Last week Yuta Sakane was held to answer on charges of vandalism — crimes he committed the day before Thanksgiving against his own parents.
Respect for one’s elders has long-since been jostled aside by youth worship, but disrespect for age is so pervasive that elder abuse is a crime now included in the penal code. Children and the old folks used to be off limits. No more.
To be “old and in the way,” as Jerry Garcia used to say, leads us to a Ukiah fellow named Yuta Sakane.
An officer from the DA’s Victim Witness Office escorted an elderly couple into the courtroom to watch the proceedings as Deputy DA Heidi Larson, the DA's specialist in the more sordid local crimes called her single witness, Officer Isabel Madrigal of the Ukiah Police Department.
At about 9:49pm on November 26 Officer Madrigal was dispatched to a residence on Doolan Drive where she spoke to the elderly Mrs. Zakane who told her that she’d been alarmed by a violent pounding on her front door. She looked out the window and saw it was the defendant, her son.
“Did he live there?” Ms Larson asked.
“She said he had lived there, a year before, but had what the old lady described as 'anger problems'.”
“What did Mrs. Zakane do when she saw it was Yuta?”
“She called 911. Then she said she heard banging on the wall at the back of the house, and a loud crash. She went to look and saw that the door to the bathroom had been kicked in.”
“What did the defendant do then?”
Mrs. Zakane was still on the phone with dispatch when Yuta grabbed the phone away from her.
“Did you see the damage to the door?”
“I did, yes. I saw that it was open with a black mark on it and the knob was torn off, laying on the floor.”
“Did you notice anything else?”
“Yes. The window was broken.”
“Did you ask Mrs. Zakane about it?”
“Yes, I did. She said Yuta had broken it and tried to come in through the window, but then kicked the door in, instead.”
“What other damage did you see?”
“The door frame was broken and parts of it were scattered over the floor.”
At this point, Ms. Larson showed Officer Madrigal some photos of the damage, photos Madrigal identified as the ones she had taken, and they were entered into evidence. There were also photos of damage in the kitchen.
Judge John Behnke asked for clarification and we learned that there wasn’t any entry to the house through the bathroom, the door that had been kicked in.
“Did you speak to the defendant, Officer Madrigal?”
“I did, yes, and he admitted to kicking the door in because he wanted to take a shower. Then, based on Mrs. Zakane’s desire not to prosecute, I escorted Yuta into the kitchen to collect his belongings. As we passed Mrs. Zakane, Yuta said to her, 'Why did you call the police'?”
“What did she say?”
“She bowed her head and looked scared, so I told him to keep walking. There were some things on the counter, and he slapped these things off the counter and onto the floor, and some of them broke to pieces.”
“What did you do?”
“I told him to keep going.”
“What did Yuta do?”
“He turned around and put up his fists.”
“What did you do?”
“I said are you really squaring off on me?”
“What did he say?”
“He said, Yes, so I grabbed his wrist and whirled him around and placed him in handcuffs,” officer Madrigal said.
“That’s all I have,” concluded prosecutor Larson.
Public Defender Linda Thompson sprang to Yuta’s defense as she began her cross-examination of officer Madrigal.
“So, you made contact with my client’s mother at her residence and, do you remember, were they separated from one another at the time?”
“No, they were together.”
“Well, were they still together when you talked to her and she told you what he’d done?”
“No. He stayed with Sergeant Wojeski.”
“And you talked to her separately?”
“Were there any other family members at home at the time?”
“When you spoke to her, she didn’t say he tried to force his way through the front door, correct?”
“Did she describe his anger issues to you?”
“Not in detail.”
“Did my client’s parents ever seek a restraining order?”
“Did you ask if he had a key to the house?”
Judge Behnke said, “Ms. Thompson, is there a reason you are doing this — I didn’t hear any evidence he tried to steal anything?”
“I was trying to get to the evidence on the vandalism.”
“There’s plenty of evidence of vandalism, so can we just go on that?”
