Blackout On Rodriguez Trial Information As Its Political Nature Grows Apparent

The San Bernardino County and Victorville political and legal establishments this week grew both self-conscious and secretive with regard to the ongoing effort to prosecute Victorville City Councilwoman Blanca Gomez’s associate, Robert Daniel Rodriguez, on what were originally six, but have now been reduced to five, misdemeanor counts relating to his public comportment.
At display in the prosecution is the degree to which governmental officials, a cross section of politicians as well as elements within the sheriff’s department, in cooperation with District Attorney Jason Anderson, are accurately, though nevertheless selectively, presenting a version of events to cast Rodriguez in a rather unattractive light. By extension, Gomez is being demonized, while prosecutors are shielding as best they can from the scrutiny of both the jury and the public actions by one of Gomez’s chief political rival’s closest associates, that being the husband of Gomez’s political nemesis, Victorville Mayor Debra Jones.
The Rodriguez trial and the trial of Gomez which is to follow is a classic pitting of a group of coordinated, sophisticated, enabled, powerful and well-heeled government insiders against two pathetically naive perennial outsiders, whose command of protocol and the law is so poor as to be virtually nonexistent. Yet, the expectation that Rodriguez would simply collapse under the weight of the prosecutorial authority of the state that is being brought to bear on him and in doing so would set the stage for Gomez’s undoing as a political entity has not yet been met. Aided by a still wet-behind-the-ears deputy public defender, Rodriguez in carrying out his Hail Mary defense is angling toward, if not acquitting himself of the charges lodged against him, exposing the double standard that those who wield the gavel of public authority employ in maintaining their positions of public trust and the degree to which the lawgivers in San Bernardino County – the county’s largest law enforcement agency and the prosecutor’s office – are willing to go to ward off challenges to the county’s dominating class which controls the public treasury from which those entities’ budgetary allowances are made.
Gomez, a political neophyte with an imperfect understanding, at best, with regard to the function of local government, was elected to the Victorville City Council in 2016. A Democrat and social activist convinced that Hispanics have been historically oppressed by the white population in California and elsewhere in the United States, she was intent on crusading for the enablement and ascendancy of Latinos and Latinas at each turn. With a chip on her shoulder that is an outgrowth of her belief that the Anglos are inveterately intent on exploiting Hispanics at every opportunity, she routinely takes recourse in accusing those taking issue with her efforts and approach of having racist motivation. Complicating the situation in general is that the position to which she was elected – the Victorville City Council – is a panel of relatively modest authority in comparison to her grand political objectives, one that is dedicated to overseeing municipal government in Victorville, with its most notable reach being the ultimate authority on local land use decision and having last say with regard to the city’s budget. Gomez’s focus was elsewhere, as she was intent on promoting the interests of Hispanics, and crusading against the injustices – within the legal system, economically and at large – she was convinced were being perpetrated against disadvantaged minorities by the white establishment.
Victorville was a poor venue for such a crusade. Together with the City of Colton, Victorville stood as one of two of the counties 24 municipalities historically – at least going back over the previous 45 years – in which not only had the sleeping Hispanic political giant awakened but where the community at large had embraced and enabled its Latino element to be assimilated into the governmental and larger social structure. In 1976, when Victorville had formed what was for all intents and purposes its first modern professional fire department, shedding the essentially volunteer fire department that had come into being first in 1926 and which was assimilated by the city upon its 1962 incorporation, it had turned to Rudolfo Cabriales, a one-time border patrol agent with the Immigration and Naturalization Service who had transitioned to a career as a firefighter in his hometown of Calexico before rising to become the fire chief of Coachella in Riverside County. Victorville officials convinced Cabriales to relocate to Victorville and become the city’s first bonafide fire chief. In the 24 years before Gomez was elected, Victorville had elected to its city council, which was during that nearly quarter of a century the most stable of city/town councils in the county with least amount of council member turnover, five Hispanic members – Felix Diaz, Angela Valles, Gloria Garcia, Eric Negrete and Cabriales after he had retired as fire chief. Two years after Gomez was elected, the city elected another Hispanic council member, Rita Ramirez. And two years later, when Gomez was reelected, another Latina, Elizabeth Becerra, was elected to the council. Neither Gomez nor anyone else could credibly assert that Hispanics in Victorville had been politically disenfranchised. What was more, those Latinos and Latinas who had made it onto the council, or a majority of them, were members of the city’s dominant Republican political establishment. Every bit as much as their white counterparts, Cabriales, Valles, Garcia, Negrete and Becerra were not just members or even members in good standing of the Victorville’s GOP vanguard but leaders within that establishment. Theirs was an approach that called for policies that limited government interference with, and allowed expansion of, the private sector as means of enhancing the community’s economic development to provide entrepreneurial and employment opportunities across the board, enabling business owners and their employees to prosper. This clashed with the Democratic approach, which entailed substantial governmental regulation of businesses, higher taxation and what most Republicans considered to be a too-expensive and cumbersome social welfare system that placed burdens on small businesses that greatly increased their chances of failure.
