By Mark Gutglueck
Victorville Councilwoman Blanca Gomez’s trial on public disturbance charges has begun as awkwardly and with as much disconcertion as the events which led to her arrests entailed, as the court system must now assimilate the idiosyncratic form of dissent that she has intermixed into her representation of her constituents over the past six years.
At stake in the prosecution of Gomez are differing consequences, including those for the defendant and another set for the array of officials who have put her in the docket. For Gomez, she is at risk of being convicted of three relatively minor misdemeanors, which may or may not harm her political viability going forward. For San Bernardino County and Victorville officialdom, what hangs in the balance is an exposure of the degree to which political insiders and the establishment wield the machinery of government at their command to maintain, or attempt to maintain, the reins of power and perpetuate themselves in their positions of authority.
Already surfacing in the trial are elements and themes indistinguishable from Gomez’s political existence and formulas, ones of a paradoxical amalgamation of Gomez’s own status as a privileged elected official contrasted with her characterization of herself as a disenfranchised member of the community, her naive or virtually nonexistent command of procedure, protocol and the law coupled with her contradictory use of sophisticated cutting edge electronic devices in documenting her public interactions, which inevitably provoke officials and now the court to physically seize those devices, a questionable reaction that has the effect of swinging a segment of public opinion sharply in her favor. The first of the alleged transgressions for which Gomez is being held to account occurred on June 2, 2021 on the premises of the Panera Bread Bakery café at 11838 Amargosa Road in Victorville, where both Gomez and one of her political supporters, Robert Daniel Rodriguez, were having lunch. 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 claim that she and Rodriguez were the victims of racist harassment, she used her cell phone to videotape the incident, which included Rodriguez declining to identify himself to the responding officers. Both Gomez and Rodriquez were detained by the deputies on the basis, the deputies said, that Rodriquez was “trespassing” by having vaped and Gomez had engaged in “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 Rodriguez, who had been handcuffed and placed into a sheriff’s vehicle until he was released upon deputies succeeding in identifying him, and Gomez were cited but not jailed.
The next crime perpetrated by Rodriguez and involving Gomez occurred on July 6, 2021 during that evening’s Victorville City Council meeting. On that occasion, 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, 2021, 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 what appeared to be a cell phone 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 Leslie Irving between them, was also using a camera to video-record the meeting and livestream it to Instagram. 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, 2021 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 but consecutively-numbered 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.
Over the next several weeks the cases against Gomez and Rodriguez 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, some of whom recognized the matter as a political show event and wanted nothing to do with it. One by one each managed to slip out from underneath the cases as the procedures moved on into the courtroom of the next jurist.
While Gomez was persuaded to waive her right to a speedy trial, Rodriguez did not. By December 1, with the 30-day deadline for the beginning of the trial about to elapse, the case against Rodriguez made its way into the courtroom of a seventh judge – Judge John Vander Feer.
Controversy ensued as neither Deputy District Attorney Justin Crocker, who was assigned to both the Gomez case and Rodriguez case, nor his back-up, Deputy District Attorney Jason Wilkinson, acknowledged to the court that they had made absolutely no preparation to put on a case against Rodriguez, had never indicated a readiness for trial, had not secured witnesses for trial and were not ready to go to trial. At the last minute, Imes, one of the district attorney’s office’s leading prosecutors who is almost exclusively 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 – substituted in to replace Wilkinson. On December 2, what some interpreted as two days past the deadline to initiate trial, with Imes present and ready to hold Rodriguez accountable for vaping in a public place or speaking out of turn or too loudly at council meetings, Judge Vander Feer determined that the parties were ready to go to trial and sent the case back to Judge Kawika Smith in Victorville Department 5.
Rodriguez’s defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Matthew Canty, contended the deadline for initiating the trial had elapsed. Judge Smith, who 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 had assigned the matter to him forthwith, ultimately denied Canty’s motion that the case had to be dismissed because more than thirty days had elapsed from the filing of the charges against Rodriguez and the commencement of his trial. Though he had sufficient grounds for granting Cant’s motion, Judge Smith reasoned 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.
At that point, the process for the selection of a jury, including the questioning of prospective jurors, known as voir dire, began.
A demonstration of how determined the political and legal establishment was to proceed against Gomez and Rodriguez, considered a key member of the former’s political support network, came with the dismissal of three jury panels before the opposing sides were able to mutually accept a jury composed of those selected from the fourth jury panel, consisting of five white men, three African-American men, three Hispanic women and an Asian woman, along with two alternate or back-up jurors, an African-American woman and a Hispanic woman. Testimony began on December 9, 2021.
