Sutter County Superior Court Judge Susan Green denied a motion filed by the defense in a domestic violence case that asked for cell phone numbers used by a Sutter County victim services advocate during 2021. The motion alleged that the advocate communicated with an alleged victim about how to have the defendant arrested and how to obtain a restraining order.

Jose L. Garcia-Reyes, 35, of Live Oak, was arrested in August and charged with two counts of inflicting corporal injury. He has been out of custody since posting bail. Attorney Roberto Marquez filed a motion to compel discovery on Nov. 12 and Green denied the motion on Monday.

In October, Green held Garcia-Reyes to answer on both counts after a preliminary hearing. Assistant District Attorney Cameron King said the alleged victim and Deputy Harvir Randhawa testified during the hearing. His jury trial has been scheduled for May 2022.

The motion alleged that the victim in the case was verbally and physically aggressive toward Garcia-Reyes and accused him of being unfaithful. Garcia-Reyes said that the victim fabricated the allegations of domestic violence and threatened Garica-Reyes with the victim’s relationship with Sutter County Victim Services Advocate Juan Escobar.

“[The victim] threatened me telling me she would falsely accuse me of domestic violence and Mr. Escobar would help getting me prosecuted,” the motion read.

Escobar and the victim would communicate by cell phone meaning Escobar’s 2021 cell phone records could reveal their relationship and corroborate the threats made by the victim, according to the motion.

The Sutter County District Attorney’s Office opposed the motion and Green denied the motion, according to King.

“The essence of our opposition was that the requested discovery (which was ‘any and all cellular telephone numbers utilized by’ our victim services advocate during the entire year of 2021) would not lead to any relevant evidence in the criminal case against his client,” King said in an email.

Sutter County District Attorney Amanda Hopper said victim services advocates are provided with a work cell phone so that they can be reached by victims, witnesses, law enforcement and medical staff anytime of the day or night, as needed to provide services.

“Advocates, as with any employee of the district attorney’s office, cannot comment on the specific facts of cases,” Hopper said in an email. “Part of their job, however, is community outreach and education regarding the criminal justice system and the resources this office provides.”

Hopper said Escobar and the victim have both formally denied the allegations made in the motion.

“The defendant can make allegations, completely without corroboration, knowing that the prosecuting attorneys will not comment on the truth or falsity of the claims because we are committed to preserving the integrity of the criminal prosecution,” Hopper said.

She said the purpose of the Sutter County Victim Services Program is to establish and maintain local comprehensive centers to provide services to victims of violent crimes; reduce the trauma and intensive treatment that victims and witnesses may experience in the wake of crimes; improve the criminal justice system’s understanding of the needs of victims and witnesses and empower victims to participate in the administration of justice; empower victims to recover from the effects of crimes through crisis intervention and related support services; and provide assistance to victims of crimes in applying for state compensation and in seeking restitution.

Yuba County Probation Victim Services Senior Advocate Terri Ayers said advocates of any kind of case try to inform victims of the importance of reporting crimes.

“Criminal cases are public knowledge therefore if a question comes up we would provide the service of informing them of the criminal case pending and any court dates that are coming up,” Ayers said in an email. “We don’t provide legal advice – advising someone how to obtain a restraining order is part of our process of explaining our program services. Outside of our work we do not discuss confidential cases – meaning if they are going through our program (Yuba County) it is confidential.”

Marquez said his request for cell phone records was similar to what police officers request when seeking a warrant to obtain information that might be relevant.

“I think we were unfairly dealt with,” Marquez said.

He said the phone records would have shown communication between Escobar and the alleged victim prior to August.

“Escobar is an employee of the DA so the DA in pursuit of the truth should voluntarily provide his phone records if nothing else to prove she didn’t lie at the preliminary hearing,” Marquez said. “... If Mr. Escobar is not using his position as a victim advocate to help prosecute my client, it seems it would be much easier to be transparent and provide his cell records than to fight the disclosure. Makes me wonder what they’re worried about.”

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