Nearly from the outset of her tenure in office, Gomez clashed with all of her fellow and sister officeholders. The situation was exacerbated by Gomez’s oftentimes antagonistic and contentious style often involving provocative acts, as when she draped herself in a Mexican flag during a council meeting. Even more than this put her at odds with the Anglo members of the council, it really rubbed the Hispanic Republican members of the city council the wrong way. Gloria Garcia, who was mayor throughout Gomez’s entire first term on the council, and former Councilman Eric Negrete, who was on the council for the first two years Gomez was a council member, along with current Councilwoman Elizabeth Becerra all consider Gomez’s tactics embarrassing and counterproductive, holding her in particular contempt.
Garcia as mayor had continual confrontations and showdowns with Gomez, whose lack of knowledge and respect for parliamentary protocol formed the basis of multiple heated exchanges with the mayor, and occasions where Garcia called upon deputies with the sheriff’s department, who served in the capacity of sergeants-at-arms during council meetings, to forcibly remove Gomez from the council dais and the meeting chamber.
In 2020, with 22 candidates vying for three positions on the council up for election/reelection, Garcia failed to gain reelection, while the voters retained Gomez. Thereafter, the council in choosing from among its ranks a new mayor, bypassed Gomez, despite the considerations that at that point she was the longest serving member of the council and that tenure on the council was traditionally a criterion in conferring the honorific of mayor on one of the council members. The mayor’s gavel was instead presented to Debra Jones, who was elected to the council in 2018, two years after Gomez’s maiden election. Like Garcia before her, Jones as mayor has had a testy relationship with Gomez.
Elected to the Victorville City Council along with Jones in 2018 was Rita Ramirez. Ramirez is a Democrat. On some issues, Ramirez was in consonance with Gomez, and Ramirez’s presence on the council to a degree reduced Gomez’s isolation. In the 2020 election, the voters returned Gomez to office, while turning Garcia out. Also elected in 2020 were Leslie Irving, a Democrat, and Becerra, a Republican. For the first time in more than a generation, the Democrats, in December 2020 after the new members of the council were sworn in, were in ascendancy on the Victorville City Council. That circumstance proved short-lived, as Ramirez, who had injured her foot in a December 2019 fall in which internal bruising occurred but initially went undetected, was forced to undergo a series of foot and then lower leg amputations in early 2020 and had thereafter been brought by her grown son to the family’s vacation home in Twentynine Palms to recover. Based upon Ramirez’s failure to attend an extended number of council meetings, she was voted off the council in March of this year, on a 3-to-2 vote, with Jones, Becerra and Irving prevailing and Ramirez and Gomez dissenting. Since that time, the council has remained at four-fifths strength, as Republicans Jones and Becerra are not willing to accept any Democrat Irving and Gomez would support and Irving and Gomez are unwilling to put into office any Republican whom Jones and Becerra might support.
Despite the low regard Gomez is held in by her council colleagues, her message has nevertheless resonated with a cross section of the community, which redounded to her 2020 reelection to the council.
At present, 27,489 or 44.2 percent of Victorville’s 62,226 voters are registered as Democrats, while 14,620 or 23.5 percent are registered Republican and 13,779 or 22.1 percent express no party affiliation. The remaining 10.2 percent of the city’s voters identify as members of the Peace & Freedom, American Independent, Green, Libertarian or other more obscure political parties. Despite the substantial voter registration advantage the Democrats have over them, Republicans in Victorville, as elsewhere in the county, have continued to remain politically viable and ascendant by outhustling the Democrats, better and more sophisticated party and campaign organization, superior fundraising efforts and more aggressive campaigning during election season, stronger appeals to independent voters and concentrated efforts to drive Republican voters to the polls or to vote by mail, such that Republican voter turnout is roughly twice that of Democrats or better. In the face of all of this, Gomez has nevertheless found a niche in Victorville, and she has a coterie of supporters who can be counted upon to turn out at public events and meetings, closing ranks with her and fending off the occasional attacks vectored at her from her opponents or those who have taken umbrage at the way she conducts herself.
