Written by David Greenwald Thursday, 30 August 2012 06:12
He is alleged to have spray painted the word parasite. By pleading no contest to that charge, the Assistant Supervising District Attorney Michael Cabral agreed to dismiss the remaining charges against Mr. Matzat.It is a probation-only deal with an agreement for no state prison and no jail time.
In addition, a restitution hearing is set for October 10, 2012. As part of the terms and conditions, Mr. Matzat's felony conviction would be reduced to a misdemeanor upon full payment of the restitution. The misdemeanor conviction would then be expunged from his record.
Attorneys Tony Serra and Alexis Briggs, told the Vanguard on Tuesday that the restitution includes all of the charged counts, not just the single count he pled to. However, there were some additional pending charges that may have been filed that will not be included.
Mr. Matzat may owe up to $5000, depending on what is determined at the restitution hearing in October.
However, from the perspective of his attorneys, facing five felony counts, it was a no brainer to plead this down to a single count that could be removed from his record ultimately.
Mr. Matzat faced five felony counts of vandalism where damage exceeds $400 under Penal Code 594. There are 14 additional counts of vandalism where the damage does not exceed $400 under the same penal code. And a misdemeanor count of possession of tools or marking substances with intent to commit vandalism.
In July, Mr. Matzat's defense attorney Tony Serra attempted to strike a search warrant of Mr. Matzat's campus residence, arguing that it "was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment in that it was a fishing expedition, subject to a facially deficient warrant that was not based on reasonable or probable cause."
Mr. Serra argued before Judge Rosenberg that the warrant was not based on reasonable or probable cause in that, in part, it was based on a surveillance camera that reportedly captured Mr. Matzat going in and out of a campus restroom during a time period when graffiti occurred within that restroom.
He argued that the video only shows Mr. Matzat going in and out of the restroom for a period of time consistent with normal "bodily functions." He argued that the graffiti term "parasite" is generic.
On August 10, Mr. Matzat's legal team provided evidence of the lack of evidence on the security footage. The footage, shown in court, only shows a hallway leading to an area where the graffiti was found.
Defense argued that when the UC Davis police filed an affidavit to search Mr. Matzat's residence, they created a false timeframe in which the graffiti occurred which eliminated about half an hour of footage from the video. During the time in question at least four other potential suspects are seen walking past the video, including another young male with a large bag.
The police are alleged to have not investigated these other suspects.
The defense argued that there were several errors and omissions of truth in the affidavit the police filed. However, while Judge Rosenberg acknowledged at least two errors, he denied the defense's motion.
Vanguard Commentary: Illustration of Charge Stacking At Work
Last week, a guest Vanguard piece caught the attention of many readers as the issue of charge stacking was discussed.
The case of Thomas Matzat illustrates perfectly the dilemma that many defense attorneys face. The case against Thomas Matzat was marginal at best. It required leaps in assumption by the prosecution and police investigators to be able to tie Mr. Matzat to the timeline presented in the videos.
As the hearing on August 10 demonstrates, it is by no means clear that Mr. Matzat committed the crime or that the prosecution could prove that he did. But Mr. Matzat was facing five felonies, 15 misdemeanors, and as we learned yesterday, at least the possibility of additional charges.
As his attorneys indicated, he had the chance to have those charges reduced to a single felony, a felony that can be removed from his record at a later point in time as soon as he pays off what figures to be an expensive restitution. He serves no time in custody at this point and can have a clean record within the next five years.
His defense attorneys would have been not only crazy but negligent not to take the case.
The District Attorney's office continues to refuse to speak with the Vanguard, however Assistant Supervising Deputy DA Cabral told the Davis Enterprise: "Justice is done. He did the damage and he's taking responsibility for it."
But is justice done, or has the DA's office extorted a pound of flesh from Mr. Matzat by stacking the charges against him and giving him no realistic alternative but to take a plea deal - marginal charges or not?
The Vanguard sat in Judge Rosenberg's court for over three hours on Wednesday, including the case of Mr. Matzat - all but one of the cases before him resolved for plea agreements. The only one that did not was a case where an error was made in the previous court appearance and the judge had not reinstated probation.
The defense clearly understood the stakes and realized that, had they taken this case to trial, given the lack of direct evidence against Mr. Matzat, they probably could have convinced a jury to acquit. But they would have been rolling the dice that they got a reasonable jury and that everything would go right.
