Crime

Charges refiled in case of tattooed boy

The Fresno County District Attorney's Office has refiled aggravated mayhem charges against two Fresno men who are accused of inking a gang tattoo on a 7-year-old boy.

The move comes less than two weeks after a judge said there was insufficient evidence to try Enrique Gonzalez, 27, the boy's father, and Travis Gorman, 21, on the charges -- and it has infuriated their attorneys.

The refiled charges carry possible life sentences.

"The DA's going to ignore the courts and proceed to a public lynching," said attorney Manuel Nieto, who is representing Gorman.

Attorney Douglas Foster, who is representing Gonzalez, said he recalled this happening just one other time in his legal career.

"I'm not surprised," he said of the move. "I'm offended."

District Attorney Elizabeth Egan declined to comment directly on the case, but she said her office files charges "that are supported by evidence introduced at the preliminary hearing."

Authorities say that earlier this year, Gonzalez held his son down against his will and Gorman inked a quarter-sized Bulldog gang insignia -- a dog paw -- on the boy's right hip.

At a preliminary hearing this month, prosecutors argued that the tattoo was an injury that met the legal definition of aggravated mayhem.

The law says aggravated mayhem is intentionally causing permanent disability or disfigurement to a person with extreme indifference to their physical or psychological well-being.

But Foster said most cases of aggravated mayhem involve mutilation and wounds that require surgery.

Local defense attorney Jeff Hammerschmidt agreed.

Hammerschmidt, a former deputy district attorney who is not involved in this case, said the action by the District Attorney's Office is rare -- "and somewhat disrespectful to the judge who issued the order."

"While it is truly despicable that a father would tattoo his young son with a gang symbol, it's stretching the law to charge aggravated mayhem in this case," Hammerschmidt said.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Hilary Chittick ruled there was not enough evidence to support the aggravated mayhem charges against Gonzalez and Gorman.

She did, however, order the two men to stand trial on lesser charges of willful cruelty to a child with a gang enhancement.

Each man could face a prison term of nearly eight years on that charge.

On Friday, attorneys for both men entered not guilty pleas to the lesser charges, and Fresno County Superior Court Judge Rosendo Peña set a Dec. 10 hearing on those charges.

But Foster and Nieto also must prepare a motion on the refiled aggravated mayhem charge and seek a hearing.

No new evidence will be introduced, but Foster said he and Nieto face the task of showing why Chittick was right to dismiss the aggravated mayhem charge.

The argument will be made mostly in court filings and between attorneys. No witnesses will be called during the hearing. No hearing date has been set.

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