
“Were you there when Brittany told Officer Awad that it was done by your boyfriend?”
“Objection. Leading the witness.”
“Trying to refresh her memory is not leading. Overruled.”
“Do you remember telling Brittany that he attacked you with a knife?”
“No! I didn’t say that!”
“Do you remember telling Brittany that he kicked you in the head?”
“No. I didn’t say that.”
Behnke asked for clarification, “You didn’t say it, or it didn’t happen — which is it?”
“It didn’t happen.”
“Did you black out?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Did you want to cooperate with the police?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Did your sister talk to you about this incident?”
“Did you tell your sister it was Ivan who did it?”
“Did you come here today because you were ordered?”
“Did you want to come?”
“Remember being in the street all bloody?”
“Remember Ivan Sanchez?”
“Were you with him that day?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Cross exam, Mr. Finch?”
“We have no questions,” Finch smiled.
Judge Behnke frowned as Deputy DA Cox escorted her witness out and brought in the victim’s sister, Jessica Martinez, only 19, but considerably braver than her older sibling. She said Ivan Sanchez was definitely her sister’s boyfriend, and she became aware that her sister had been injured when Officer Awad called her and told her what had happened.
“First he asked me who her boyfriend was,” Jessica said.
“Did you ask Ivan about what happened?”
“Yes. At first he wouldn’t tell me much, but later said he had only pushed her. He wanted to know if she was okay.”
“Had he been with her that night?”
“Yes, he was with her. They had been—”
“Did you ask if he’d fought with her?”
“Same ruling; overruled.”
“He said she’d beat herself up.”
“Did you later have a conversation with your sister?”
“She wanted to talk with you about it?”
“Not in full detail, but she said he beat her up and held a knife to her throat. She got away and held on to some lady who ran away and she fell on the ground.”
She said it was Ivan Sanchez?”
“Briefly. You had three separate conversations with your sister about this?”
“Where was the first?”
“In my room at my house.”
“How long did you talk?”
“About an hour.”
“And the second conversation?”
“That was the day Brittany came with her, three or four days after.”
“Brittany was there?”
“No, not in my room; she wasn’t present at any of the conversations I had with Karina.”
Prosecution was ready to rest, but Deputy DA Cox realized the attempted murder would never stand without the victim’s testimony, so she told the court the People would be reducing the charge to assault with a deadly weapon resulting in great bodily injury, even though the unconsciousness claimed by the victim was ambiguous and her stitches not extensive. The statute, Cox said, meant the injuries only had to be more than mild or causing more than moderate harm. She also pointed out that this depressing episode occurred while the defendant was out on bail in another assault case.
Finch tried to argue that the injuries were not serious, the sutures not extensive, but the judge granted the holding order on the assault with a deadly weapon, and the special allegation that the injuries were great.
Katrina Martinez knows her boyfriend can order her death from a prison cell through the gang network. That’s why prisoners in the SHU at Pelican Bay are never let out of solitary confinement even if they go on hunger strikes. Judge Behnke seemed to know as much himself, although there wasn't much more he could do to save Katrina Martinez from herself.