By the end of the trial, which involved ten days of on-again, off-again testimony lasting through and interrupted by the Christmas holiday season, three of the original charges against Rodriguez – two counts of resisting, obstructing or delaying a peace officer and conspiracy to commit a crime – were dismissed with the assonance of the prosecution. Ultimately, on December 29, 2021 the jury returned verdicts of guilty on the trespassing count, not guilty on disrupting the July 6, 2021 meeting and guilty on disrupting the July 20, 2021 meeting.
Nearly thirteen months had elapsed since Rodriguez’s trial when Gomez’s trial began on January 19, Thursday of last week, this time before Judge Katrina West in Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court, a venue outside of Victorville, a gesture at avoiding a tainted jury pool, as jurors drawn from the population of the southwesternmost corner of the county are not likely to be familiar and/or favorably or unfavorably disposed toward the defendant, who is a governmental representative of many of those in the jury pool for the Victorville Courthouse.
On January 19, with District Attorney Justin Crocker present along with Rajan Maline, Gomez’s defense counsel, Judge Katrina West and both the prosecution and defense held off-the-record discussions in Judge West’s chambers. The court reconvened at 1:35 p.m. with all parties present, but once again went off the record in a conference in Judge West’s chambers at 2:12 p.m.
At issue were the availability of the transcripts of Rodriguez’s trial, which Gomez is personally convinced will be of assistance in exonerating her of the charges against her. Gomez and Rodriguez are considered co-defendants, with the cases against them being sequential, the prosecution of Rodriguez bearing the nomenclature MVI21007252 and the one against Gomez MVI21007253
At 2:50 p.m., the court reconvened in open session, and discussions were held as to the scheduling of the trial. The court ordered the transcripts of the MVI21007252, including those of the proceedings held on December 07/2021; December 08/2021; December 09/2021; December 10/2021; December 13, 2021, December 14, 2021 December 15, 2021; Dec- ember 16, 2021; December 17, 2021; December 20, 2021; December 21, 2021; December 28, 2021 and December 29, 2021.
A prospective jury panel of at least 42 having been summoned, Judge West had them sworn in with regard to their qualifications to hear the case. She then addressed the prospective jurors and introduced them to the litigating parties.
Jurors so wishing were allowed to express their contentions of hardships. Judge West excused 12 of the prospective jurors by stipulation.
At 3:38 p.m., an off-the-record conference was held among the judge and the attorneys in chambers.
At 3:41, the chambers conference ended. Thereafter, Judge West excused five more jurors.
Judge West addressed the remaining prospective jurors, admonishing them to not discuss the case with anyone and ordering them to return on Wednesday, January 25.
With all of the prospective jurors cleared from the courtroom, beginning at 3:59 p.m., discussions were held on and off the record.
At 4:46 p.m., Maline requested an ex parte hearing, which was held on the record as reported. At 4:54 p.m., the court adjourned for the day.
Issues manifested during the January 19 hearing reflecting Gomez’s continuing contention that her criminal prosecution on what are now two PC148(A)(1)-M, resisting arrest/obstructing a police officer; one PC403-M, disturbing a public meeting; and one PC182(A)(1)-M conspiracy to violate the law charges, all misdemeanors, amounts to political persecution. Informing the circumstance is what Gomez asserts and others recognize as her lack of understanding as to the nature of the proceedings against her and the actions taken by both her now-former attorney, Raj Maline, and the court. Gomez, who has repeatedly expressed trepidation about being railroaded in a process in which her rights are being violated, highlighted this concern in her expression of differences with Maline over his defense strategy, including her unwillingness to waive certain of her rights, including those to an expedited trial.
This has resulted in what appears to be, as her trial in earnest is about to get underway, a break with Maline and her consequent firing of him as her attorney, although reference to any actual motion or filing to that effect has yet to surface in the court’s on-line registry. The split from Maline, which already foretells complication for Gomez, is being compounded by her unwillingness to accept legal representation from any of the alternate legal representatives the court is bound to make available to her as an indigent defendant.
At the same time, Gomez, saying she was unwilling to rely upon the record of the proceedings supplied by the court reporter, insisted on maintaining her own record of the proceedings through her constant typing on the personal laptop computer she had with her, activity which drove both Maline and West to distraction. Maline, asserting that her constant typing was preventing him from being able to concentrate on the court proceedings, sought to have Gomez discontinue her note taking. Gomez asserted that in her function as a city councilwoman, she routinely uses her laptop to take notes and keep track of the council’s proceedings. She insisted that continuing to memorialize the court trial’s proceedings was consistent with constitutionally protected activities of both a citizen and a defendant. When Gomez did not comply with an order for her to discontinue typing, Judge West had her laptop confiscated.