Among those is Rodriguez, who had become, by early this year, a mainstay at city council meetings.
As events fell out, the manner in which Gomez and Rodriguez, as one of her primary political supporters, conduct themselves presented Gomez’s opponents an opportunity to take her down a peg or two.
On June 2, on the premises of the Panera Bread bakery-café at 11838 Amargosa Road in Victorville while both Gomez and Rodriguez were having lunch there, Rodriguez, somewhat ill-advisedly, began vaping. Things grew confrontational when an employee asked him to step out of the café because neither smoking nor vaping is allowed indoors at commercial establishments in Victorville. Sheriff’s deputies soon arrived, and amidst Gomez making a patented claim of racism while using her cell phone to videotape the incident and Rodriguez declining to identify himself to the responding officers, both Gomez and Rodriquez were detained by the deputies, Rodriquez for “trespassing” by having vaped and Gomez for “assault,” by having videotaped the Panera Bread employees.
The sheriff’s department provides contract law enforcement services to the City of Victorville as its de facto police department. Gomez phoned Victorville Sheriff’s Station Captain John Wickum, to complain about the treatment she and Rodriguez had been subjected to. Both Gomez and Rodriguez, who had been handcuffed and placed into a sheriff’s vehicle until he was released upon deputies succeeding in identifying him, were cited but not taken into custody.
On July 6, during the Victorville City Council meeting, a fracas broke out when city officials became warily regardful of Rodriguez, and Mayor Debra Jones called for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies who were on standby to maintain order at the council meeting to take action, to which Rodriguez reacted vocally and loudly. As a consequence, he was forcefully removed from the council chambers by the deputies on the scene.
On July 20, while she was presiding over that evening’s council meeting, Mayor Jones objected to Rodriguez, who was wearing a hat and what appeared to be a ski mask while sitting near Jones’ husband in the gallery within the council chamber, using a device to video-record the meeting. The circumstance was complicated by the consideration that Jones’ husband was also, apparently, recording the meeting, which was remarked upon by City Attorney Andre de Bortnowsky. Gomez, sitting at her position on the council dais to Jones’ right with Councilwoman Irving between them, was also using a camera to video-record. Mayor Jones vectored sheriff’s deputies to Rodriguez, after which a confrontation between deputies and Rodriguez ensued, with Gomez making verbal note that Mr. Jones was not being dealt with by deputies in the way in which Rodriguez was, and that she had herself video-recorded that discrepancy. When Gomez left her place at the council dais to move into the gallery, an altercation with deputies took place, and both she and Rodriguez were arrested.
On November 1, in a complaint sworn out and filed by Deputy District Attorney Britt Imes, Rodriguez was charged with two counts of obstructing a police officer/resisting arrest; two counts of disturbing a public meeting, conspiracy to commit a crime and disrupting a business operation – stemming from his actions on June 2, July 6 and July 20, 2021.
In a separate complaint, Imes on behalf of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and the People of the State of California charged Gomez with one misdemeanor count of PC148(a)1, resisting, obstructing or delaying of a peace officer and one misdemeanor count of PC242 – battery, both stemming from the June 2 incident and additionally charged her with two misdemeanor counts of PC148(a)1 – resisting, obstructing or delaying of a peace officer and one count of PC403 – disturbance of a public meeting, relating to her action on July 20. Gomez was not criminally charged in the goings-on of July 6.
While Gomez and Rodriguez are considered codefendants with regards to the crimes they are alleged to have engaged in on June 2 and July 20, Rodriquez, remarkably, has not waived his right to a speedy trial. He is therefore being tried separately from Gomez, who has consented to a delay.
At the very least, the criminal filing against Gomez and her sidekick was intended take Gomez aback, knock the wind out of her sails and illustrate in no uncertain terms that she is not the force driving things in Victorville or anywhere else. It was hoped that the criminal filing would do more than that; on top of the cascade of negative publicity Gomez had already sustained, it was figured that criminal charges, the publicity of a trial and an eventual conviction might very well bring to a close Gomez’s run as a politician, rendering her reelection to the council in 2024 or election to any other office highly unlikely. It went without saying that it was governmental authority that was in control. It was no secret that Gomez was penurious and Rodriguez was equally impoverished. Neither had the means to secure top drawer nor even middle drawer legal representation. Gomez, in her function as a city official, long before had demonstrated she hadn’t a jot of procedural expertise, and there was nothing to suggest she or Rodriguez knew anything about the law. Both were on a track, or so it seemed, to perdition.
