Friday, December 19, 2014

Deputy District Attorney Carrie Halgrimson obtains 1st degree murder conviction in the case of a Hesperia man who was killed over a dispute about a construction debt

Hesperia man convicted of murder
Jurors return guilty verdict in 2011 shooting death

VICTORVILLE — A 35-year-old Hesperia man was found guilty Thursday of first-degree murder in a reported scuffle-turned-deadly over an alleged construction debt.

Moses Echavarria was convicted of shooting to death Andrew Battaglia, 29, (pictured left) in December 2011.

Jurors deliberated for three days before returning guilty verdicts on charges of murder and assault with a firearm, court records show.

Echavarria is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 30.

The verdict signals the end to criminal proceedings that began three years ago, and had resulted in a hung jury this summer.

On June 19, a jury announced they were deadlocked on a verdict amid questions about the definition of “imminent danger.” A re-trial began the following month.

Jurors this time were initially undecided whether the murder was premeditated or not, one of the jurors told the Daily Press on Thursday. The juror spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

According to authorities, Battaglia and three others arrived in December 2011 at Echavarria’s home in Hesperia to settle the debt owed to a Battaglia companion. A scuffle broke out soon after they arrived; a 58-year-old victim was beaten in the face and Battaglia was shot.

Battaglia’s brother, Thomas Battaglia, told the Daily Press in June that the 58-year-old man was owed the debt and had actually been invited to the home by Echavarria to settle it. Andrew Battaglia and two others waited in a nearby car when Echavarria began punching the 58-year-old in the face, he said.

Andrew Battaglia left the car to help, to break up the fight, and was shot while intervening, according to Thomas Battaglia.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Appellate Services Unit obtains AB 109 victory for prosecutors statewide

Deputy District Attorney Eric Ferguson, who is assigned to Appellate Services, handled a writ in the Court of Appeals in which we successfully overturned a superior court decision ordering the early termination of post release community supervision of Thomas Ward.

The Court of Appeal ruled Dec. 11, 2014, that the court had misinterpreted the law and did not have the authority to release the defendant from supervision.

The case revolved around the statutory meaning of AB 109’s definition of the term of PRCS and whether “flash incarceration” was a custodial sanction- it clearly is.

“Thanks to the great work of Deputy DA Ferguson and our ASU staff, prosecutors statewide are now able to prevent PRCS violators from obtaining early termination of supervision,” said District Attorney Mike Ramos. “Ultimately, we can now hold them responsible for their misconduct.”

The case is a published opinion, meaning it can be used by other prosecutors as legal authority.  It is the first case interpreting these sections of the Criminal Justice Realignment statutes. 

Click here to download a copy of the opinion.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Recent Press Releases

“After so many years of theft, the victims can now feel confident that justice was served today,” said Deputy District Attorney Jason Liso, who prosecuted the case. “Hopefully this sends a strong message that our public servants will be held accountable for their actions when they decide to abuse the public trust.”

According to Senior Investigator John Vega, shortly after recording the false grant deed with the County Recorder, the pair deceived the escrow and title companies and sold the house to an unsuspecting buyer for over $440,000.

Construction Foreman Arraigned on Fraud Charges

Osbaldo Serna, 34, of La Habra, was arraigned Wednesday on allegations that he and the owners of a now-defunct Ontario construction company defrauded their workers’ compensation insurance company out of more than $260,000 and stole from their workers over $160,000 in prevailing wages.

Ontario man convicted of second-degree murder

Once the gun was pulled, Camacho and his friend ran back to their car and got inside. Co-defendant Armando Lara, Jr., 19, of Ontario, yelled, “Let them have it!” Avila fired one shot into the car, striking Camacho in the back of the head. Camacho was rushed to the hospital by his friend. Camacho was pronounced dead approximately two hours later.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Dowd Adopted by First Graders

On Wednesday, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Dowd stood before a room full of first graders at Upland Christian Academy in Rancho Cucamonga and discussed the importance of staying in school.