In a series of complaints growing out of what she has experienced in the trial so far, Gomez asserts she has been subjected to “due process violations,” which included, she said, what she presumed was her right under “the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Brown Act, California state law and parliamentary procedures [to be] … allotted some sort of remedy by allowing me to take notation of my own trial.”
Gomez said she “protested in open court under duress that I would not voluntarily concede to my property being searched or confiscated” and that the justification for the seizure given to her was that “‘an independent court employee from the IT dept would initiate a search on my personal laptop” on the grounds, according to Gomez’s complaint, that she was “taking down [prospective jurors’] sensitive personal information by means of a technical device.”
Gomez maintained, as well, that the court had improperly delved into her confidential communications with her attorney. She based this on questions she had been asked about her emails to Maline.
“I cannot continue to be fearful that if I author/write an email to my attorney, it will be weaponized to my demise,” she stated.
According to Gomez, she believes she was being shoehorned into waiving her rights to court procedures that were crucial to the defense she believes can be made on her behalf. “Language of waiver was thrown out nonchalantly,” her complaint states. “My attorney was not communicating with me or allaying my concern or fears of the processes. I see the term ‘waiver’ as a strong and vile word when used in the context of legalities, a word synonymous to taking criminal plea deals with even more detrimental consequences. I was asked multiple times over and over if I would ‘waive’ and ‘stipulate’ as to not be used in a court of appeals.”
Gomez said a major source of her misgivings with regard to Maline’s representation of her stemmed from her belief that information that could be gleaned from the testimony of one of the deputies involved in her arrest would prove crucial in her defense and that Maline had proven much too accommodating in allowing the district attorney’s office to prevent an aggressive examination of that deputy, whom she referred to as “Deputy Fratt.”
She objected to Maline agreeing, by stipulation to Crocker’s motion, to exclude Fratt from testifying. Crocker pursued excluding Fratt as a witness, Gomez maintains, because if he is permitted to testify and does so truthfully, her defense would be able to demonstrate that her arrest on July 20, 2021 was premeditated “way in advance before” she was “alleged to have disturbed, obstructed or conspired etc.”
On January 23, 2023 Gomez lodged a 20-page written complaint against Judge West with San Bernardino Superior Court Presiding Judge R. Glenn Yabuno.
On January 25, she filed an affidavit of prejudice, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure 170.6 requesting another judge be assigned to the case. The same day, she filed a motion of preemptory challenge/recusal of Judge West.
Gomez wrote in her complaint against Judge West filed with Presiding Judge Yabuno. “I was at no time consulted if that [Fratt’s prospective testimony] was important to my case. I would be remiss if I did not mention the importance of witness’s conservation when [my] attorney is stipulating to keep key witnesses that would reveal my innocence and clear my name. Deputy Fratt was the deputy who slapped and yanked my streaming live cell phone via Instagram. He is quintessential to my case and so is his testimony and the investigator in my case who was also stipulated to not be part of my testimony.”
The case against her is based on “evidence crafted by the district attorney’s office,” Gomez maintains.
“This is a legal motion that I am putting before the court to preserve my fair trial under the law without any continued behaviors and linguistic biased intervention of prejudice and bias under Judge Katrina West,” Gomez wrote in the January 25 recusal filing. “I am filing this motion as a formal request to have Judge Katrina West be recused. Please remove her off my case immediately. You will find on the transcript the language used by the judge causing any reasonable person to question her lack of being impartial/fair. On January 25, 2023, I found her continual prejudicial mannerism when she did not allow me to speak on the record. On January 25, 2023, she did not allow me to speak and quickly when I attempted to make statements, she would hint verbally terms as for the stenographer to stop transcribing. She did not allow me to speak in relation to my case at any moment and did not acknowledge my due process rights.”
According to Gomez, the proceedings so far have featured efforts to prevent exculpatory evidence from being considered and exclude references to that evidence in the transcript of the proceedings. In her complaint, Gomez maintained that Judge West “did not hear me out” and refused to hear her concerns about the inadequate representation she believed she was receiving from [David] Goldstein, the conflict panel attorney that Judge West had sought to substitute in as her attorney in lieu of Maline.
