Complicated Gabbi Lemos case of resisting arrest will go to trial in June

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Courtesy of ABC7News

Gabbi Lemos’ attorney Izaak Schwaiger said Sonoma County law enforcement is covering their tracks by prosecuting a teenager with no prior criminal record, costing the county tens of thousands of dollars.

Courtney Paige, Web Editor and Assistant A&E Editor

A Sonoma County judge ruled April 28 that the controversial case of a Santa Rosa Junior College student accused of resisting arrest will go to trial next month-a year after the incident that prompted charges of police brutality.

Petaluma High School graduate and SRJC soccer player Gabbi Lemos’s attorney made multiple motions to settle the case. However, nine-year veteran Sonoma County Prosecutor Jenica Leonard remained steadfast to charge Lemos with resisting arrest, saying a jury will have to decide whether or not Lemos committed a crime.

Prosecutors allege Lemos resisted arrest when she stepped in front of Sheriff’s Deputy Marcus Holton as he opened a car door to check on Lemos’ intoxicated sister. Holton said his intent was to investigate what appeared to be a domestic dispute between family members at their Liberty Road home in Petaluma June 13.

A shouting match ensued between Holton and Lemos’ family members, including the two sisters and her mother. Moments later, Holton shoved Lemos onto the gravel pavement to stop her from walking away from his investigation. She suffered two black eyes and facial abrasions from the incident.

Lemos filed a lawsuit against the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department for police brutality Nov. 12. One day later, Sonoma County District Attorney’s office filed a misdemeanor charge against Lemos for resisting arrest.

“This case is complicated,” said Judge Gary Medvigy. “Charging delays are becoming more commonplace as authorities rely on body camera evidence to make their decision whether or not to file a charge.”

Prosecutors claimed the charge was simply a matter of coincidental timing in a court hearing April 4. Izaak Schwaiger, Lemos’ attorney, said the timing showed vindictive prosecution.

Medvigy ruled April 28 there was no evidence the District Attorney’s charge was retaliatory against Lemos.

Schwaiger claimed that the prosecution manipulated the court process by passing off the video camera evidence as if they had submitted it to the court. “The prosecution told the press and the sheriff’s department the video and audio evidence had been admitted to the court before releasing them to the public on April 8 to social media outlets,” Schwaiger said. “This is a direct violation of the law’s professional rules of conduct.”

According to court documents, the sheriff’s department urged District Attorney Jill Ravitch to reconsider the misdemeanor case. The sheriff’s department denies this claim, but in Leonard’s testimony during court, she said, “I was asked to reconsider the filing by the sheriff’s department.”

Lemos’ trial will not move to a different county despite concerns of public controversy over the video and audiotape.

“This is a case that needs to be heard by this county; Sonoma County law enforcement is at a crossroads,” Schwaiger said. “This case alone is costing the county tens of thousands of dollars to prosecute a teenager with no prior criminal record in order to cover their tracks.”

During testimony, Leonard said, “We don’t have a written policy how we handle these cases, and yes, these cases are handled differently.”

The trial is set for June 30 and jury selection begins June 28.