The Academy recently had all their classes adopt a public servant or servants to learn about what they do, and Dowd was selected by Mrs. Beth Paxton’s first grade class.

Dowd’s presentation also highlighted the role of a Deputy District Attorney and why they are so important to the community and public safety.

“The entire presentation including questions from kids lasted about forty-five minutes,” said Dowd. “They loved the items we gave them especially the Junior DA stickers.  I had them take an oath when they started putting them on that they would promise to stay in school, do good in the community and stay out of trouble.”

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Father and Girlfriend Found Guilty of Torture and Child Abuse

A jury found a father and his girlfriend guilty today of torture and child abuse for starving his two children and physically abusing a third.

Erik Austin Flores, 30, and Mariah Rita Sugg, 23, both of Hesperia, face 20 years to life in state prison when they are sentenced January 8 for their roles in starving Flores’ children, ages 4 and 5, when they were removed from their home earlier this year.

“I am so grateful that the jury took care to find justice for these children,” Deputy District Attorney David Foy said. “These kids were starved to the point where witnesses described them as looking like concentration camp survivors and zombies.”

During a trial that began Nov. 17 before Judge Debra Harris, prosecutors presented evidence that Flores and Sugg lived together and jointly took care of the children from March 1 until June 6.

Dr. Mark Massi, a forensic pediatrician for Loma Linda University Medical Center, testified that both children suffered great bodily injury as a result of long-term starvation. Flores’ daughter, age 4, would have died soon had she not been hospitalized, Massi testified, adding that her body mass index of 11.7 was under the 1% percentile range for children her age and height.

Both children suffered from what Dr. Massi called psychosocial dwarfism – a permanent loss of height as a result of starvation. He also said the girl’s development was arrested as a result of starvation. At age 4, the girl could barely talk and was not toilet trained.

Foy also argued to the jury that there was evidence that Flores had sexually penetrated the child in 2012 and 2014. Dr. Massi found the child had genital injuries caused by blunt force penetration.

They were removed on June 6 after San Bernardino County social workers were called by employees at the Marinello School of Beauty in Victorville, who saw the emaciated children when both defendants brought them to the school on May 16, according to testimony.

The employees said the kids appeared to be like “concentration camp” survivors and “zombies—describing the children as extremely thin and listless.

An older boy who was properly nourished because he ate breakfast and dinner at school testified that Sugg would beat him and his siblings, make them do exercises for hours at a time, and make them stand in the corner all day. The defendants were convicted of felony child abuse for abusing him.


Father, girlfriend found guilty

Fundraiser for fallen Pomona Police Officer Shaun Diamond

A fundraiser at the Pizza Factory on Sunday honoring fallen Pomona police officer Shaun Diamond was a huge success. The Rancho
Cucamonga Pizza Factory will be donating $600 to the family fund. The turnout was fantastic.

Among those attending were officers from Pomona, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Monrovia, San Gabriel, LAPD, LASO, SBSO and the San Bernardino County Bureau of Investigation.

Many members of the DA’s office attended including Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Fermin, West Valley Division Chief Bruce Brown, SDDA Michelle Lauron, SDDA Robert Brown, and many others.

Thank you to all that came in out in support. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Central Division Collects Items to Donate to Local Charities

Thanks to the generosity of our Central Division and all those who participated, we were able to provide assistance to mothers and their children through the "Time for Change Foundation."

Along with a truck bed full of items headed for "Time for Change," the Central Division also received bags of dog food and pet supplies that they were able to donate to the San Bernardino Humane Society.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Juvenile Girls Court: A Collaborative Approach in Assisting Victims of Human Trafficking

Editor’s Note: On Dec. 9, 2014, Deputy District Attorney Karen Martinez, presented the following proposal for a collaborative effort currently underway aimed at assisting young girls who have been victims of human trafficking. Collaborators currently include the District Attorney’s Officer, Public Defender’s Officer, Probation Department, and the Superior Court.