While Gomez made clear, figuratively, that she felt she had been placed into a frying pan while having to face criminal charges while being represented by Maline, it appears she leapt straight into the fire by ditching him and finding herself being represented by Goldstein.
On January 25, according to Gomez, “Mr. Goldstein, conflict panel attorney, scoffed at me, ridiculed me by stating that he would not listen to anything I had to say and said everyone in the courtroom was fed up with my ‘disruptive’ childlike behavior as he exited the conference room” in which he had been conferring with Gomez.
According to Gomez, Goldstein remarked “You need mental help” after he became exasperated with her and that she overheard Goldstein remark to Crocker, the prosecutor on her case, something to the effect of “no one can stand her.”
In a separate letter to Goldstein dated January 25, Gomez told him, “your masculine machismo is not going to work and neither will you trying to intimidate me and treat me like you did. I am saddened by the ill-treatment that I received and hope to never encounter anyone in the conflict panel with your ego, patriarchal, unprofessional and discourteous demeanor/comportment in and out of court that I experienced.”
Goldstein, she said, denigrated her character, rolled his eyes when she posed serious questions about court procedure and was uncommunicative with her and refused to tell her where she should stand when the case against her was being formally read in open court.
This morning, January 27, his secretary fielded a call from the Sentinel seeking from Goldstein his version of events.
“My inclination is that Mr. Goldstein will not be interested in making any kind of a statement, but I will pass your name and number on to him, and if he wants to make a comment he will reach out.”
Both Goldstein and Maline, who was also contacted by the Sentinel, are restricted in what they can say by standards of attorney-client privilege and confidentiality. Neither returned the Sentinel’s calls.
According to Gomez, the courtroom itself was not an unbiased forum. She maintains that a number of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies, whose sentiments lie with the prosecution, were present in the courtroom and that their presence had resulted in the inability of the court to impanel a jury. At the same time, she claimed that members of the public intent on seeing that she is provided with a fair trial were being intimidated with the intent of dissuading them from attending the trial.
“[W]hen I had [the] public come to observe my case, multiple deputies approached to intimidate my observers even though I had mentioned that they were not checking in but instead there to observe as members of the public,” Gomez stated. Thereafter, according to Gomez, the courtroom bailiff “called multiple officers to continue to not only intimidate my observers of the public but myself. The bailiff did this off the record when the proceedings had not been initiated.”
The number of sheriff’s deputies present in the courtroom, Gomez said, had carried over to prevent a jury from being impaneled to hear the case. She implied that two members of her jury panel – one being a woman who “stated she worked in the federal prison in the City of Victorville” and another who “worked for [the] parole [department] in Los Angeles” – were improperly removed from the jury panel for her case because of the atmosphere created by the number of sheriff’s deputies present in the courtroom. “Why are there so many sheriffs [sheriff’s deputies] in the room and are they there to intimidate me? I am lost for how unfair the MVI21007253 case has gone thus far.”
In her complaints, Gomez revealed that Rodriguez is her “marriage partner.” She said that among the items of evidence being manufactured against her and the ploys to prejudice the court against her was an accusation made against Rodriguez that was used to ban jurors from hearing her case.
According to Gomez, a juror or prospective juror complained that during a break in the court proceedings Rodriguez had “loudly spoken about the case over the phone” in the juror’s presence. That accusation was both unverified and false, Gomez claimed. “The excuse of witnesses being tainted for an alleged loud voice conversation is a fabricated conspiracy,” she stated.
The district attorney’s office’s willingness to prosecute her spouse, Rodriguez, for what had occurred at the July 20, 2021 Victorville City Council meeting while not prosecuting Mayor Jones’ husband for engaging in the same activity is a further demonstration of the prejudice and bias against her, Gomez maintains.
There is some resonance in Gomez’s propounding of that point.
At display in the prosecution of Gomez and the earlier prosecution of Rodriguez 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 Gomez in an unattractive light. While demonizing Gomez, both the sheriff’s department, as the investigative agency that provided the reports upon which the charges were constructed, and the prosecutors are shielding from public scrutiny as best they can the public actions by one of Gomez’s chief political rival’s closest associates, that being the husband of Victorville Mayor Debra Jones.
Like Rodriguez, Gene Jones was using his cell phone to video the July 20, 2021 Victorville City Council proceedings and it was the interaction between Daniel Rodriguez and Gene Jones, the dual and dueling videotaping, that led to the tussle ending with Rodriguez and Gomez being arrested. Audible on the video of the meeting is Victorville City Attorney Andre de Bortnowski referencing the action of both men. It was Mayor Jones, who was officiating over the meeting, who escalated the circumstance by demanding that Rodriguez desist in his videotaping. She made no such demand of her husband, the official city video demonstrates.
