Those darned crowded courts in Riverside County keep causing problems, and that’s a good thing for some criminal defendants.
Take, for example, Tony Wagner. He got the break that Firme Hajjaj didn’t.
A state appeal court in Riverside today upheld (.pdf) a judge’s decision to dismiss assault charges against Wagner because there were no courtrooms available in Riverside County on the last day available for trial.
Hajjaj wasn’t so lucky last month when a San Diego appeal court reinstated (.pdf) drug charges even though there were no courtrooms available — also in Riverside County — for his last day of trial.
In Wagner’s case, prosecutors argued that Judge Helios “Joe” Hernandez should have given precedence to his criminal trial over civil cases — including family and probate — being held in other courtrooms.
In Hajjaj’s case, prosecutors said a continuance should have been granted by Judge Thomas Cahraman because the closest empty courtroom — with 45 minutes until the end of the work day — was 76 miles away.
The prosecutors got their way (on appeal) with Hajjaj, but not with Wagner.
“The reality of the situation in the trial courts in this county,” the Riverside appellate court held today, “is that no other cases would be heard if all criminal cases were given priority over all civil matters. Such a result clearly does not meet the ends of justice.”
Wagner can celebrate. Sorry, Hajjaj.
— Mike McKee