Domestic Battery: Charges Dismissed at Trial

domestic violence, Recent Wins

A Griffin Law Office client had been charged with several counts of felony domestic battery, causing great bodily injury under Penal Code 243(d). The District Attorney aggressively pursued the case because the client had a prior conviction for domestic battery. The client had initially retained another attorney who had urged the client to accept a plea offer of four years in prison. The client did not accept the deal and retained Patrick Griffin for trial.

At the time of the incident, the client was dating a woman (“Jane Doe”). The client, and the district attorney, were unaware that Jane had a history of prostitution. When the arrest occurred, the client and Jane were at a restaurant where they had stopped to pick up a to-go order. When the client went into the restaurant, he left his phone in the car. While he was inside, he had received a text or a phone call from another woman.

Jane stole the client’s phone and ran away. The client returned to his car only to find Jane and his phone gone. He then returned to his home and used his iPad to find his iPhone and discovered the phone’s location at a nearby hotel. When the client arrived at the hotel, he saw Jane checking in at the counter. The client walked up to her and said, “Give me my ******* phone.” She was holding his phone, and her phone was in the back pocket of her jeans.

Jane ended up on the ground when the client grabbed his phone from her, and the police were called. The client had left the lobby of the hotel before the arrival of the police. Jane told the police that the client had stolen her phone. The police asked whose phone was in Jane’s back pocket. She responded that it was her “other” phone, and the police did not follow up or question her report. The entire contact between Jane and the police was captured on a body-worn camera.

The investigating officer asked the onlookers, who had seen the altercation. The clerk at the counter responded that she didn’t see the entire altercation, but it looked like the client was just trying to grab his phone. The police officer informed the clerk that she might be needed to testify. At that time, the hotel manager, not wanting his employee to be removed from work, told the police the clerk was his only employee and would not be able to go to court.

The officer said to the manager, “It looks like a woman was beaten in the hotel, and her phone was stolen, is that what happened?” The manager’s response to the leading statement was “yes,” even though the location of the manager’s office was not within view of the hotel lobby. The police report written by the officer was copied verbatim from the complaint statement given to the police by Jane and referred to the manager as an eyewitness. The entire contact with the manager was captured on the body-worn camera.

When Griffin Law Office became involved with the case and attempted a negotiation with the District Attorney’s office, they would not budge from the previous plea offer of four years. Mr. Griffin put an investigator on the case and discovered over 20 prior police contacts where Jane was either cited or arrested for prostitution. One arrest stood out to Mr. Griffin, as it involved the filing of a false police report. Mr. Griffin was able to locate the previous complainant involved with the complaint, a former “john” who had agreed to intercourse with Jane in exchange for money.

As it turned out, john’s wife was dying from cancer, and during the sexual encounter, Jane had stolen the man’s camera. Jane seized upon the opportunity and decided to blackmail the john, telling him that he had to give her $500, or she would tell his dying wife that they had sex for money. The extorted John did not pay Jane, so she filed a false police report stating the man stole her camera, and she also followed through on her threats and called the man’s wife.

Upon presentation of the accuser’s prior history as well as previous falsification of police reports (Penal Code 148.5 (a)(b) to the District Attorney, they were still unwilling to dismiss the case. The position of the District Attorney’s office was that they felt the case was still strong because of the “eyewitness.” Mr. Griffin sent his investigator to get the true story from the hotel manager. During the interview, the manager stated he was sitting at his desk between the client and Jane at the time of the incident. Photos of the location proved conclusively that the manager would have been unable to view the incident from his office location. A statement was received from the hotel clerk, which matched the body-worn cameras from the police officer. The clerk’s original statement to the police was conveniently left out of the police reports.

On the days leading up to the start of the trial, Mr. Griffin presented an overwhelming amount of evidence about actual events to the prosecutor. Finally, on the day of the trial, the District Attorney agreed they could not get a conviction and agreed to dismiss the charges.

The client was within minutes of accepting a four-year prison sentence, or 8 to 10 years had he been convicted at trial. The diligence, legal experience, and investigation resources of Griffin Law Office made the difference between freedom and incarceration for the client.