People v. Anguiano, B304946

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtCRANDALL, J.
Decision Date24 August 2021
PartiesTHE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. DARIO ANGUIANO, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberB304946

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,

DARIO ANGUIANO, Defendant and Appellant.


California Court of Appeals, Second District, First Division

August 24, 2021


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. VA147230 Debra Cole-Hall, Judge. Reversed.

Aurora Elizabeth Bewicke, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Rob Bonta, Attorney General, Lance E Winters, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Susan Sullivan Pithey, Assistant Attorney General, Joseph P. Lee and Jaime L. Fuster, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


A jury convicted Dario Anguiano of kidnapping, felony corporal injury, misdemeanor contempt of court and misdemeanor dissuasion of a witness. The trial court sentenced him to a term of five years in state prison.

The charges primarily arose out of a November 2017 altercation between Anguiano and his former paramour, Yolanda V., with whom he shared a child. The incident resulted in questionable injuries and was initially filed as a misdemeanor.

In March 2018, however, Yolanda contacted detectives and told them that Anguiano, an electrician who had no prior record or reported incidences of domestic violence, had threatened her father in Mexico, claiming he was part of a drug cartel that could carry out this threat.

Based on the drug cartel references, Anguiano was re-arrested, and a six-count information was filed against him, now with several felony counts arising out of the original November 2017 incident. At trial, the threat charge that prompted Anguiano's re-arrest was dismissed for lack of evidence. Thereafter, the jury returned a mixed verdict.

On appeal, Anguiano raises various claims of error, including the exclusion of two areas of significant impeachment evidence: (1) that Yolanda, who began working with a victim's advocacy group in January or February of 2018, became aware of a special visa (and path to citizenship) available to immigrant victims of serious offenses who cooperate with law enforcement, and may have changed her testimony accordingly; and (2) that shortly after the November 2017 incident, and prior to her threat allegations, Yolanda made several recorded messages in which she sought out meetings with Anguiano and stated she would drop the charges in exchange for financial support.

We hold that the trial court erred by unduly narrowing the allowable cross-examination of Yolanda, whose testimony was crucial to the prosecution's case and who possessed a significant motive to fabricate and/or embellish her testimony. Yolanda's direct testimony clearly placed her immigration status in issue, which reduced any possible prejudice from allowing cross-examination on that topic. Further, with no clearly visible injuries, witness credibility was paramount, making cross-examination especially important.

Accordingly, we find these errors prejudicial and reverse.[1]


A. Prosecution's Case-in-chief

1. November 25, 2017: Counts 1 to 3 (Kidnapping, Corporal Injury to Domestic Partner or Parent of Child, and False Imprisonment by Violence)

Yolanda and Anguiano dated for about two years.[2] Anguiano, who was 20 years older than Yolanda, was married to another woman. In June or July 2016, Yolanda told Anguiano's wife about the affair, and showed her photos. Yolanda believed Anguiano was going to divorce his wife. In October or November 2016, Yolanda became pregnant with Anguiano's child.[3] Anguiano and Yolanda continued to see each other, and he provided her with financial support. By November of 2017, however, they had ended their relationship.

On November 25, 2017, Anguiano sent angry text messages to Yolanda and then showed up at her place at around 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. The angry texts were about Yolanda posting a photograph of herself on social media. Anguiano spoke with Yolanda for about half an hour, and then left.

Later that evening, Yolanda attended a family function, asking her next door neighbor, Carina Hernandez, to babysit her and Anguiano's three-month-old baby. Carina agreed and at around 9:00 p.m. she went to Yolanda's apartment, bringing her two young children with her.

A little after 10:00 p.m., Anguiano arrived at Yolanda's residence and knocked at the door. Carina peeked out the window. She recognized Anguiano as the baby's father, but did not know him well.[4] She refused to open the door, and called Yolanda. After Anguiano attempted to enter through the baby's bedroom window, Carina grabbed the baby and opened the door. Anguiano asked where Yolanda was and demanded the baby, calling Carina insulting names. Carina refused to give him the baby.

