Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, July 8, 2022


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D.A.’s Office Seeks to Block Deportation of Woman-Beater

C.A. Opinion Reveals Concurrence in Defense Effort to Gain Resentencing of Man Who Pled No Contest to

Felony Charge of Striking Girlfriend, Resulting in Trauma; Judge Mitchell Denied Motion, Is Reversed


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Office of District Attorney George Gascón pushed for the resentencing of a man who severely beat his girlfriend, pled no-contest to a felony pursuant to a plea bargain, and was incarcerated, urging that his offense be retroactively denominated a misdemeanor to spare him the consequence of deportation, a decision of the Court of Appeal for this district reveals.

Div. Eight’s opinion was filed June 13 and was certified for publication on Wednesday. San Diego Superior Court Judge Albert T. Harutunian III, sitting on assignment, was the author.

The opinion reverses a May 25, 2021 order by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daviann L. Mitchell, who vetoed the deal that was agreed to by the District Attorney’s Office and the Office of Public Defender. Mitchell denied a motion by Carlos Renan Manzanilla to vacate his 2014 conviction for violation of Penal Code §273.5(a) which applies to “[a]ny person who willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a victim” such as a person with whom the defendant had been in a dating relationship.

His motion for resentencing was made pursuant to Penal Code §1473.7 on the ground that he was not adequately apprised that deportation would be mandatory as a result of the plea. Mitchell found at the hearing that the defendant was aware of that consequence when he pled.

Manzanilla had signed a form affirming, “I understand that if I am not a citizen of the United States, I must expect my plea of guilty or no contest will result in my deportation” and notes of the deputy public defender who represented him, Jodi Lin, indicated she had explained that consequence to her client and he acknowledged he was “fine” with it so long as proceedings took place in the U.S.

Not Misdemeanor Level

In light of the facts as recited in the probation report, Mitchell told the lawyers, Manzanilla was not “a person that deserves a misdemeanor.”

That report says that Manzanilla, enraged that his girlfriend, Kellie Warner, had driven his car without his consent, choked her, causing her to black out, and when she regained consciousness, hit her on her face and upper torso. She escaped and summoned police who arrested Manzanilla, while she was taken to the hospital.

Warner later told police that during the incident, Manzanilla slashed her forehead with a knife and threatened to kill her, and that he had stabbed her in the past.

Nonetheless, Harutunian’s opinion directs that the Superior Court vacate Manzanilla’s 2014 conviction and resentence him, citing inadequacies he perceived in Lin’s performance.

‘Creative Bargaining’

Harutunian declared that the record does not show that Manzanilla was expressly advised that by pleading no contest, he would necessarily be deported, and faults Lin for having “failed to bargain creatively with the prosecutor to reduce the likelihood of automatic deportation.” If she had negotiated a term of incarceration of 354 days rather than 365 days, her client would not have been sentenced for an aggravated felony and would not have faced mandatory deportation, he pointed out.

The visiting jurist expressed bafflement over Lin’s recitation that Manzanilla had said he was “fine” with facing a deportation hearing if it were held in the U.S.

“If Manzanilla knew he was subject to mandatory deportation to Mexico, then his concern about the location of his immigration hearing seems irrelevant,” Harutunian remarked, adding later that the site of the hearing would be “a bizarre concern if he meaningfully understood he would be deported.”

Reason for Fear

However, elsewhere in the opinion, he noted Manzanilla’s declaration to the effect that he is “afraid for his life if he returns to Mexico.” Harutunian recited:

“He is bi-sexual, and last time he went to Mexico, in the 1990s, he was assaulted by the Mexican Federal Police based on his sexual orientation (as evidenced by derogatory language used during the assault) when they found him with a man, leaving him with broken ribs, a black eye, and other injuries.”

Manzanilla is fighting deportation on the ground that he has a well-founded fear of persecution if he were returned to Mexico and that, under the Convention Against Torture, he should be allowed to remain in the U.S. His contention was rejected by the Board of Immigration Appeal based on a change in laws and public attitudes in Mexico, and a petition for review of that decision was argued before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 11, 2021.

Jullian London of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, representing Manzanilla, told a three-judge panel of the §1473.7 motion to vacate the felony conviction, saying that “Mr. Manzanilla would be entitled to re-open and terminate his immigration proceeding if he is able to get that conviction overturned or effectively reduced.”

The Ninth Circuit has put the matter on hold pending a determination in the state proceedings.

Harutunian’s opinion comes in People v. Manzanilla, 2022 S.O.S. 2937.


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