A homeless man who bit off part of an Arcata police officer’s thumb was sentenced this morning to four years and eight months in state prison.
Delano Blayze Malang, 22, faced up to 21 years, and the Probation Department had recommended 16 years. But Judge Gregory Elvine-Kreis, citing Malang’s youth and mental health problems, selected a penalty that Deputy District Attorney Trent Timm called “kind of a slap on the wrist.”
A jury convicted Malang in March of mayhem, assault likely to cause great bodily injury, threatening an executive officer and resisting or obstructing an officer. He also was found guilty of the special allegation of assault with great bodily injury on APD Sgt. Heidi Groszmann, whom he bit as she and other officers were attempting to place him in a police van on Aug. 1.
Elvine-Kreis dismissed the special allegation and also a prior “strike” for third degree robbery in Oregon. The judge pointed out the victim was Malang’s father.
A doctor who evaluated Malang said he has no insight into either his crimes or his own mental health. He also refuses to take medication.
Malang read a statement this morning, never mentioning his attack on Groszmann. He said the mental health services in the jail are ineffective, and therefore he has taken charge.
“I spend most of my time in jail trying to improve my mental health,” Malang said, adding he meditates daily.
“I believe my mental health is much more stable.” He said he is no longer angry and “in a constant state of worry.”
His plan after being released is to buy a phone and call his mother, who will be “happy to pick me up.”
Timm said Malang will serve “about one-fifth” of the sentence he could have received. Timm especially objected to Elvine-Kreis striking the special allegation of inflicting great bodily injury.
Groszmann’s career as a police officer was in jeopardy, Timm said, and she suffered much trauma during the unsuccessful process of trying to have the tip of her thumb re-attached.
Defense attorney R.J. Leohner, whose behavior during the trial got him held in contempt of court six times, argued Malang is a good candidate for probation. Leohner also said, as he did in trial, that officers bore some responsibility.
“There was some provocation,” he said.
Timm responded that Malang sees himself as a victim, an attitude that does not benefit him.
“The defendant has always thought police officers acted viciously and violently,” he said. “That’s not based on reality.”
After the trial, jurors said they admired officers for their calmness and kindness as Malang screamed, kicked and banged his head on the sidewalk. He was being taken into custody because officers, observing his odd behavior, suspected he was under the influence of methamphetamine.
Malang also refused to leave the scene as officers were questioning a suspect on the Arcata Plaza.
Elvine-Kreis said his sentence is not a reflection on the officers.
“They acted with great restraint,” the judge said. “They went over and above (in showing restraint) and in doing that they may have prolonged it.”
Addressing Malang, Elvine-Kreis said “You need to get a grip on your own mental health.”
Malang was given credit for time served, but the credit will go toward his misdemeanor conviction for obstructing or resisting an officer. He will serve about four years.
Before Elvine-Kreis passed sentence, he denied Leohner’s motion for new trial. Leohner filed the motion based on his own ineffectiveness of counsel, saying a new attorney should be appointed.
That left Timm in the position of arguing that Leohner was effective during trial.
Although Leohner violated court orders and court decorum, Timm said, he did “a very good job” of getting evidence in. Timm pointed out that Leohner cross-examined witnesses for “hour upon hour upon hour.”
Malang is from a small town near Salem, Oregon but had been homeless in Arcata for several months.
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- Thumb Biter Found Guilty on All Counts; Judge Declines to Jail Defense Attorney for Poor Behavior During Trial
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In other court news, a doctor who evaluated murder suspect Austin Michael Medeiros says he is not mentally competent to stand trial.
Judge John Feeney referred Medeiros’s case to Conrep, a state agency that recommends where an incompetent defendant should be sent for treatment. Medeiros, 27, also will be evaluated by the county’s Department of Health and Human Services to determine whether he can be forced to take anti-psychotic medication.
Medeiros, with hands cuffed and ankles shackled, was perturbed by the finding.
“There’s no possible way I’m not competent,” Medeiros told his attorney, Deputy Conflict Counsel Owen Tipps.
Medeiros is charged with murdering a 28-year-old disabled woman who was found dead in her Kneeland home on April 3. He is also accused of assaulting the woman’s caretaker.
After he was jailed, Medeiros allegedly fashioned a weapon and used it to attack a jail officer.
His next hearing is June 20.
Deputy District Attorney Candace Myers is the prosecutor.
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A new attorney was appointed this morning for Daniel Armendariz, one of two men charged with the July 2020 murder of Hoopa resident Julius Tripp.
Armendariz has been represented for months by the county’s Conflict Counsel’s Office. But this morning Conflict Counsel Meagan O’Connell told Judge Kaleb Cockrum she has discovered a conflict in the case.
Cockrum appointed private attorney Zack Curtis to represent Armendariz. This morning a hearing had been scheduled on Deputy District Attorney Trent Timm’s motion to join Armendariz’s case with that of Bronson Lewis, also charged with murdering Tripp.
That hearing has been rescheduled for June 20 to give Curtis a chance to get up to speed on the issue.
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Jurors in the murder trial of Gearold “Roldo” Sotolongo deliberated for about three hours today, leaving the courthouse more than an hour early without reaching a verdict.
Deliberations will resume tomorrow morning.
The jury received the case late Thursday afternoon, and may or may not have discussed it on that day. Court was dark Friday and Monday. This morning the jury deliberated for about two hours. After lunch they stayed for only about an hour before heading home.
Sotolongo, 31, is accused of stabbing Roger Alan Yale to death outside the Hoopa Mini-mart in February 2016. He has been in Humboldt County Correctional Facility for more than six years.
When Judge Larry Killoran read instructions to jurors, he described the law applying to first-degree murder, second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Deputy District Attorneys Roger Rees and Jessica Watson are trial prosecutors, with Zack Curtis representing Sotolongo.
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- SOTOLONGO TRIAL: Defense Presents Self-Defense Case, While Prosecution Points to the Accused’s History of Jailhouse Fights
- SOTOLONGO TRIAL: Testimony Ends; Closing Arguments to Begin Tomorrow Morning