In less than a month, however, Rodriguez was able to reverse the tables.
Under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the criminally accused have a right to a speedy trial. In accordance with California law and precedent, a speedy trial is defined as within 60 days of being charged for felonies and 30 days for misdemeanors. Since the complaint against Rodriguez had been executed on November 1, prosecutors had until, presumably, December 1 to initiate the trial. Meanwhile the cases against Gomez and Rodriguez during the month of November had wended their procedural way into the courtrooms of no fewer than six judges – David Driscoll, Christopher Pallone, Kawika Smith, Dwight Moore, Scott Seeley and Ronald Gilbert, all of whom at some level recognized the matter for the political show event that is and most of whom wanted nothing to do with it. One by one each managed, or seemed to manage, to slip out from underneath it as the procedure moved on into the courtroom of the next jurist. With each succeeding day, the December 1 deadline loomed closer and closer and Rodriguez had not waived his right to a speedy trial. The assumption on the prosecutorial side was that given his lack of sophistication and the degree to which he was ill-equipped to engage in any sort of criminal defense, Rodriguez would naturally want to delay the proceedings. November turned to December.
On December 1, the case against Rodriguez had made its way into the courtroom of a seventh judge – Judge John Vander Feer. Representing Rodriguez was Deputy Public Defender Matthew Canty. Deputy District Attorney Justin Crocker, who was not in the courtroom but was appearing telephonically, told Judge Vander Feer the prosecution was not ready for trial, had never indicated it was ready for trial, and had not secured its witnesses.
On December 2, again before Judge Vander Feer, Canty was representing Rodriguez. The prosecutor’s office, which had so confidently filed the matter a month and a day previously, had scrambled to get there. The lawyer who it was intended would take the matter to trial, assuming it went to trial, was Deputy District Attorney Jason Wilkinson. Wilkinson, however, was engaged elsewhere. Appearing on behalf of the People of the State of California was Supervising Deputy District Attorney Britt Imes, who had filed the case against Gomez and Rodriguez.
Imes original involvement in the case had been more of a psychological tactic than anything else. For more than a decade-and-a-half, Imes has functioned as one of the district attorney’s office’s leading prosecutors, assigned to some of the most serious matters in the county – murders, multiple murders, gangland activity involving lifetime criminals trafficking in massive amounts of narcotics or participating in layered conspiracies. No one seriously contemplated having him following through on the prosecution of misdemeanors normally reserved for recently hired deputy prosecutors who had just passed the bar, let alone minor issues involving vaping in a public place or speaking out of turn or too loudly at council meeting. With Imes there, Judge Vander Feer on the morning of December 2 determined that the parties were ready to go to trial and assigned the case to Judge Kawika Smith in Victorville Department 5.
The selection of Judge Kawika Smith was an interesting one. He had been on the bench on December 2 four months to the day, having been elevated to a judgeship by Governor Gavin Newsom in July, whereupon he was sworn in on August 2. A Democrat, he had spent his entire law career previously in San Bernardino County as a member of the public defender’s office, where he had been hired in 1995 and where he had been promoted to a supervisor in 2014. As someone who was accustomed to defending the criminally accused, Judge Smith as jurist with the San Bernardino County Superior Court was somewhat akin to a fish on land. Throughout the San Bernardino County court system the watchword has long been that the benefit of the doubt should be provided to those who represent the law and advocate on behalf of its enforcement and application – police officers, sheriff’s deputies and the prosecutor’s office – and that technicalities in the law should not be applied or interpreted to allow the guilty to walk free. In the San Bernardino County Superior Court, a consistent standard is that the accused are entitled to a presumption of innocence only upon each making a demonstration of that innocence. While Governor Newsom’s appointment entitled Judge Smith to his place on the bench, he yet needs, to be granted full entrance into the inner sanctum of Brethren and Sistren arbiters who embody the traditional spirit of San Bernardino County’s ultimate lawgivers, to demonstrate that he is prepared to function in accordance with the values of the Victorville and High Desert political and legal establishment and hold accountable those who break the law and defy the conventions of decent society and the Republican ethos that is in ascendancy locally. As such, he was under tremendous pressure to keep the prosecution of Rodriguez and Gomez on track.
