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Last updateTue, 26 Mar 2019 12am







    Sunday, March 24, 2019-7:17:46A.M.






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Assault defendant acquitted in bench trial

AFTER a three-day bench trial, Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho found 32-year-old Ryan Santos Duenas not guilty of assault and battery and disturbing the peace.

The judge said the Office of the Attorney General charged the wrong person with “road-rage.”

Duenas was accused of assaulting the driver of another truck that was tail-gating him on the night of Feb.15, 2018.

In the judgment of acquittal on Wednesday, Judge Camacho stated that after carefully considering all testimony he found Duenas’s version of events more credible.

He said the alleged victim’s version is just not credible because it was the alleged victim that was aggressively tailgating Duenas.

“Even after being told that he was following too closely (1 to 2 feet), [the alleged victim] did not back off. Even when Duenas would speed up to create some distance, [the alleged victim] would also speed up and aggressively tailgate Duenas again. This was repeated over and over.”

Judge Camacho said assault and battery is defined as unlawfully striking, beating, wounding or otherwise causing bodily harm to another. Disturbing the peace is defined as unlawfully and willfully acting in a way which unreasonably annoys or disturbs another’s right to peace and quiet.

The law, the judge added, also states that a person has a right to defend himself from an initial aggressor.

The judge said the alleged victim, using a full-size Toyota Tundra, tail-gated Ryan Duenas’ low-rider pickup truck for about 20 minutes at a distance of 1 to 2 feet in Chalan Kiya.

“The manner that [the alleged victim] was driving his Tundra was dangerous. It was intended to annoy, intimidate and threaten Duenas. After about 20 minutes, Duenas got out of his low-rider and walked back to [the] Tundra. [Its driver] made a fist and attempted to hit Duenas. Duenas reacting to [the alleged victim’s] sudden movement…slapped [his] face once. No further physical contact happened. Duenas got into his low-rider and drove away. Finally, [the driver of the Tundra] stopped tail-gating.”

Judge Camacho said the court considered two things in the case.

First, the manner in which the alleged victim was driving was dangerous and threatening.

The judge said it was reasonable for Duenas to get out of his car and ask the alleged victim to stop following so closely.

“A human life has more value than property. Duenas and his brother were rightly concerned for their physical safety if the Tundra collided with them.”

The judge said while Duenas and the alleged victim were exchanging profanities, the alleged victim made a fist and attempted to hit Duenas whose rapid reaction to slap the alleged victim in self-defense is reasonable.

Judge Camacho said the alleged victim was the initial aggressor when he used his vehicle and then again by attempting to punch Duenas.

“Duenas was defending himself…the use of necessary force was proportional and just enough to stop the aggression,” the judge added.

He said because Duenas used reasonable force in self-defense to repel the initial aggressor, the court finds that the government failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the offense of assault and battery, and disturbing the peace.

The judge said he is encouraging the Office of the Attorney General to carefully review cases before filing charges.

“The alleged victim in this case is really the aggressor, using a full-size Toyota Tundra to aggressively tailgate a low-rider pick-up….

“This aggressive tailgating lasted 20 minutes and was designed to harass and intimidate — property damage and physical injury could have resulted.”

The judge added that the driver of the Toyota Tundra admitted that he was enraged and angry, and mad as he followed the low-rider.

The AG’s office charged the wrong person with “road-rage,” he said.

Judge Camacho also encouraged the Department of Public Safety to provide some “refresher” training and guidance to its new officers.

“As highlighted by this case, a police officer interviewing a suspect without proper advisement of his constitutional rights is simply unacceptable,” the judge said.

In addition, he said certain procedures in making copies of documents must be followed.

“As this case demonstrated, Duenas’ statements were forever lost when the notepad fell into a mud puddle as the police officer was writing a traffic ticket in the rain.”