Photos Tom Abbott
April 28, 2016 (San Diego) Judge Kenneth K. So bound Robert Branch for trial. HIs arraignment will be on May 12 at 1:30 at San Diego Superior Court. The charges stem from events on May of 2015, when he was stopped by Detective Paul Ward (ret), of the San Diego Sherriffs Department. Ward was driving an unmarked vehicle and Branch allegedly recklessly drove in front of him on the I-8 at Second Street going west.
If found guilty on all charges pending (two charges were reduced to misdemeanors and one was dropped), is facing potentially 5 years and 9 months in prison. He was been charged with impending an officers investigation, not turning both his drivers license and registration to a law officer and assault and battery on an officer. There are also older charges reduced to misdemeanors for threatenings phone calls.
This was a preliminary hearing and Judge So questioned both the defense and the prosecution on the use of deadly force. The prosecution argued that the use of pepper spray during the encounter, which was never discharged. The issue of whether a carotid restaurant was deadly force came up. Kohnen argued that it was. This led to the following exchange between Judge So and Kohnen.
Judge “What do you believe deadly force is?”
Kohnen “A substantial risk of death or bodily injury.”
Judge So: “A baton is deadly force?”
Kohnen “A carotid restraint is deadly force because it caused loss of consciousness.” He added that deadly force “is defined as serious bodily harm in the penal code.”
Then the judge asked Kohnen if he believed that Ward pulling out his service weapon would have been lesser force? To this Kohnen said that it would, since it would have brought Branch under control. It would be a very different case.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Runyon argued that “Branch put the detective into that position.” He also added that the use of the gun in the use of force matrix “is a higher use of force.”
Runyon argued that a “misdemeanor was committed in his presence.” And that by his actions Branch was “resisting or delaying the investigation.”
He also argued that Branch engaged in threats to use force, and he resisted arrest twice, when he tried to pull the arms of the detective off and when he tried to trip the officer. Moreover he tried to use a dangerous weapon on the officer when he brought out the pepper spray.
This is defined as such “A dangerous weapon can be used to inflict damage on another person.” And branch was trying to spray Ward.
This led to another exchange with the judge.
Judge “It can cause death or great bodily injuries.”
Runyon: “Pepper spray is inherently dangerous.”
Then the judge referred to jury instructions and asked Runyon if it does indeed fit that jury instruction on the description of a dangerous weapon?
Runyon “Pepper Spray is designed to physically incapacitate a person.” The DA further argued that paper spray is a weapon as a matter of law. There is no other use of pepper spray, than it being a weapon.
The case has been bound for a jury trial. The judge reduced two of the counts, stemming from a aeries of calls made in June-July of 2013, from a felony to a misdemeanor. They were allegedly threatening calls.