Did a vandalism case warrant five felonies and 15 misdemeanors? That issue can be debated for a long time.
With lower stakes, the defense would have probably taken this to case and let a jury decide.
Several people defended the current system during the discussion on the charge stacking article, but it is difficult to defend. Overcharging a relatively minor case, and exposing an individual to sizable prison time in cases that do not warrant it seems problematic. Doing so to entice a plea agreement seems improper.
Unfortunately, the defense here has now rewarded the system whereby the DA can stack charges to extort a plea agreement. Worse yet, who can blame them for doing so?
---David M. Greenwald reporting
Were I in the same circumstance--where I had to put the best appearance on a case where one had invested so much emotional and political capital into this defendant and what he purportedly represented--I'd probably write this column the same way. However, putting lipstick on a pig still makes it a pig.
First, we can now dismiss the qualifier, "alleged." The defendant plead to the charge so he admits the vandalism. He is now a convicted vandal.
The defendant had this high-powered imported defense team representing him. These super lawyers devoted considerable time and effort in publicizing their presence and filing superfluous pre-trial motions, and no discernible effort at actual trial preparation.
To all the contentions that the DA "stacked" the charges (the new trendy term to defame all prosecutions), if any or all of the 15 charges were so flawed, why were they not challenged? The high-profile lawyers would have taken great delight in skewering the Yolo DA and then calling a press conference. But they took the plea, which would have been the same result had the defendant representing himself asked for the DA's best offer. Ask any objective Yolo County defense lawyer if you don't believe that last remark.
This case was assailed as being "marginal" and requiring leaps of assumption to be successfully prosecuted. Presumably, the star defense team would reach the same conclusion and proceed to trial with complete confidence.
Yet,in this writing, immediately following this assessment of prosecution excess and deficiency was a transition to a completely contradictory assessment. The defense accepting the single plea of guilt and not go to trial was judged as a "no brainer." Why, then, did this big-city savvy defense team roll over on such an easy case to fight?
Sympathy is offered to the defendant for his necessity to make a large sum restitution. I'll moderate my pity for the poor guy with another way of looking at the restitution order. This defendant's childish behavior caused monetary damage to the victim(s) of his behavior. So, he should be held accountable, monetarily and criminally.
Even by blog standards, saying the DA extorted a plea was beyond the pale.
Well let's see Siegel, he plead no contest to a graffiti charge and has to pay as much as $5000 depending on the restitution hearing outcome. So I would venture to think that the lesson learned might be that if you plead no contest to a grafitti charge and have to pay the price you might think twice before you put yourself in that position again.
I have managed to avoid having charges stacked against me. Probably because I haven't gratified all over a college campus (this article) or gone on a month long robbery spree where I victimized multiple people (a prior article about charge stacking).
Apparently the judge believed there was merit to the charges against Matzat at the preliminary hearing. If the charges lacked merit they would have been dismissed.
Instead of Davis saying the DA did the right thing here by getting rid of the stacked charges we have another article where where the DA's office has victimized someone. Here we have a example where a non-violent crime is essentially brushed under a rug in the long run, no jail time, no criminal record, and the Vanguard is still complains. There is no look of shock on my face.
"Instead of Davis saying the DA did the right thing here by getting rid of the stacked charges we have another article where where the DA's office has victimized someone. Here we have a example where a non-violent crime is essentially brushed under a rug in the long run, no jail time, no criminal record, and the Vanguard is still complains. There is no look of shock on my face."
So, so well said and so, so true.
The pepper spray incident and the bank blocking had nothing to do with this case. Those charges were not stacked. You clearly did not understand either the charges or this article.
The system eventually caught up up with him. he may be able to get away with the bank blocking or something else, but you do it once too many times....... you're just begging to be made an example of.
He did it. He admits he did it.
The DA offers a more-than-reasonable plea deal, saving the taxpayers and the criminal the expense of a trial and showing compassion for someone who allegedly suffers from illness.
Yet, the Vanguard claims that he could have won in a trial.
It's a completely useless exercise, designed to criticize the criminal justice system (and the people who operate it) using a bunch of smoke and mirrors, catch phrases and fuzzy, contradictory claims.