By Deputy District Attorney Karen Martinez
When I say the words “prostitute” “hooker” “whore” or “pimp,” I am certain that you have an image in your head of what those labels represent.  
Janie D. was born to a mother with substance abuse and mental health issues. Because of this, she was raised primarily in the home of her father from the age of four.  At age 13, she was being sexually abused by a 28-year-old cousin of her father. By the ages of 14 and 15, Janie had been arrested for battery and resisting arrest on multiple occasions.
During this time, she began to run away from home on a frequent basis. She felt abandoned by her drug addicted mother and knew her father was overwhelmed and unable to parent well. She stopped attending school. By the age of 16 she was regularly arrested for using drugs and admitted to being “out on the streets, getting high (on meth).” She had also begun cutting herself on the wrists. She had multiple hospitalizations, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and major depression.
Her history of molestation and self-harm issues were not immediately known to the juvenile delinquency court. When it was discovered, the juvenile mental health court tried to intervene, but Janie had no interest in cooperating. She continued to run away.  Eventually, it was discovered that Janie was a victim of human trafficking. That is, she was engaging in sexual activity in exchange for money. However, Janie wasn’t getting paid. Rather, she was handing the money over to a pimp.
She disclosed that she had at least two pimps who beat her. Probation officers assigned to monitor Janie soon found that she was pictured on the internet advertising sex for money. The pictures showed Janie in various states of undress, surrounded by money and the headless body of a male who was believed to be her pimp.
From age 14 to 18, Janie was in juvenile court many times. She repeatedly acknowledged that she engaged in acts of prostitution. She turned 18 while in custody and was then released into the community as an adult, no longer able to rely on resources previously available and fending for herself.
Janie and other young women in our community represent a population at immediate risk of harm, often including death.
A brief and simplified overview of the juvenile justice system is this: Children under the age of 18 who are accused of committing a crime come to court and the crime is found true or untrue. The judge then imposes some consequence for the criminal action, such as probation or placement away from home.  The goal of the juvenile court system is the rehabilitation of the minors rather than punishment.
The current state of the law is that if a child is found to be engaging in the act of prostitution activity, they are arrested and charged with that crime. At this time, it is one of the few ways to identify the issues, prosecute the abusers and attempt to offer services and rehabilitation to the child.          
We are attempting to establish Girl’s Court to address those charged with prostitution AND those who are in danger of becoming involved in that lifestyle. We believe that establishing a specialized court for these girls is imperative.  By using a collaborative approach, we believe we can have greater success in identifying these girls and provide more specific services to meet their individual needs. 
Our focus is on the female offenders in the juvenile justice system. We propose to be gender RESPONSIVE, not just gender specific.  We acknowledge that there are historical, societal and individual factors which differentiate the female offenders from the males. This collaborative court will include not only those girls found to be actively engaged in sexual trafficking , but also those who may be at risk of becoming victims of sexual exploitation. Risk factors may include a history of sexual or physical abuse. Other risk factors may be family instability, substance abuse by parents, girls who identify as lesbian, bisexual or transgender, family or parental rejection, homelessness or poverty, etc.
As a community, we already provide many of the basic living necessities for the people of San Bernardino County. Many of us have dedicated our professional lives to the public through our individual departments. We have chosen public service for a reason.  We have an interest in our community and we are invested in its well-being and are proud of our opportunity and ability to help others. As public servants, we know the value of giving and investing time and energy into all individuals because making one person stronger benefits society as a whole.
The Girl’s Court we propose would provide consistent supportive services in an attempt to redirect and empower young women who come before the juvenile delinquency court. We envision females as leaders in this court. In addition, we will strive for consistent and more frequent proceedings than those currently utilized (normally, after a crime is found true, the juvenile court may often place the juvenile offender on  probation for a one-year period without intervening court appearances unless there is an identified/reported problem).
However, when a young girl is referred to this court, she will find that the judge, the Deputy DA and her attorney will be knowledgeable on the subject of human trafficking and sexual exploitation and indicators that put her at risk.  With an understanding of the girl’s specific needs, the court staff will provide education, support, and encouragement.
The collaborative nature of this court may include several different county agencies. These young women have likely suffered trauma. They may suffer from depression or other mental issues. We hope to involve mental health professionals who can offer them treatment. They also have physical medical issues and will benefit from family planning professionals who can treat them for pregnancies, STDs, birth control
 They will have issues with substance abuse and often will begin using drugs to “escape” from trauma endured. Substance abuse counseling should be offered. Many have had their education interrupted and will need tutors or credit recovery experts to assist so that they can earn their high school diploma.
Young women can benefit from classes in self-defense. They may also need help with issues of bullying and other issues affecting self-esteem. They will likely benefit from exposure to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. They may need shelter, food, clothing and assistance and support if they are asked to participate in the prosecution of their pimps. County agencies such as the Probation Department, Behavioral Health, Children’s Fund and Network, Public Health or Arrowhead Regional Medical Center may be willing and able to contribute time, professional services or other resources for the benefit of these girls. This short list is not exhaustive and we welcome participation from any agency or department capable and willing to help.
The girls we intend to serve are not always easily helped. They have often experienced bonding with their abusers, similar to domestic violence survivors. Often they are not “ready” to be “saved.” Working with these young ladies can be challenging. They may run away, they may lie, etc.  When we become enlightened and knowledgeable, working together with consistency we have a better chance of reaching them as soon as possible. 
We’ve all heard the parable of the Starfish:

