In less than a week, Riverside County Superior Court judges have dismissed three separate felony child sexual assault cases, including one where a conviction would result in a possible life sentence, the District Attorney’s Office announced.
On January 25, the DA’s Office announced it was ready to begin the trial in People v Norman Martinez Garcia. When the court announced that there were no judges available to hear the trial, prosecutors asked the court to postpone the trial until a judge became available. The court denied that request, the DA’s Office said.
The next day, Riverside Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Prevost dismissed the case due to the court’s inability to begin the trial within the timeframe required by law. “Our office opposed Judge Prevost’s decision, arguing that the court’s decision to leave several courtrooms closed while their judges attended training, along with other judges being out ill, justified a short continuance of the case,” the DA’s Office said. “Judge Prevost rejected that request and dismissed the case entirely.” The case was immediately refiled.
Five days later, on January 30, Judge Helios J. Hernandez dismissed two additional child sexual abuse cases: People v Daniel Cintron and People v Angel Torres Salas. As with the Garcia case, the DA’s Office announced that it was ready for each of those trials. Again, the court did not send those cases to a trial courtroom, citing their inability to begin those trials within the time required law. The DA refiled both cases.
“In the Garcia case, our office has filed six felony counts pertaining to two underage victims – including charges of rape and oral copulation involving one of the young victims,” the DA’s Office said. Because there are two different victims in this case, the defendant faces a possible life sentence if convicted as charged.
“I understand the need for ongoing training; however, when our courts are experiencing a crisis and engaging in the mass dismissal of cases, victims of crime deserve the right to be the priority,” District Attorney Mike Hestrin said. “Over the last three months, the courts have dismissed over 1,500 cases, some of which are serious felonies such as these three sexual assault cases involving children.”
Hestrin added, “The courts being aware of this shortage of courtrooms should be able to anticipate the needs of public safety and reschedule their trainings until the courts are fully operational,”
On October 10, 2022, Riverside County Superior Court judges began dismissing criminal cases based on a lack of available trial courtrooms. These cases range from misdemeanor to felony cases and include all crime types. Misdemeanor cases dismissed cannot be refiled. To date, the court has dismissed more than 1,500 felony and misdemeanor cases, according to the DA’s Office.
The DA’s Office said it is taking every available action to safeguard the community, such as arguing the dismissals in court, refiling dismissed felony cases, and filing appeals when appropriate.
The DA’s Office is committed to keeping the public informed regarding this public safety crisis and will continue to periodically release updated information regarding case dismissals as the information becomes available.
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