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The People v. Samuel Perez Ortiz et al

December 21, 2010

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
SAMUEL PEREZ ORTIZ ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS.



Monterey County Super. Ct. No. SS080941

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Premo, Acting P.J.

P v . Ortiz CA6

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

A jury convicted defendants Samuel Perez Ortiz and Marco Villapudua Villa of torture (Pen. Code, § 206),*fn1 burglary (§ 459), aggravated assault (§ 245, subd. (a)(1)), dissuading witnesses (§ 136.1), and other crimes, all of which were committed in connection with defendants' beating of two victims on February 18, 2008. Ortiz was also convicted of kidnapping (§ 207) and both defendants were found to have personally inflicted great bodily injury within the meaning of section 12022.7. The trial court sentenced Ortiz to 18 years to life in prison. Villa was sentenced to 13 years to life.

On appeal, defendants argue that the evidence is insufficient to support the torture convictions or to show that either defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury. They also challenge the trial court's decision to allow evidence that Villa claimed to be a gang member, the prosecutor's attempts to solicit evidence that defendants were drug dealers, and jury instructions pertaining to simple kidnapping and infliction of great bodily injury. We reject each of these arguments. We agree with Villa, however, that the trial court imposed an unauthorized sentence for one count of dissuading a witness. We shall modify the judgment against him, reducing his sentence by one year. As modified, we affirm the judgment against Villa. As to Ortiz, we affirm the judgment.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

A.

Introduction

Victims Jose Hernandez and Sergio Cabrera resided together in the City of Monterey. Ortiz and Villa shared an apartment in the City of Marina. Both Hernandez and Cabrera knew Ortiz from a restaurant where they worked together. One day at work, Ortiz told Hernandez that $15,000 was missing from his apartment and that a person named Douglas (his full name was never ascertained at trial) had stolen it. Douglas had been staying with Ortiz but had disappeared right after Ortiz discovered the money was missing. Ortiz wanted to know if Hernandez knew where Douglas was. Hernandez told him that he did not know.

Three days before the crimes charged in this case, Ortiz came to the victims' apartment and asked Cabrera if he knew where Douglas was. Cabrera learned from Hernandez that Ortiz and Villa were looking for Douglas because Douglas had stolen their money and drugs.

B. Beating Hernandez

About a month prior to the charged crimes, Hernandez had borrowed $200 from Ortiz. He was to pay him back when he got his paycheck. On Monday, February 18, 2008, Ortiz came to the victims' apartment to give Hernandez a ride to cash his paycheck so he could repay Ortiz the money he owed. They left together around 1:00 p.m. Hernandez cashed the check at a market in Marina. He received $565 and gave $200 to Ortiz. Ortiz then drove to his own apartment and invited Hernandez inside. Inside the apartment Villa was lying on the sofa; Hernandez sat down on the edge. Ortiz then locked the door; he looked upset. He told Hernandez, "I'm going to fuck you up." He accused Hernandez of knowing where Douglas was but Hernandez denied it.

Ortiz hit Hernandez in the face with his fists. Villa got up, put on his shoes, and came toward Hernandez and, together with Ortiz, threw Hernandez to the floor. Hernandez lay on his back while Ortiz punched him in the eyes and mouth. Villa hit him on the forehead. They held him down and Hernandez did not fight back. Ortiz asked him repeatedly where Douglas was; Hernandez repeatedly denied knowing. Ortiz told Hernandez that Douglas had stolen drugs and $15,000. Villa said some of the money had belonged to him. Villa said nothing about drugs.

The beating continued for about one-half hour. Villa threatened to kill Hernandez. Ortiz "was pretty much following whatever [Villa] was saying at the moment." For example, "[Villa], he was threatening me that he would kill me, and [Ortiz] would say yeah." Villa told Hernandez that he was going to tape his mouth and hands and leave him locked up. Hernandez believed the threats. He was afraid he might die because they were "self-assured about stuff like that." Hernandez saw Villa with a switchblade knife. When Villa tried to cut Hernandez, Hernandez put his hand in the way and got his finger cut. Hernandez kicked the walls and window blinds trying to alert the neighbors.

Defendants finally stopped the beating. The skin around Hernandez's teeth was broken, his eye was swollen, his jaw moved sideways, and his face, head and chest hurt. During the course of the beating, Ortiz took $300 from Hernandez's pocket.

C. Kidnapping Hernandez

Villa gave Hernandez a sweatshirt to cover the blood on his shirt and the two defendants forced him into the car. They told Hernandez they were going to his place in Monterey to "fuck up" Cabrera and would hit him harder than they had hit Hernandez. They told Hernandez that they were going to lock him inside the car and that they would kill him if he told anyone at the restaurant or if he said anything to the police. In the car, Ortiz was behind the wheel, Villa sat in the front passenger seat, Hernandez was in the back. On the way to Monterey they picked up Marlon Guillen. Guillen got in the back seat with Hernandez. Defendants told Guillen to keep an eye on Hernandez to keep him from escaping.

