Calaveras County District Attorney Barbara Yook has accused Calaveras County Superior Court Judge Tim Healy of bias in favor of a public defender, of bias against her office, and of re-victimizing a domestic violence victim by chastising her in court.
Yook and the District Attorney’s Office have filed multiple motions to disqualify Healy from about 35 cases in which he is the judge and in which April Scott is the public defender.
According to a court transcript of an Oct. 19 arraignment included in one of the motions, Healy said in court, “Because there is one person in this courtroom I trust more than anybody else whose (sic) an attorney. Ms. Scott. I will take her word over almost anybody’s in this room. Period. That’s the first time I have ever said that. Nobody has heard that. I believe her.”
Yook says in the motion, filed Oct. 23, that Healy’s statement demonstrated his trust in Scott over any other attorney, including prosecuting attorneys with her office. Unconditional bias for a criminal defense attorney in any case equates to prejudice against the District Attorney’s prosecutors.
Healy could not immediately be reached for comment. Scott, who works for a Madera-based law firm, Richard A. Ciummo & Associates, did not respond to messages seeking comment.
In the Oct. 19 arraignment, Healy was talking to a domestic violence victim, whose alleged attacker was being defended by Scott and prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office. Ernest Lee Provencio Jr., 53, of Valley Springs, is accused of domestic violence, resisting arrest, and two counts of violating a restraining order. The four misdemeanors stem from arrests earlier in October.
Yook says that in addition to Healy openly stating his bias in favor of Scott, he demonstrated his bias toward Scott that same day by relying solely on Scott’s representations to make incorrect assumptions and draw incorrect conclusions about the victim’s conduct and motivations.
First Scott said, “(T)he victim in this case has been challenging in terms of either setting up a civil stand-by or even allowing a third party to pick up some belongings for Mr. Provencio …”
Civil stand-by is a legal term for when a law enforcement officer is assigned to escort a person to a home to claim belongings, in the event there is disagreement about who owns what.
A few moments later, Healy told the victim, “I want you to understand something. I have no jurisdiction over you. Okay? … You have been less than cooperative. I would suggest that you change your attitude. … (T)here have been some problems. No question. But that does not give you the right to take and keep his things, his items, his toothbrush, his clothes. Listen to me. Don’t answer.”
At that moment, according to Yook’s motion, the victim looked like she was about to cry, she was raising her hand to let the judge know she wanted to speak, and she was shaking her head no, in disagreement with Healy’s statements to her.
Healy did not let the woman speak and raised his voice and pointed his finger at the victim, Yook says. That is when Healy doubled down on his faith in Scott’s characterization of the victim as less than cooperative with Scott, who was acting on the defendant Provencio’s behalf.
“Because right now that is what I am hearing,” Healy said. “That he tried to have a civil stand-by and you refused. That he tried through his attorney to try to get some of his things. And don’t you dare tell me that she didn’t. Because there is one person in this courtroom I trust more than anybody else whose (sic) an attorney. Ms. Scott.”
According to Yook, Healy concluded the victim didn’t want the defendant to have his belongings, based on Scott’s representations of what happened. Healy initially disregarded a prosecutor’s first request to let the victim speak, saying, “He was simply trying to get his stuff.” When the prosecutor again asked if the victim could speak, Healy said “I want her to know how I feel,” and told her to go ahead and speak.
The victim said she did not want to keep Provencio’s belongings from him, and she was in favor of a civil stand-by. Yook says the victim’s supposed lack of cooperation was a misunderstanding by Scott that Provencio’s things were in a pantry at the victim’s home, when in fact the defendant’s things were at a location in Valley Springs called “The Pantry.”
Cathe Howell, the Victim Services coordinator for the District Attorney’s Office, said the victim looked like she was about to cry when Healy was chastising her, and later, when leaving the courtroom, she did begin crying and shaking while she said, “I have never felt so horrified and demeaned. I completely like I was re-victimized by that judge. I never tried to keep him from his things.”
Yook says that because Healy has demonstrated bias in favor of Scott, the District Attorney’s Office cannot receive a fair trial in any case where Scott is the defense attorney and Healy is presiding.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.