Judge Smith had no idea that Rodriguez’s trial was to commence that day in his courtroom until literally minutes before it began and he learned that Judge Vander Feer has assigned the matter to him forthwith.
Judge Smith’s first major test came that day, December 2, when Gomez was present in the courtroom as an observer of the process to mete out justice to Rodriguez. The prosecutors, seizing upon the prospect that Gomez might be a witness in the case, wanted her removed. Judge Smith ordered Gomez to not have contract with the other potential witnesses, and she was ordered as well to not enter the courthouse parking lot or the courthouse until further notice of the court. The court minutes hinted at the elements of Gomez’s personality and relationship with authority that had led to that juncture, stating, ‘The record will reflect that Blanca Gomez absconded from the courtroom while the court was giving orders to her and was returned to the courtroom by the bailiff. Also, while the court was giving orders to Blanca Gomez, her back was turned to the court.”
Judge Smith’s second test came on December 6, when he heard Canty’s arguments with regard to a Penal Code 1382 motion he had filed, which propounded that the case against Rodriguez had to be dismissed because his right to a speedy trial had been violated. Though he had sufficient grounds for granting the motion given that more than thirty days had elapsed from the filing of the charges against Rodriguez and the commencement of his trial, Judge Smith denied that motion, reasoning that Rodriguez had been arraigned on November 3 and the disheveled shuffling of Imes into his courtroom on December 2 sufficed as the beginning of Rodriguez’s trial.
An atmosphere of show trial spectacle hovers about the case. Not one, not two, not three but four prospective jury fields were hurriedly put together by the court as potential panels to assess Rodriguez’s guilt or innocence and brought into the courtroom, the first on December 2. After questioning of the men and women, known as voir dire, began, two of those prospective jurors were dismissed, but the balance returned the next day, a Friday. The day ended without a jury and alternates being chosen. On Monday, December 6, the jurors from the previous Thursday and Friday, referred to as Panel A, had returned, augmented by another set of potential jurors, that being Panel B. They waited outside the courtroom while inside the courtroom Canty asserted that the prosecution should be banned from calling any of its scheduled witnesses because the prosecution had not provided timely disclosure of those witnesses to the defense team, which has a right under state evidentiary rules and the U.S. Constitution to examine ahead of time the information, evidence and witnesses to be used by the prosecution. Judge Smith denied that motion.
The focus of the court, the prosecution and the defense then returned to the jury panels. Canty made a motion to dismiss all of the jurors because of an apparent error by the court prejudicial to the defendant. Judge Smith dismissed all of the jurors, both Panel A and Panel B.
On December 7, Wilkinson and Canty engaged in some low intensity legal sparring, and Judge Smith agreed to hold a bail hearing for Rodriguez the next day.
Early on December 8, Judge Smith heard from Canty that witnesses he considered crucial to the case and whom he intended to call – Mayor Debra Jones; Mayor Jones’ husband, Ernest Jones; Victorville City Manager Keith Metzler; Victorville City Attorney Andre de Bortnowsky; Assistant to the City Manager Jenelle Davidson; and Victorville Municipal Purchasing Services Manager John Mendiola – were resisting having to testify and were ducking subpoenas. There was discussion relating to juror confidentiality issues, apparently pertaining to potential tainting of the jury pool by the prosecution and members of the Victorville political establishment hostile to Gomez and therefore hostile to Rodriguez.
Thereafter the court and attorneys devoted themselves to considering a third group of prospective jurors present that day, designated Panel C. Due to undisclosed considerations, Panel C in its entirely was dismissed.
Canty made a motion for dismissal based upon due process violations, which was taken under submission by Judge Smith.
A fourth jury panel was considered, and after questioning and the dismissal of one of the prospective jurors, a jury to hear the case was impaneled and sworn in. The complaint against Rodriguez was read in open court.
Ultimately, outside the presence of the jury, Judge Smith denied the motion to dismiss the case and during a bond hearing ruled that Rodriguez’s bail would remain in place and he would not be released on his own recognizance.
On December 9, what was considered to be the official sixth day of trial, prior to the jury coming into the courtroom, Judge Smith granted the prosecution’s motion to dismiss one of the resisting arrest/obstructing a police officer charges against Rodriguez. Indications were made that the trial would run, most likely, until December 23.
At 9:08 a.m. the opening statements by the prosecution began, followed by the defense’s opening statements, all of which were concluded by 9:37 a.m.