“Yes. But what about bail? He’s been in jail since November 26th, and he missed Thanksgiving. Can’t we OR him?”
“Does he have any priors?”
“There appears to be some potential burglary charges in Redding, but no holds that I’m aware of.”
“If I release you, Mr. Zukane, where will you go?”
“He’ll stay with friends,” Thompson said.
“There is a restraining order I’m going to sign.”
“He’ll stay away from his folks,” Thompson said.
“I want to know who and where these friends are he’ll be staying with.”
“Okay,” Behnke said, “I’m setting bail at $7,500.”
A date was set for the next hearing in January and Mr. Zakane was taken back to jail.
The case of Steven Amato was called and his lawyer, Alan Gregory Wonderwheel of Santa Rosa, stated his name for the record. Mr. Amato was present and in custody. Deputy DA Scott McMenomey called Officer Jason Michael Chapman of the Ukiah PD who said he was called to the Forest Club on October 25th in response to a report that there was a suspicious person in the bathroom. He said when he got there at around 11:41pm, he noticed some people out on the sidewalk and a male subject was bleeding profusely from the face.
“Was the subject alone?”
“There was a female in close proximity.”
“You say he was bleeding?”
“Yes, from multiple lacerations, horizontal and vertical, beginning at his right eye and extending to his ear. He was an older gentleman. The one cut was five inches.”
“Was he standing?”
“He was seated.”
“Did you notice the odor of alcohol?”
“Not that I remember.”
“Did you ask if he needed medical attention?”
“I did and he declined. He said the lady with him would take him to the emergency room.”
“Did you ask him what had happened?”
“I did. He said ‘Yeah, the fuckin’ asshole hit me then ran,’ then his girlfriend took him to the ER.”
“Did he say how he got the cuts to his face?”
“He said he was hit with a beer tumbler while playing pool.”
“Did he describe his assailant?”
“He said it was a male in his early 30s.
“At some point you became aware of his name?”
“Yes, the bartender gave Sergeant Pintane the name of Mr. Amato.”
On cross Mr. Wonderwheel said, “Did he say he was hit with steins, mugs, or tumblers?”
“The victim said it was a tumbler. Officer Tamayo collected the glass shards.”
“Did you observe a need for medical attention?”
“I did, yes.”
“But you didn’t call an ambulance?”
“I offered; he declined.”
“You said it was a five-inch cut — was that a laceration or a scrape?”
“I’d say it was a cut.”
Wonderwheel looked at the photo of the man’s face. He said, “There’s a red line from his eyebrow to his ear — is that five inches or five centimeters?”
“The man who hit him was the man he was playing pool with?”
“Did the victim say any other person was involved?”
“He did not.”
“Was the, uh… excuse me, were you the officer that booked Mr. Amato?”
“Was there any cuts or injuries on him?”
“I believe there was a rip in his shirt.”
“Did you make any inquiry into how that was caused?”
“No, I did not.”
“So you based the arrest on what the sergeant told you he’d learned from the bartender?”
“I determined that he was involved, yes.”
“Did you get Amato’s version?”
“Yes, he said the guy was being real pushy with money and he grabbed a girl’s ass and took a swing at him.”
“Were you able to obtain who that woman was?"
“No, I was not.”
“How then did you determine that Mr. Amato was the aggressor?”
“From the different stories, and what the bartender told the sergeant.”
“Were there any other witnesses?”
“Not that I spoke to.”
Prosecutor McMenomey called Sgt. Rick Pintane who said that the defendant was running a tab at the bar and had left his debit card with the bartender. Sgt. Pintane had booked Mr. Amato on a DUI previously and he brought the booking photo down to the Forest Club and showed it to the bartender and other witnesses. Anthony McElroy told Pintane that he saw the defendant strike the victim with a pint glass.
That settled it. Steven Amato was held to answer on assault charges, and Mr. Wonderwheel went off to work out a plea deal with Mr. McMenomey.