A Fresno gang member, who prosecutors accused of dragging a Fresno police officer 50 feet with his SUV to avoid an arrest in April 2015, was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison.
But under a plea agreement, Jesse Mora, 32, will be on supervised release for nearly three years – and not behind prison walls.
The plea agreement came after a Fresno County Superior Court jury in December found Mora not guilty of assault with a deadly weapon or of felony assault that caused great bodily injury to Officer Darren Nelson, who suffered cuts to his head and left knee.
Instead, jurors found him guilty of three misdemeanor charges, including simple assault and resisting arrest, said Fresno attorney Maribel Romo, who defended Mora.
A Fresno County jury in December found Jesse Mora not not guilty of assault with a deadly weapon and not guilty of felony assault on Officer Darren Nelson, who suffered cuts to his head and left knee.
Because the jury hung 7-5 on another felony charge of using force or violence to resist a police officer, prosecutors could have retried Mora on that charge. Instead, Mora pleaded no contest to that charge on Jan. 9 to avoid a second trial.
Since his trial, Mora has been free from custody on an ankle monitor. Before his release, he spent nearly two years in the Fresno County Jail.
On Tuesday, Judge Brian Alvarez took note of Mora’s time in jail and his good-time credits and said Mora will be on supervised release without the ankle monitor. But while being supervised by probation, Mora must stay away from drugs, including marijuana, and dangerous weapons, the judge said.
Police say Mora is a known gang member with a long criminal history who was on felony probation when he encountered Nelson and several other police officers during a report of a domestic disturbance on April 22, 2015, in a neighborhood near Palm and Olive avenues in the Tower District.
While on supervised release, Jesse Mora must stay away from drugs, including marijuana, and dangerous weapons, the judge said.
During the trial, Romo said Mora got scared when police surrounded his SUV because he had marijuana in his pocket. He panicked and drove off, but never intended to hurt Nelson, Romo said.
Romo also told the jury that Nelson has a habit of jumping into moving vehicles in order to arrest people. In addition, Romo said the officers gave conflicting accounts about the incident, including whether Nelson was dragged 50 feet or just 5 to 10 feet.
Prosecutors, however, said Nelson asked for Mora’s identification while Mora sat in the driver’s seat of his car. Then for no reason, Mora took off, while Nelson was talking to him.
Nelson testified during the trial that he held on to Mora because he feared he would be run over by the SUV. He said the SUV reached speeds of up to 30 to 40 mph before he let go. Because of his injuries, Nelson told the jury, he missed a week of work.
Mora drove to his home on the 1100 block of North Thorne Avenue. After Mora’s family left the home, officers and a police dog named Faris entered the dwelling and arrested Mora, who was treated for dog bites.