XL Grindhouse Owners Plead Not Guilty to Attempted Murder
November 27, 2012
The owners of an Oldtown Salinas bar and restaurant, accused of beating a homeless man so severely he remains hospitalized a month after the attack, stood silently in court today as their attorneys stated their pleas: not guilty.
The brothers, 43-year-old Robert (pictured above left) DeLeon and 32-year-old James (pictured above right) DeLeon, owners of XL Grindhouse, face felony charges of attempted murder and assault in connection with the Oct. 13 incident outside their restaurant. Robert DeLeon also faces an enhancement for use of a bat and infliction of great bodily injury.
The homeless man, known by his street name “Orbits,” was taken to a local hospital in mid-October after a concerned resident called the police, saying the man seemed injured.
At the hospital, the 55-year-old man’s condition deteriorated until he fell into a coma because of what police called serious head injuries. He was taken to a Bay Area hospital, where he is out of the coma but still hospitalized.
After today’s arraignment, the restaurant owners’ attorneys defended their clients’ characters. “James has a very good reputation,” says Juliet Peck, the man’s attorney. “He’s referred to as a gentle giant.”
Robert DeLeon is a “family man, a longtime resident of this area,” says attorney Brian Worthington, and adds, “He is not a man with a prior record.”
Robert DeLeon is being held on $880,000 bail. James DeLeon is being held on $530,000. The restaurant re-opened over the weekend, but it wasn’t clear who was running it.
Some Oldtown business owners were planning to protest at Thursday’s Oldtown Salinas Association at the city’s permit center over what they perceive as a lack of outreach by the city or the association. Meanwhile, some Oldtown business owners expressed astonishment that some of their own stand accused of harming a man overwhelmingly described as harmless and kind.
Jesse Juarez, a co-owner of Rosita’s Armory Cafe in Oldtown, says Orbits has been a fixture on the downtown Salinas streets for almost as long as he can remember.
“For at least 10 years he’s been down here. He would sit outside the restaurant three or four times a week, and he would mind his own business,” Juarez says. “A few years ago he would ask for money, but he was never aggressive about it. He never bothered anyone.”
Juarez says that in recent years, Orbits’ mind seemed to wander.
“He would never harm a fly, but his mind wasn’t 100 percent there. There may have been some mental issues, but nothing aggressive,” he says.
One Salinas resident, Karen Araujo, attended today’s arraignment to support the victim, who she’d often spoken to outside of Rosita’s Armory Cafe.
When she first heard about the case, she'd thought the victim was another, faceless homeless man. She says once she found out it was Orbits, "something in me shifted."
“It just personified the whole thing,” she says.
Nic Coury contributed to this report.