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, "I'm saving these starfish, Sir."

The old man chuckled aloud, "Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?"

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, "I made a difference to that one!"

So, when you heard the terms “prostitute,” “hooker,” and “whore,” you may have imagined a sloppy, drug addicted immoral woman. Or, maybe you thought of a glamorous lady like the one in the film Pretty Woman who got Richard Gere by the end of the movie. When you thought about the term “pimp” you may have thought of Snoop Dogg, etc or other glamorized and glorified public images and Halloween costumed fun.

Hopefully now you will add to those images and think of the many young women in our community who have fallen victim to this lifestyle. You will remember that they are children and cannot legally consent to sex. That sex between these children and adult males is not an act of consent but an act of sexual molestation or rape.
AND, when you think of those children, you will also remember that they are young ladies who matter in our community. They deserve our attention and assistance. With proper tools and patience we may be able to help them achieve a different life, with a new and brighter future.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

In The News: San Bernardino County DA blasts Jon Stewart over Victorville man’s death

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos on Wednesday publicly criticized television personality Jon Stewart for comments he made Monday about an incident in which a Victorville man died following a skirmish with a sheriff’s deputy.

On Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Stewart blasted those coming to the defense of former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, the grand jury’s decision not to indict him in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and the riots and protests that ensued following the decision.

Stewart was particularly vocal about critics who said the issue was an isolated incident, not a civil rights issue, and those who accused protesters of “race arson.”

And that’s where the Victorville incident came in.

“I get what you’re saying. This is an isolated incident, like the police shootings of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, or Dante Parker in San Bernardino County, or Kendreck McDade in Pasadena, or Armand Bennett in New Orleans, or John Crawford in . . . What time does (Stephen) Colbert start?” Stewart cracked during the segment.

Stewart went on to joke that the incidents are “clearly not a manifestation of systemic inequality and mistrust between the African-American community and the somehow always justified police-American community,” and that they were “merely an unending, bizarrely similar series of isolated incidents.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire story at The Sun


San Bernardino DA Gives Jon Stewart Tongue Lashing For Monologue About ‘Deadly’ Deputy Shooting


San Bernardino County DA rails against Jon Stewart in YouTube video

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

District Attorney Mike Ramos Speaks Out in Support of Law Enforcement and Corrects Jon Stewart of the Daily Show

On Monday, December 1, 2014, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show incorrectly stated that officers shot Dante Parker—using this local incident to fuel the #Ferguson debate. Hear District Attorney Ramos’ response to Mr. Stewart, as well as his thoughts on the brave men and women who risk their lives every day to protect our communities.