The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office issued a news release last week criticizing Judge Gary Paden for not sending Demarrea Joyce to state prison in a high-profile assault case.
Joyce, 18, of Visalia — found guilty for his role in the brutal attack of a downtown store worker last year that set merchants on edge — instead got a year in jail and four years probation.
In a news release to the media about the sentencing, prosecutors publicly complained.
“Despite moving pleas from the victims and over the objection of the prosecution, Judge Paden chose to suspend a prison sentence for Joyce and place the defendant on probation for four years, with conditions to include 365 days in the county jail, with credit for 348 days,” the news release states. “Joyce will also be required to attend a 14-week anger management class.”
District Attorney Tim Ward said the intent was not to declare war on Paden but to highlight a sentence that prosecutors believe did not deliver justice to the victim.
“Our focus is going to be advocating for the victim,” he said. “It was not meant to be an attack on the judge.”
Paden said in an interview that the news release did not include all the information presented at the sentencing hearing.
“I was disappointed in the press release by the D.A.’s Office,” he said. “I did not think it accurately portrayed the reasoning, the rationale and the facts presented to the court at the time of the sentencing.”
About 11 p.m. on May 3, 2014, Adam Furtado, 33, was helping out at Velouria Records on Main Street, which is owned by his girlfriend, and took the trash to the alley bin.
When he didn’t return, his girlfriend found him in a pool of his own blood. His wallet and cell phone were gone.
Video surveillance showed two young men on bicycles coming and going from the area where the attack occurred, prosecutors said. A police officer recognized Joyce in the video and arrested him two weeks later at Mt. Whitney High, where he had been a promising football player. (Note: The original version of this column incorrectly reported that the video showed the assault.)
Joyce was tried as an adult and found guilty last month of assault likely to cause great bodily injury, but the jury rejected robbery.
Also arrested was Joevan Reed, 17, who faces trial in June on identical charges. He is also being tried as an adult.
Furtado said he does not remember the attack, but “I was struck in the back of the head,” he said. “I fell forward onto my face on a speed bump.”
He said Joyce apologized in court at the sentencing and appears to have played a lesser role in the attack, but he deserved a stiffer sentence.
“I still don’t have complete feeling in my jaw. In the back right of my head and front, I have numbness,” Furtado said. “I’m constantly on edge and keep looking over my shoulder. I’ve never felt that way before.”
Sam Sciacca, a downtown property owner, said in a letter to the court that the crime hurt the downtown business community.
Several letters supporting Joyce are also in the court file.
Tulare County Public Defender Lisa Bertolino, whose office defended Joyce, said the judge followed the recommendation of the probation department.
“Judge Paden always takes the cases very seriously and takes in all the facts before making a sentencing decision or determination,” she said. “Clearly, he felt it was appropriate, and the probation department felt it was appropriate.”
Veteran criminal defense attorney Larry Lee of Visalia called the press release “highly unusual” for singling out the judge.
“I think it’s fair to think that while Judge Paden might be an independent thinker, he’s in the mainstream of the judiciary,” Lee said.