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BENNINGTON — A Superior Court judge was unswayed Thursday by a defense attorney’s appeal for a dismissal in his client’s attempted murder case, which stemmed from a shooting at the downtown Bennington in December.
Judge Kerry McDonald-Cady ordered Gilberto Jiminez-Santiago, 25, of Holyoke, Mass., to be held without bail until at least April, for his alleged involvement in the daylight shooting of an apartment building residential at 108 Lafayette St. Jiminez-Santiago was allegedly one of three individuals inside a white Subaru who fired multiple bullets into the building in retaliation for being ripped off after a drug deal took place took place earlier in the morning.
Defense attorney Joshua Stern told the judge he disputed the court’s initial finding of probable cause in the case, based on his assertion that there was no evidence in the affidavit regarding his client’s intent to harm someone and that there was no victim inside the room where the bullets landed.
“Your Honor,” Stern said, “even if the court decides that there is sufficient evidence that Mr. Santiago was involved in the shooting at the residence, there is no evidence that he intended to murder anyone. There is no evidence that anyone was present in this room, and there is no evidence that Mr. Jimenez-Santiago or any of his co-defendants believed anyone was present when they would have opened fire.
Stern based his challenge on the fact that for someone to be charged by the state with attempted murder, there must be an attempt to harm someone. In other words, there must be knowledge that he was aiming at someone and that there was a “victim” present.
“The state cannot, with the evidence presented, prove that Mr. Jimenez-Santiago was even involved in the shooting,” Stern told the judge. “Even if he can prove that he was involved in the shooting, he cannot prove that there was a victim in a position to be threatened with death by the discharge of these firearms. State can designate that Mr. Jimenez-Santiago allegedly attempted to kill by discharging a firearm that day, [the] the state cannot prove a case of attempted murder.
State’s Attorney Jared Bianchi rebutted that argument by meticulously piecing together several pieces of circumstantial evidence linking Jimenez-Santiago to the gun evidence found through eyewitness accounts, video footage and bullet casings found in the white Subaru. . He then recounted the story of Jimenez-Santiago’s alleged drug dealings with an individual who lived in the same room where the bullets entered. He also detailed a dispute after an alleged drug trade went south, and Jimenez-Santiago and his cohorts were “ripped off.”
“There are probable grounds to believe that this defendant committed this act with intent to cause death. The probable cause affidavit sets out all the necessary elements,” Bianchi said. “Intent in cases like this must almost always be inferred from other facts. This shooting happened because this defendant and his friends were upset about being scammed in a drug deal This defendant was seen there and was known to have been angry about a drug deal gone wrong He was known to have had a gun at the time and to have knowledge of what was happening was going to the house because of his role in this drug trade, he also knew that there were people there.
After a short pause, the judge returned with her decision.
“The court is responsible for determining probable cause,” she said. “First, whether a crime has been committed and whether the accused probably committed it. The law here does not require direct evidence but can be determined by circumstantial evidence. Here the state meets that bar. It is likely that Mr. Jimenez-Santiago intended to harm by firing his weapon. He was one of three drug dealers living inside the residence. His fingerprints are on many objects there. Other people identified him as being there and possessing a gun. This [Jimenez-Santiago] was upset after an argument about being scammed. The same individual who allegedly scammed him lived in the same room where the bullets landed.
Jimenez-Santiago could be seen squirming in his seat on video from the Southern State Correctional Facility as the judge spoke.
McDonald-Cady ended by saying, “Intent is inferred from Mr. Jimenez-Santiago’s actions leading up to the shooting. The court finds probable cause.
The arraignment was postponed for 24 hours after Stern invoked Jimenez-Santiago’s right of 24 hours after being assigned to decide a plea. It was further delayed as the court requested a Spanish interpreter, who was to relay English in the courtroom at Jimenez-Santiago into Spanish.
Bianchi requested and was granted a no bond retainer in the case. Jimenez-Santiago will be held without bond until a weight of evidence hearing can be scheduled sometime in April.
According to the court affidavit, Bennington police responded shortly after 10 a.m. on December 14 to a call for numerous shots fired at an occupied residence at 108 Lafayette Street. area. This Subaru, a 2002 Legacy wagon with gray trim on the bottom, was reported stolen early that morning by its owners.
Bennington Police recovered the stolen Subaru after it appeared in Springfield, Massachusetts. Evidence of the possible search for the Subaru, public information, and a thorough investigation by Bennington police and members of the Department of Homeland Security resulted in the warrant being issued for Jiminez-Santiago. in February. He was picked up by the Holyoke, Massachusetts, police department two weeks later and taken to Bennington this week.
No one was injured in the shooting, although many residents were in their homes during the gunfire.
After the judge’s decision, Jimenez-Santiago pleaded not guilty to the sole count of attempted murder and was returned to his cell. The single count of attempted murder in Vermont carries a possible life sentence with a presumed minimum of 20 years behind bars.
Judge denies defense challenge to probable cause in attempted murder case | Local News
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