comments
UPDATE

Former cop waives preliminary hearing

Media lawyer argues to retain access to proceeding
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
The ex-cop charged with drug-related felonies and murder-for-hire waived his right to a preliminary hearing after a judge rejected a request to close the proceeding to the public. Ruben Cesar Salgado, 37, appeared in Dept. 44 of the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville Thursday. On Tuesday Salgado’s attorney, Daniel Nicholson, made a request to Judge Jeffrey Penney that the ex-California Highway Patrol Officer’s hearing be closed to the public and, therefore, the media. Salgado was originally arrested in May on multiple drug-related felonies, and was out on bail when he allegedly tried to hire someone to commit murder against a woman with the initials “R.M.” The woman allegedly sold Salgado drugs related to his first arrest. Salgado was arrested for the alleged crime in July. His girlfriend, Breaonna Nunes, was also arrested. She was booked into Sacramento County Jail and has since bailed out. Nicholson said Thursday because of the fact that the prosecution presents its evidence of why a case should go to trial at a preliminary hearing, and because of the immediacy of media capabilities to broadcast that information, the community would have one-sided views of Salgado that could taint a future trial. “You can read the story as it’s happening, literally from the courtroom,” Nicholson said. “It is clear that is prejudicial.” Nicholson said a Google Internet search he performed on Salgado resulted in hundreds of articles, and that this showed how much information was being spread about the former officer. “This is a case that is very interesting apparently to the public and the general news media,” he said. Nicholson said the case wasn’t completely closed to the public, because community members and media would be allowed to attend the trial, where evidence from both sides would be presented. “I believe it’s more important that 12 people hear the whole story than for everyone to hear half of it,” he said. “The trial is the important part. We are not keeping the public out.” Nicholson said several other high-profile cases, including the Scott Peterson case in which Modesto resident Peterson was convicted in 2005 of killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn child, had open preliminary hearings. Nicholson said because of extensive media coverage of these cases, changes of venue were necessary after the open hearings. If the judge decided not to honor the request, Salgado could waive his preliminary hearing to have the public hear both sides of the story in a trial, Nicholson said. After Nicholson spoke Thursday, Prosecuting Attorney Doug Van Breemen and Attorney Charity Kenyon, who was representing various media agencies in the courtroom, made statements about why the hearing should be open to the public. “What the defense is asking the court to do is extraordinary and extremely rare,” Van Breemen said. “In a preliminary hearing there is no jury, so there is a need for openness and public access.” Van Breemen said a Google search could result in numerous entries for the same article, and he didn’t think that was enough to prove Nicholson’s point about the media. “I don’t see any professional studies or surveys done by (the defense),” Van Breemen said. Because Salgado is a former public officer whose salary was paid by taxpayers, the community should be a part of each step of his case, Van Breemen said. Kenyon said keeping court proceedings open is necessary in order to educate the community. “It’s the chief way that the public knows what’s going on in its courts,” Kenyon said. Nicholson said that an eventual change of venue could cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars. “I think that is speculation at this point,” Van Breemen said. “This is not a change-of-venue motion.” After listening to all three attorneys, Penney decided to deny the request. “This court believes the public and media’s First Amendment right is more important than any inconvenience caused to the court,” Penney said. After Penney denied the request to close the hearing, Salgado and Nicholson waived the former officer’s right to a preliminary hearing. Nicholson said outside the courtroom that a change of venue is something he might request in the future. “It’s a likely issue,” Nicholson said. “It will depend on whether or not the jury pool is tainted.” Salgado is scheduled for a second arraignment at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 28 in Auburn’s Placer County Jail courtroom. The proceeding is customary after a preliminary hearing, according to Art Campos, spokesman for the Placer County District Attorney’s Office. According to Van Breemen, trial dates could be set at that time. Salgado is currently being held in Placer County Jail and is ineligible for bail. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com