The Rodriguez and Gomez prosecutions exist as 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. Rodriguez’s ultimately unsuccessful legal defense was aimed less at gaining him an acquittal than at exposing how the weight of the prosecutorial authority of the state that was brought to bear on him and to expose 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.
Likewise, Gomez appears to be on a trajectory toward conviction on the charges lodged against her, but not before she wields the forum of the courtroom into a spectacle of governmental overreach.
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 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 its ultimate authority on local land use decision, its management of Southern California Logistics Airport 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. Neither Gomez nor anyone else could credibly assert that Hispanics in Victorville had been politically disenfranchised. In the 28 years between 1992 and 2020, 20 people served on the Victorville City Council, of whom eight were Latinos and two were African American.
Indeed, once she was established on the Victorville City Council, Gomez, a Democrat, would find herself repeatedly and virulently at odds with the two other Hispanic members of the council who had been there before she arrived, Gloria Garcia and Eric Negrete, both of whom were Republicans.
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 frequently involving provocative acts, as when she draped herself in a Mexican flag during a council meeting.
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. On occasions, these resulted in Garcia calling 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. Elected that year with Gomez was Liz Becerra, another Republican Latina, and Leslie Irving, an African American. Together with Debra Jones, who had been elected in 2018 along with Rita Ramirez, the council was entirely composed of women, four of whom were, in the parlance of the day, of color.
Despite the empowerment of women and ethnic minorities the Victorville Council embodied, Gomez yet found herself at odds with the Victorville political establishment, reflexively citing racist motivation in the action of society in general as well as that of the local community in which she was a privileged elected official.
Perhaps reflecting the degree to which she had not been assimilated into the mainstream and her seeming incomprehension and/or disdain of the parliamentary procedure by which Victorville City Council meetings have traditionally been conducted, Gomez was bypassed in 2020 when the city council, which included three Hispanic women and one African American woman, chose from its own ranks whom it would confer the honorific of mayor upon, that being Jones, the council’s lone Caucasian member. In 2022, the council, its ranks at that point including Bob Harriman, a white man who had headed up an ultimately unsuccessful 2018 effort to recall Gomez from office, voted to retain Jones as mayor.
This occurred despite the informal tradition in Victorville of conferring the mayor’s gavel upon the longest-serving member of the council who had yet to hold the office of mayor. The slight was a pointed one, as Gomez was and is the longest-serving member of the council.
It was the tension inherent in Gomez’s worldview, which holds that as a representative of the downtrodden and disenfranchised element of the community she is forever to be under the yoke of the Anglo power establishment, that the events of July 20, 2021 ultimately played out: Victorville’s white mayor, who happens to be Gomez’s current political nemesis, attempting to gavel that evening’s meeting, which appeared to be like so many other public meetings which Gomez is a participant in careening toward chaos, into some semblance of order amidst the disorder of her own husband getting into a videographic tussle with Gomez’s significant other, resulting in the ultimate physical authority of the Anglo establishment – armed members of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department – stepping in to allay the situation.
It may or may not be of significance that San Bernardino County’s district attorney, Jason Anderson, who used the reports generated by four white sheriff’s officers of what occurred that night to form the basis of the charges that were filed against Gomez, a Latina, and her “marriage partner,” Rodriguez, a Latino, while declining to file similar charges against Mayor Jones and her husband, members in good standing of what Gomez terms the white establishment. Similarly and ironically, it may or may not be of significance that Gomez, who has made a stock-in-trade of accusing what she refers to as the Anglo dominated power bloc in San Bernardino County of racial and ethnic bias, has conducted herself in such a way that she has put herself, in her own words “a marginalized member of society,” at the mercy of the adjudicative arm of that authority that she maintains is oppressing her. Nor is it lost on observers that in processing first Rodriguez and now Gomez through the court system, the powers that be entrusted oversight of those cases to Judge Kawika Smith and Judge Katrina West, African American jurists, short-circuiting any accusations that Gomez might raise that she was being railroaded by the city’s and the county’s white privileged elite.
Having withstood Gomez’s cooked-up accusations of anti-Latino sentiment and prejudice for more than six years at this point, the local political establishment is now making use of its authority to subject her to manufactured accusations of its own presumption.
By Mark Gutglueck