Thereafter came the testimony of Maria Weatherby, an employee at the Victorville Panera Bread bakery-café.
Upon Weatherby’s testimony concluding, prosecution witness Robert Harriman began his testimony. His testimony upon conclusion was followed by testimony from another prosecution witness, Jorge Duran. Duran’s testimony had not concluded when the day’s court proceedings ended.
Duran returned to testify early Friday, December 10.
A video of the June 2 incident at Panera Bread café was played for the jury. Duran’s testimony resumed and a second video was played for the jury. Hearings were held outside the presence of the jury. Duran’s testimony before the jury resumed.
Further off-the-record exchanges occurred involving the judge, prosecutor and defense.
After 3 p.m. a second amended criminal complaint against Rodriguez was read.
Duran resumed his testimony after further off-the-record discussion, Canty made a motion to dismiss the charges against his client. Judge Smith denied the motion after the prosecution argued in opposition.
The trial resumed this week on Monday, December 13 and continued through Friday.
By Monday, the court had become extremely self conscious about the proceedings against Rodriguez to the point that in its routine record keeping of the proceeding, it grew apprehensively secretive. Whereas the court minutes had previously been forthcoming in disclosing the nature of the discussion between the attorneys and the court, including either generic or precise descriptions of the motions made and the court’s rulings, that specificity ended abruptly on December 13. Included in the informational blackout were identifications of the witnesses testifying.
It is unknown, precisely, what triggered the court cutting off the informational flow relating to the Rodriguez trial. Of some embarrassment to the court, apparently, is what was termed the “squandering” of an increasingly important court resource, that being jury panels, during the current circumstance involving limitations brought on by the COVID crisis. The San Bernardino County Superior Court has consistently evoked emergency orders suspending defendants’ rights to speedy trials on matters of far greater seriousness than the low-level misdemeanors under examination in the Rodriguez case. Earlier this year, the court and the prosecutor’s office three times refused to accommodate a defendant, charged with murder and three felony enhancements, who has insisted upon going to trial at once without any further waiving of his right to a speedy trial. That defendant was denied a speedy trial on the basis of the court’s assertion that the COVID-19 circumstance made it so a courtroom for such a lengthy trial could not be secured and a jury to hear the case could not be impaneled. In contrast, in Rodriguez’s case, involving what were originally six misdemeanors which on a granted motion from the prosecution has been reduced to five misdemeanor counts, the court indulged the prosecution in facilitating bringing the matter to trial at once, recruiting not just one but four prospective juries to hear the case, dismissing three of those panels after they were brought to the courthouse and seated in Judge Smith’s courtroom.
As of Monday, virtually the only information available from the court record is that proceedings were held, Judge Smith was the judicial officer, Doreen Smith served as the judge’s assistant, Michelle Swal, Sara Guillen, Numia Fata and Tracy Nestle were the court reporters, S. Himes served as the bailiff, that Rodriguez was present and in custody and that Wilkinson and Canty appeared for the prosecution and defense, respectively, with Imes substituting for Wilkinson on December 15.
Reportedly, Judge Smith, while adhering to the expectation that he allow the criminal proceedings to continue, has grown highly disturbed at the manner in which he and his courtroom have been utilized to straitjacket Rodriguez into a criminal case ultimately aimed at criminalizing Gomez for her political activity, lack of social grace, dearth of politesse and general incivility, which while grating and aggravating, do not rise to the level of criminal behavior. Hence the change in the openness and transparency with which the proceedings in Judge Smith’s courtroom were formerly reported on the county’s court website, such that now he is limiting to the greatest extent that he can the damage to his reputation to be wrought as he presides over what larger and larger numbers of the county’s residents now recognize as a political prosecution. Nevertheless, in virtually all of his rulings Judge Smith comes across as bending over backwards to accommodate the district attorney’s office.
With the restriction on information emanating from the courtroom, it is largely unknown to what degree Judge Smith will ultimately comply with the wishes of the San Bernardino County/Victorville political establishment, which has put a high premium on getting convictions against first Rodriguez and then Gomez, and simultaneously limit Canty in the current trial from exploring, with regard to the July 20 incident, the comportment of others on the opposite side of the political divide between Gomez and her political rivals, in particular Mayor Jones’s husband Ernest Jones, who engaged in activity no differently than Rodriguez and were not themselves arrested, charged or in any fashion held to account for their behavior.
-Mark Gutglueck

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