SANTA ROSA (BCN) — A Sonoma County Superior Court judge ruled today there is no evidence of vindictive prosecution of a Petaluma teen for obstructing a sheriff’s deputy because the teen’s family filed a civil suit alleging excessive use of force by the sheriff’s deputy who arrested her.
The ruling by Judge Gary Medvigy came after Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Jenica Leonard testified at a hearing this morning.
Leonard testified she decided on Nov. 5 to file the misdemeanor charge against 19-year-old Gabriella Lemos and filed the complaint on Nov. 12. The Lemos family filed the civil suit in San Francisco on Nov. 12.
Lemos was arrested for allegedly obstructing sheriff’s Deputy Marcus Holton outside her Petaluma home on June 14. Holton was responding to a report of a possible domestic violence incident at the Liberty Road residence.
Holton believed a couple in a parked truck on Liberty Road was involved in the domestic disturbance call, according to the sheriff’s office.
Lemos allegedly intervened when Holton opened the door of the truck where her sister Karli and her sister’s boyfriend were sitting, and she allegedly stepped between Holton and the truck when Holton tried to remove her sister.
The deputy’s body camera video of the incident shows Gabrielle Lemos walking toward her house a short time later and Holton forcing her on the ground and handcuffing her. She suffered cuts and bruises on her face and was arrested and booked into Sonoma County Jail.
On Sept. 11, prosecutors said they were not filing a complaint against Lemos. Leonard testified today that the filing was delayed until she could speak to Holton about the case and because chief deputy prosecutors also were reviewing the evidence.
A conviction for the obstructing an officer would prevent the Lemos family from receiving monetary damages in the civil suit.
Medvigy said videos of the incident show the Lemos family was already threatening a civil suit on the night of the altercation.
“The threat of a suit was there from day one,” the judge said. Medvigy said videos of the incident also show “ample evidence” of multiple crimes that night and the deputy had a right to arrest Lemos.
“I find nothing vindictive,” Medvigy said. Medvigy set June 30 for the trial of Lemos and her mother on the misdemeanor obstructing an officer charge.
The Lemos’ attorney Izaak Schwaiger immediately filed a motion to dismiss the charges because of prosecutorial misconduct based on pre-trial publicity and the release of videos of the June confrontation and an audio recording of a jailhouse conversation between Lemos and her mother.