Anguiano walked over to Carina and her husband Jose Santos's apartment and demanded he get his wife out of Yolanda's apartment. Jose followed Anguiano to Yolanda's home. Anguiano continued acting aggressively, insulted Carina, and asked for the baby. Carina was on the verge of tears. Jose called 911 in front of Anguiano. Jose told police he was having problems with a neighbor who was acting aggressively because the mother of his baby was not home. After calling 911, Jose took his own children home and Carina stayed in Yolanda's apartment with the baby. Eventually, Carina allowed Anguiano to have the baby.

Around 10 to 20 minutes later, Yolanda arrived at the front gate to the triplex. Anguiano asked her with whom she was, and accused her of lying. She told him to calm down. While holding the baby with his left arm, Anguiano grabbed Yolanda by the neck and hair and held onto her hair as they walked back to the entrance of Yolanda's apartment.

Once inside, Anguiano placed the baby on the bed and asked Yolanda why she was lying to him. Yolanda replied that she would tell him if she were ever with somebody else. Anguiano became “really upset” and put one hand on her throat and pressed hard. She asked him to let her go, and he complied, but continued insulting her. Anguiano had never acted violently with Yolanda. He put a fist near her head and told her to shut up. At this point, the police arrived.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Deputy Jason Guillen was dispatched to the scene. When he arrived, Jose directed him to Yolanda's residence. Deputy Guillen heard no sounds from the house, and knocked on the door. Yolanda opened it within seconds. She was crying and had “redness to her neck.” Photographs taken by Deputy Guillen of Yolanda's neck did not show the degree of redness.[5] Yolanda reported Anguiano had grabbed her by the neck while the two were inside. She also stated that he had grabbed her hair and dragged her about 20 to 30 yards into her residence.[6]

After interviewing Yolanda, Carina, and Jose, the deputies placed Anguiano under arrest. Protective orders were issued against Anguiano, prohibiting him from contacting Yolanda.

2. January 1 through March 12, 2017: Counts 4 to 6 (Criminal Threats, Dissuading a Witness, and Contempt of Court)

In December of 2017, Yolanda and Anguiano exchanged some messages through Yolanda's sister regarding support for Yolanda and the baby. Although there was no child support order in place, Anguiano had been giving money to Yolanda to help her and the baby, but had stopped doing so after his arrest.

On January 31, 2018, Yolanda went to the Sheriff's Department Century Station and reported that Anguiano had contacted her the previous day, in violation of a restraining order. Yolanda brought a video of a six-minute phone conversation. The deputy at the front desk booked the video into evidence, after confirming that the restraining order prohibited electronic communication. No further action was taken.

On March 12, 2018, Yolanda contacted detectives and reported that Anguiano had called her father in Mexico and threatened to kill the family, stating that he could get it done and that he was part of a drug cartel. The police came out to Yolanda's home and made a report. Anguiano was then re-arrested and subsequently charged in a six-count Information for conduct based on the November assault and the ensuing phone calls.[7]

B. Defense Case

Claudia Anguiano, Anguiano's wife, testified she had been married to him since 1997 and had been with him since 1994. They have four children together. In August 2016, Yolanda came over to Claudia's home and told Claudia that she had been in a relationship with Anguiano for a year. Yolanda had pictures of her with him to prove their relationship. Subsequently, Yolanda called Claudia numerous times and asked whether there was a divorce pending. Claudia tried to get a restraining order against Yolanda.

Anguiano testified that he never told Yolanda that he was going to divorce his wife and denied he wanted to have a child with her. She did not tell him when she stopped using birth control. By November 2017, Anguiano was no longer in an intimate relationship with Yolanda. He had agreed to give her financial support in exchange for her not bothering his family; Anguiano signed a lease for Yolanda's apartment and gave her money for rent and other expenses.

On November 25, 2017, Yolanda called Anguiano and asked for an advance on December's rent. She wanted the money earlier than usual because she wanted to fix her hair extensions, which had been removed during a fight about a week or two earlier.[8]

Anguiano, an electrician, was on emergency-call duty that day, without a fixed schedule. Anguiano told Yolanda that he did not have the money yet but agreed to stop by her place with donuts she wanted that afternoon.[9] They further agreed he would stop by later that evening with some money for her. Anguiano wanted to bring her the money that evening because he had a family event the following day and knew that Yolanda would be calling him if he did not give her the money.

That night, around 10:30 p.m., Anguiano...

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