One day after Gabbi Lemos filed a lawsuit against the California sheriff’s office that had physically abused her during an arrest in which charges against her were already dismissed, prosecutors responded by refiling one of those charges.
Lawyers for the 18-year-old woman are now accusing prosecutors of retaliatory prosecution as they defend her against the new resisting arrest charge, saying they only did so to derail her lawsuit against the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.
But prosecutors say the decision to refile was “simply a coincidence,” according to The Press-Democrat.
Sure it is.
It all started on June 15, 2015 when Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy Marcos Holton attacked Lemos for arguing with him about jerking her sister, Karli, out of the car.
Lemos stands at 5-feet tall and weighs a whopping 115 pounds, but she was arrested that night for battery of an officer and resisting arrest after being treated for a black eye and facial contusions at the hospital.
In a Sept. 11, 2015 court hearing, after the body camera footage from the incident proved Gabbi wasn’t resisting, and that she didn’t assault Deputy Holton, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office said it was not filing charges (the dash cam footage does not appear to have ever been released).
It wasn’t until a day after she filed her lawsuit alleging brutality on November, 12th, 2015 that the district attorney reacted by filing new charges against Lemos for obstruction, or delaying a police officer.
The truth is, she appeared in court three times before filing the lawsuit and the district attorney’s office never felt compelled to refile any charges against her.
Now Lemos’ attorneys are bringing the issue of retaliation up before Judge Gary Medvigy, who said, “you just can’t ignore the timing.”
He ruled Lemos’ attorneys would be allowed to question the deputy prosecutors who handled the case.
But a district attorney manager, deterred the attempt and argued information about the decision-making process was privileged and shouldn’t be disclosed under work-product rules.
Judge Medvigy then granted the request for a stay from the Chief Deputy District Attorney Troye Shaffer, which means his ruling can be reviewed by an appeals panel.
Lemos’ attorney, Izaak Schwaiger, said the new charges are simply a legal maneuver to discredit Gabbi so she is unable to proceed with her lawsuit against the department.
“It’s ridiculous, unethical and totally expected. It’s another example of flying to the aid of the sheriff’s office when it’s in trouble. The D.A. has their back. If you are convicted of resisting arrest you can’t sue. It’s an unethical and vindictive process,” Schwaiger said
“If they get a conviction, the civil suit goes away. And then all of a sudden, the county doesn’t have to answer for what Deputy Holton did to her,” added her attorney, Izaak Schwaiger
Schwaiger said a finding that prosecutors acted vindictively could lead to a dismissal of the charge, which would clear the way for the lawsuit to proceed forward.
“They are doing everything in their power to avoid telling the public why they are pursuing this case,” said Schwaiger.
District Attorney Jill Ravitch claimed, “It was simply a coincidence.”
She claims her office looked at the allegations against Lemos more than a month before the civil suit was filed before they made the decision in October to charge her with resisting arrest and that the case wasn’t filed until after the civil suit, because the prosecutor waited to talk to deputy Holton about what happened.
After she spoke to Holton, the criminal charges against Lemos were re-filed on November, 13th, 2015.
Lemos’ civil case will now be delayed while awaiting the outcome of her criminal charges.
Gabbi Lemos threw a party celebrating her graduation from high school at her home in June of 2015. Ater the party, Deputy Marcus Holton, along with six other officers arrived and aggressively interrogated people who were outside the home in Petaluma, California.
The lawsuit alleges that Deputy Holton brutalized and then arrested Gabbi Lemos when she argued with him for forcibly pulling her sister out of a car who was sitting in the passenger seat.
Holton stopped when he saw Karli Lemos’ boyfriend parked with a trailer attached to their idling car close to her mother’s house with the vehicles’ hazard lights on.
Gabbi’s sister just returned after leaving when she realized she left without her phone.
After she recovered the phone, she went back to the car and was leaving again when Deputy Holton showed up.
Holton then demanded her boyfriend step out of the vehicle and then walked to the passenger door where Karli Lemos was seated and yanked her out of the car.
That’s when Gabbi Lemos began arguing with the deputy Holton. She argued that he had no right to pull her sister out of the vehicle and he needed to ask her first before he used force.
“It was scary seeing all his anger toward her in that moment. That’s when I decided to say something,” Lemos said.
She claimed Holton pushed her and went after her when she withdrew from the argument. He then put her neck in a chokehold and threw her into the driveway where she landed on her face.
As a result, she suffered facial contusions and a black eye right before Holton put a knee into her back and proceeded to shove her face into the gravel.
Gabbi’s family attempted to stand between her and the deputy. That’s when Holton “bolted around the family and without a word caught Gabbi from behind the neck in a chokehold, lifting her small body off the ground several feet before throwing her face-first onto the driveway.”
Lemos was then taken to the hospital, treated and booked into the jail for resisting an officer.
She was asked if she could have been resisting deputy Holton and said, “There was no way I could have. He was on top of me with my hands behind my back.”
Lemos’ attorneys alleged in a lawsuit that, “Deputy Holton put his knee in the back of Gabbi’s head and began grinding her face into the gravel, despite her screams and her family’s pleas to stop.”
In 2011, Holton was cleared of criminal wrongdoing for a shooting where he wounded a man he said was reaching for his waistband during a stop on Todd Road. Holton shot the man twice and wounded him in the abdomen and buttocks.
Lemos faces a year in jail if she is convicted of the new retaliatory charge.
But, for some reason, we get this sneaking suspicion that Gabbi wasn’t actually the “perp” here.