Gabbi Lemos shown at her graduation from Petaluma High School in 2015 (left) and 2 days after being arrested a few days later (right).
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | August 31, 2016, 4:23PM
A Petaluma woman and her mother were convicted Wednesday of resisting arrest in a much-watched case in which the family claimed they were the victims of police brutality.
After about two hours of deliberation, jurors found Gabbi Lemos, 19, and her mother, Michelle Lemos, 48, each guilty of the single misdemeanor charge stemming from the June 2015 incident outside their Liberty Road home.
The verdict came after about a week of testimony and the playing of a body-camera recording that appeared to show Gabbi Lemos interfering with a late-night domestic dispute investigation by Sonoma County sheriff’s Deputy Marcus Holton.With the conviction, Gabbi Lemos is now prevented from pursuing an excessive force lawsuit filed against Holton and the county in federal court. Her lawyer said he plans to appeal the verdict based on pretrial rulings he said affected the outcome.
The two women declined to comment. They face up to a year in jail when they are sentenced Sept. 19.
“Obviously, the clients expected a different result,” attorney Izaak Schwaiger said. “So this is a difficult time for them.”
Judge Gary Medvigy denied a request by deputy prosecutor Jenica Leonard to immediately remand mother and daughter into custody.
Jurors leaving the courthouse also would not comment.
The Lemos case made headlines after the 5-foot, 105-pound teenager suffered two black eyes and facial bruising in her arrest outside her own high school graduation party.
Holton, who was on routine patrol, stopped to check out what he described as women yelling and a truck parked in the middle of the street. When he attempted to question an apparently intoxicated sister in the truck, Gabbi Lemos stepped between them, smashing into him, the deputy testified.
She retreated behind her mother and another sister, who began shouting at Holton and wagging fingers at him in a chaotic scene. At one point, Gabbi Lemos tried to walk into her house. Holton grabbed her and threw her to the ground when he said she resisted his attempt to put handcuffs on her.
Initially, the District Attorney’s Office said it would not charge Lemos
But a day after she sued the county in federal court, prosecutors brought the resisting arrest charge, saying they had been planning it for weeks. Medvigy ruled the timing was coincidental.
In a rare move, the Sheriff’s Office then published the body-cam footage and an audio recording of Gabbi Lemos talking to her mom on a jail phone. In the phone recording, Gabbi Lemos uses a racial slur to describe Holton, who is black. Medvigy ruled it was inadmissible but changed his mind after finding race was a factor in their behavior.
Both Lemos women testified in their own defense. Michelle Lemos was charged with trying to pull Holton off her daughter. She expressed regret for her own racial comments but claimed her daughter never touched Holton.
The Sheriff’s Office said it was pleased with the outcome.
“The verdict rendered today helped reinforce our belief that the deputy was correctly doing his job that night in trying to protect a potential victim of domestic violence,” sheriff’s spokesman Spencer Crum said in a written statement.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 707-568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ppayne.