SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — A mother and daughter who were convicted of resisting or obstructing a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy during a chaotic, physical confrontation outside their home last year were sentenced to 30 days in Sonoma County Jail and two years’ probation Monday morning.
Michelle Lemos, 48, and Gabrielle Lemos, 19, were taken into custody immediately after they were sentenced by Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Gary Medvigy.
The judge set their bail at $50,000 after defense attorney Izaak Schwaiger said he had filed a notice of an appeal and asked the judge for a stay of execution of the sentence.
“It sounds like the notice of appeal is in the system, but the stay is denied,” Medvigy said.
Two of the 10 sheriff’s bailiffs present in the courtroom then handcuffed the women. Schwaiger told the court he planned to post their bail Monday afternoon.
The emotional sentencing in the packed courtroom included Deputy Marcus Holton fighting tears as he read a letter about the effect the June 13, 2015, incident on Liberty Road near Petaluma had on him and his family.
Holton said his mother died two weeks before the trial started in August, and the publicity about the case prevented him from attending school events in peace, including a father-daughter dance.
“Your misinformation to the media resulted in public ridicule, which caused me to suffer unbelievable stress and anxiety. That night I was doing what I am sworn to do, which is to protect all citizens of the community,” Holton said to the defendants.
Holton said he suffered a knee and neck injury during the defendants’ “resistive and assaultive behavior.”
He said the allegations that he used excessive force to arrest Gabrielle were damaging to the relationship and trust the sheriff’s office has with the community.
“You Gabrielle Lemos, you delayed and resisted me throughout this incident. Come to find out, it was because of the color of my skin,” Holton said.
Holton, who is black, testified he stopped on Liberty Road around 11:15 p.m. because a truck with a racecar trailer was blocking the narrow rural road. He said his focus shifted to a possible domestic violence incident when he heard loud voices and crying outside.
The commotion was about Karli Lemos, who was intoxicated and distraught because she could not find her cellphone. Both defendants testified they told Holton everything was fine and there was no domestic violence.
Holton said when he opened the truck door where Karli was seated to check her condition, Gabrielle intervened and bumped into him. A short time later, Holton grabbed Gabrielle’s arm to detain and arrest her as she walked back toward her house. Holton said he lifted Gabrielle up and “brought her to the ground” on the gravel driveway.
Michelle testified she grabbed Holton’s collar and kicked him as Holton straddled her daughter and handcuffed her. Gabrielle suffered facial cuts, bruises and a black eye and was taken to a hospital and then booked into Sonoma County Jail.
During a phone conversation between Michelle and Gabrielle while Gabrielle was in jail, both women made racist comments about Holton. Both women told Holton this morning they were sorry his mother died and they regretted their behavior.
“I made a very bad decision and I’m very sorry. I wish I had never made that decision,” Michelle said regarding the events of that day.
Gabrielle also told Holton she is sorry.
“I have learned a really good lesson,” she said.
Holton and Deputy District Attorney Jenica Leonard asked Medvigy to impose the maximum one-year county jail term for the misdemeanor offense and to order community service, anger management counseling and a letter of apology to Holton.
“These two women embody the entitlement that is sweeping the youth of this nation,” Leonard said. “These two women need a time out.”
Schwaiger said Michelle “made a serious mistake not because she is a bad person but because she sensed a threat to her family and she was wrong.”
“She made the human mistake of over-reacting,” he said while asking for probation and a suspension of any jail sentence.
Gabrielle’s attorney Rachel Wilber said her client reacted as she thought appropriate in the heat of the moment. She also asked for probation.
“She told us what a mistake that was and has taken responsibility. She has gained respect for the court and law enforcement,” Wilber said.
Judge Medvigy said, “This was a case the public deserved to hear. It was a good case for a jury trial.”
He said the defendants’ very poor behavior showed bigotry and a sense of entitlement.
“There was a deplorable decision-making process by both of you that night,” Medvigy said.
Both defendants showed an awful lack of respect to Holton as a deputy doing his job and as a black man, Medvigy said.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office hoped for a longer sentence but respects the judge’s decision and the way it was handed down, Sgt. Spencer Crum said.
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