D. Beating of Cabrera

On the way to the victims' apartment in Monterey, Ortiz described his plan. Ortiz would go up to the door. Villa was to follow as soon as Ortiz was inside. Before they got to the apartment Ortiz received a call from Cabrera looking for Hernandez and asking Ortiz to pick up a six-pack of beer for him. Ortiz stopped for the beer, then went on to the apartment and parked in front. Defendants told Hernandez not to get out of the car or they would find him and kill him.

Cabrera testified that Ortiz opened the door to the apartment, walked directly over to where Cabrera was sitting, and, with a little smile on his face, started punching Cabrera in the head. Villa came in a minute or two after Ortiz entered. Villa pushed Cabrera, face-down, onto the floor. Cabrera's face and nose were bleeding. Villa put his knee on the back of Cabrera's head and shifted all his weight on to that knee. Cabrera lost "concentration" and felt dizzy. He could not breathe and thought he might die. While Cabrera was lying there bleeding defendants tied his hands behind him with a telephone cord. Cabrera recalled having been punched many times, mostly by Ortiz, but Villa punched him two or three times as well. All the punches were to his face. The beating lasted about 20 minutes. Ortiz twice asked Cabrera where Douglas was. Villa did not say anything. Defendants untied Cabrera before they left.

After defendants left the apartment, Cabrera got up. He was dizzy and weak and could not open the front door. The police arrived five to 10 minutes later. Cabrera did not recall much of what happened right after the beating. Both sides of his face were swollen. His eyes were "closing" and bleeding, his head hurt, and he had "no energy." A day or two later, Cabrera went to a doctor because he was having bad headaches and was afraid his head was damaged. The ear, nose, and throat specialist who examined Cabrera on February 22, 2008, noted that a CT scan taken on the day of the beating showed that the upper bony portion of Cabrera's nose and the right eye socket bone (the orbital bone) were fractured. The fractures did not require treatment and would heal on their own. The fractured eye socket might have been causing the headaches by allowing air to enter the sinuses under the facial bones. The doctor had "no way to know" what caused the fractures other than what the patient might tell him. The fractures were consistent with the patient's having been hit with a fist.

E. Law Enforcement Investigation

While defendants were inside the victims' apartment beating Cabrera, Hernandez did not stay put. He got out of the car and ran to a nearby fire station. Monterey Police Officer Carrie Hogan was dispatched to the fire station where she found Hernandez with facial injuries. He was distraught. She called for an officer to go to the victims' apartment.

Monterey Police Detective Amy Carrizosa responded and contacted Cabrera at his apartment sometime between 4:00 and 4:30 p.m. on February 18, 2008. Cabrera had cuts, bruises, and swelling all over his face. When she observed him two days later, his face was still bruised and swollen, his lip was swollen and cut, both ears were bleeding and cut, she felt bumps on his head, and his left eye had swollen shut.

During her first interview with Cabrera on the day of the incident, he told her that defendants "had come and were looking for a man, who he later determined was Douglas, because [Douglas] had stolen drugs and/or money from them." He told her that defendants had threatened to kill him and warned that they would kill him if he went to the police. (During his testimony at trial, Cabrera denied that defendants threatened to kill him or told him not to go to the police.)

The day after the incident, the police executed a search warrant at defendants' apartment. Ortiz, Villa, and Guillen were inside. The police found over $3,000 in cash in Ortiz's bedroom and three $100 dollar bills in his wallet. No drugs, drug paraphernalia, or indicia of drug sales were found in the apartment. No switchblade knife was found.

F. Defense Case

Villa testified in his defense, claiming that Douglas had stolen money and a computer, not drugs. He also maintained that he, Villa, had walked in on the two beatings and that in both instances he did not join in but tried to pull Ortiz off his victims. Ortiz did not testify. Both defendants focused upon inconsistencies in the victims' stories.

G. Charges

Defendants were charged by information with 12 felonies and enhancement allegations relating to the personal infliction of great bodily injury and Villa's use of a knife. Charges were as follows:

Count 1: Kidnapping with bodily injury (Hernandez). (§ 209, subd. (a).) Personal use of a deadly weapon by Villa. (§ 12022, subd. (b)(1).)

Count 2: Kidnapping for robbery (Hernandez) with bodily injury. (§ 209, subd. (b).) Personal use of a deadly weapon by Villa. (§ 12022, subd. (b)(1).)

Count 3: Torture (Cabrera). (§ 206.)

Count 4: First degree residential robbery (Hernandez). (§ 211.) Personal use of a deadly weapon by Villa. (§ 12022, subd. (b)(1).)

Count 5: First degree burglary. (§ 459.) Personal infliction of great bodily injury (Cabrera). (§ 12022.7, subd.(a).)

Count 6: Aggravated assault (Hernandez). (§ 245, subd. (a)(1).)

Count 7: Aggravated assault (Cabrera). (§ 245, subd. (a)(1).) Personal infliction of great bodily injury. (§ 12022.7, subd. (a).)

Count 8: Battery with serious bodily injury (Cabrera). (§ 243, subd. (d).)

Count 9: Criminal threats (Hernandez). (ยง 422.) Personal use of a deadly weapon by Villa. ...


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