It's a completely unproveable contention, of course, since there never will be one--supposedly, because that bad ol' district attorney charged him with each of the crimes he committed (instead of shaking them up in a bag and pulling out one). Crimes of which a bad ol' jury would have found him guilty and for which a bad ol' judge would have given him the sentences called for in our bad ol' laws.
Like a drunk in a barroom, "I can beat the crap out of him. Just let me at him. No, no, hold me back."
One less poorly skilled graffiti artist fouling the community. In the end he was treated the same way any other young sophomoric vandal would be punished; fined and ordered to pay restitution, put on probation and given the chance to clear his record should he behave himself and hopefully get back to his studies.
While some see his prosecution as political the prosecution addressed it as apolitical. Now if we can do the same for the bank blockers we can move on to things that are important like getting people who would slash your face to steal your beer off the streets.
"One less poorly skilled graffiti artist fouling the community. In the end he was treated the same way any other young sophomoric vandal would be punished; fined and ordered to pay restitution, put on probation and given the chance to clear his record should he behave himself and hopefully get back to his studies. While some see his prosecution as political the prosecution addressed it as apolitical.
"Now if we can do the same for the bank blockers we can move on to things that are important like getting people who would slash your face to steal your beer off the streets."
I disagree. The bank blockers were instrumental in part of a business having to close down and thereby costing a company revenue and they should have to pay a higher price than a graffiti vandal.
"However, there were some additional pending charges that may have been filed that will not be included."
Do these pending charges ("that may have been filed"--wouldn't you know if charges had been filed?) have anything to do with the incidents about which you've already reported? Or, are these something new and unrelated?
"Did a vandalism case warrant five felonies and 15 misdemeanors? That issue can be debated for a long time."
Maybe it would help us understand the magnitude of his crimes--and, therefore, the logic behind him accepting a deal--if you'd list the allegations. It sounds as though he committed a lot of crimes at different times in different places. It also sounds like he got off easy, having only to pay for the damage he caused and getting no punishment whatsoever.
The criminal could have kept himself from felony charges if he'd limited himself to causing less than $400 damage each time. People contemplating lives of crime need to check ino the laws they plan to break BEFORE they do the deeds.
Do we really want to debate this issue "for a long time"? Sound and fury signifying what?
"In exchange for the plea, the District Attorney’s Office has agreed to dismiss 18 additional vandalism charges — four felonies and 14 misdemeanors — and one count of possessing vandalism tools, also a misdemeanor.The charges stemmed from a series of incidents involving graffiti on walls, windows, bus shelters and restrooms on the UCD campus earlier this year.....
Defense attorney Alexis Briggs, a colleague of Matzat’s lawyer J. Tony Serra, said once Matzat pays the restitution in full, he can petition the court to terminate his probation and reduce the felony vandalism conviction to a misdemeanor. 'I’m relieved for him that this case was resolved in a way that he felt was acceptable,' Briggs said Wednesday.
Matzat — who was one of 10 people arrested prior to the pepper-spraying of seated protesters at an Occupy UC Davis encampment on Nov. 18, 2011 — continues to face charges in connection with the U.S. Bank blockade on campus that led to 12 arrests."
....And, now you know the rest of the story. (From the Enterprise.)
PS--Mr. Matzat cleans up really good. Check out the Enterprise photo, much more flattering than the Vanguard illustration.
Again the Vanguard's pro-defense bias and animus towards the DA is showing. If this defendant were innocent of all charges, and the evidence as flimsy as the Vanguard is suggesting, and the defendant has outstanding defense attorneys working on his behalf, then he should have gone to trial to be exonerated of all charges. But he didn't - instead he plead guilty as charged. Does the Vanguard truly believe this defendant was innocent of all charges? If so, on what basis? Remember, defendants do everything they can to try and make sure they cover up their crimes/are not caught in the act. It is a never ending cat and mouse game between law enforcement and criminals.
Secondly, the prosecution allowed a plea deal that was quite proportional to the crime and allows this defendant to rectify a stupid mistake without damaging his career opportunities. But somehow the DA has been found in the wrong by the Vanguard (no surprise there), for using every legal means available to the DA to get the defendant to agree to a very reasonable plea deal? There are many abuses in plea deals, but this hardly seems a case in point...