Our client was arrested by the Lakewood Sheriffs for grand theft (Penal Code § 487), a felony, and misdemeanor battery (Penal Code § 242) arising out of an incident outside his home in Lakewood. The District Attorney in Bellflower then reviewed the facts of the case and modified the charges, filing a complaint instead for misdemeanor criminal threats (Penal Code § 422) and misdemeanor battery (Penal Code § 242).
In 50 Words or Less: Bellflower, misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor criminal threats alleged, case later resolved for misdemeanor battery only and informal, or summary, probation.
Our client, an African American male in his mid-40’s, and his brother-in-law, a Caucasian attorney in his early 40’s, had been bickering for years over an inheritance either our client or his sister, our client’s sister, might receive.
As the reader of this summary may recognize, an inheritance is considered separate property under California law, not community property. Therefore, it was quite presumptive for the husband of our client’s sister to argue about the rights to an inheritance that the brother-in-law had no legal right to and should have known this as a licensed attorney. Our client, who was not an attorney, was correct all along in telling his brother-in-law that he had no right to any inheritance from his mother-in-law (unless the mother-in-law had a will that specifically identified the son-in-law as a beneficiary, which was not the case here).
Our client’s brother-in-law, whose practice had dwindled down to nearly no clients, had seen his wife’s inheritance as his windfall, so he orchestrated a scheme whereby he would have his wife file for conservatorship of her parents so she could have control over their assets and then keep it all for herself and our client would inherit nothing. The brother-in-law somehow assumed that if his wife gained control over the money, he would benefit.
Our client could clearly see what was happening. His brother-in-law bragged to others, including the Lakewood Sheriffs, that he would own the family home one day and rent it out.
At the same time, to ensure our client could not credibly oppose the petition for conservatorship, he “baited” our client into a fight so that he could saddle our client with a criminal history, hopefully for a felony. This would make it easier to defeat our client seeking any role in the conservatorship. Our client had no criminal history.
In a staged altercation, the attorney first sucker punched our client in the face and ran about thirty feet away. Our client, enraged, was then encouraged to “come get me, boy! Make it easy!” while his brother-in-law filmed the episode with his cell phone.
Our client prudently did not fight back. Instead, he approached his brother-in-law and grabbed his cell phone. He then gave it to the Lakewood Sheriffs as evidence that his brother-in-law should be prosecuted.
The brother-in-law lobbied the Bellflower DA incessantly, practically begging the DA to charge our client with multiple felonies. The brother-in-law always signed his letters with “Esquire” at the end, which we find is the surest sign one is not a practicing attorney, is fresh out of law school or is not a very good attorney.
Bellflower Superior Courthouse
The District Attorney, however, wisely realized what was going on and listened to Greg Hill of our office, who negotiated a plea bargain that frustrated the brother-in-law’s scheme.
Under the terms of the plea bargain, the criminal threats count was dismissed and our client pled no contest to the battery charge with two years of summary probation only and no classes, no community service and no fines. As it was a no contest plea, it could not be used against our client in any civil proceeding and our client could seek expungement of the conviction once probation ended, which our office would seek after half of the probation period was completed.
Moreover, in entering the plea bargain, Greg Hill insisted upon a People v. West waiver, further insulating the plea bargain from any use in the conservatorship proceeding. Our client was very happy with the way our office defeated his brother-in-law’s plan and especially insofar as he owed no fines, did not have to perform any community service and did not have to take any anger management classes, which reflected the weak nature of the case.
When the plea bargain was entered into, the prosecutor agreed that at the half-way mark in the probation, he would stipulate to early termination of probation, which would then allow our client to petition the court for expungement of the conviction.
It merits mention that the client did not want to go to trial due to his race and the risk of being convicted by a jury, which even the prosecutor knew would be highlighted in the planned conservatorship proceedings.
For more information about the issues in this case summary, click on the following articles:
- What Are Criminal Threats and the Defenses to This Charge?
- Immigration Consequences of a Plea to Misdemeanor Criminal Threats Are Not Grounds to Vacate a Judgment