XL Grindhouse Case Continues: Homeless Victim Appears in Court
December 21, 2012
Attempted murder and assault charges against one of the brothers accused of beating a homeless man nearly to death last October have been dropped, and the man’s bail has been lowered.
In court today James DeLeon, 32, pleaded no contest to a felony charge of being an accessory after the fact. Because there is no evidence that he was involved in the beating of the man outside the restaurant XL Grindhouse on Oct. 11, the more serious attempted murder charges were dropped.
However, James DeLeon, who owns XL Grindhouse with his brother, did lie to police when he told them nothing had happened that night, said Deputy District Attorney Steve Somers.
“He was essentially between a rock and a hard place... he didn’t know what to do,” said Juliet Peck, the man’s attorney.
James DeLeon’s bail has been lowered from $530,000 to $50,000.
His brother, Robert De Leon, 43, still faces the attempted murder charges, along with a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon.
At a preliminary hearing this afternoon, Somers outlined a case against Robert DeLeon, which the man’s attorney rebutted.
Among the people brought to the stand was the homeless man himself—a tall, frail-looking man— known around Salinas by his street name “Orbits.”
Orbits, whose chest heaved deeply throughout the direct examination, seemed confused at times and alert at others. He answered the attorneys’ questions often with only one word, “yes” or “no,” but sometimes said “I don’t remember,” and sometimes gave conflicting remarks.
The man gave an account of the incident, saying he was struck with a baseball bat in his leg and head. He remembers only being picked up by the scruff of his shirt by somebody and led away. He later awoke in a hospital, where Salinas Police Detective Arlene Currier, later called to the stand, said he stayed for several weeks, unresponsive for some time and using a respirator.
Currier told attorneys that a witness called her 11 days after the beating and described the scene. She said the witness, who was only referred to as “AC1” in court, was walking out of the XL Grindhouse with a friend when he heard metal hitting the sidewalk. The witness said he saw a metal bat fly by him. When he turned around he saw the Grindhouse owners, one of whom was “slugging and kicking the victim” while the other was a “lookout.”
Currier said the beating stopped when the witness called out, and later assisted Orbits to his feet.
Brian Worthington, Robert DeLeon’s attorney, cast a shadow of doubt over whether or not a bat was used in the beating. A bat has not been discovered in the police investigation, nor was there any evidence of a crime scene.
During the questioning, Currier acknowledged that the Grindhouse owner said during her investigation that he was confused as to what witnesses might have thought was a baseball bat. But Currier also said Robert DeLeon couldn’t remember whether he used a weapon, though he specifically denied a baseball bat.
The attorney pointed out the witness only saw slugging and kicking for 10 seconds, and that there was no mention of the witness seeing a bat in use. Another officer who testified said the homeless man had told him he couldn’t remember if he was actually struck in the head with a bat.
Worthington sought lower charges for his client because Orbits only described a “headache” as a lingering effect of the attack, and because Currier couldn’t prove the man had been put into a coma after the incident.
“Unresponsive and coma are not synonyms,” the attorney said, later.
He also argued a charge of attempted murder entails a specific attempt to kill, and that his client had made no threats toward the homeless man, nor was there any evidence his client has the character of a man “who would go around committing murders.”
However, Judge Julie Culver found sufficient evidence to keep the charges and set an arraignment to continue the case in January.
After the hearing Worthington said that today’s preliminary hearing was only to see whether the case should advance, and that the only requirement is a strong suspicion. There was no jury, and a much lower burden of proof.
His client intends to plead not guilty and seek a jury trial, Worthington said. Robert De Leon did not intend to injure Orbits to this extent, and was only responding to aggressive action by the man, he said.