On March 13, 2010, Justin Lee Bentley left a bar, got into his automobile and started to drive. Entirely too drunk, he got out of the car and began walking. An Orland, Glenn County police officer, Kyle Cessna, saw him, and called him over to his vehicle. According to Cessna’s statements in testimony of a year ago, Bentley was compliant, but clearly drunk. Bentley, in fact, was so intoxicated he can’t remember anything.
After checking Bentley’s identification, Cessna said he began patting Bentley down for weapons. From there on out, life turned into a 13 month nightmare for Bentley. It seems clear that Officer Cessna pulled out his taser and tased Bentley, and attempted to put handcuffs on him. Bentley did not want the handcuffs or the taser, and for reasons that continue to be unclear, Cessna claims he had a sharp pain in his knee and fell to the ground with Bentley going down with him. Even that is unclear. At times Cessna says Bentley went down with him, and at other times he says Bentley was 8 or 10 feet away. Cessna says he felt a sharp pain, and at other times that Bentley kicked him.
In the process of this scuffle, Officer Cessna fired three shots with his Glock, and one bullet went through the house of a resident who was watching TV.
Bentley, it is clear, ran, and was finally taken into custody by Sheriffs’ deputies, tased and injured in the process, and taken to the Glenn County Medical Unit, and then to jail. Kyle Cessna was taken to a hospital in Chico, where his knee was checked out by doctors
On March 18, 2010, Bentley was arraigned on two charges, one a felony and one a misdemeanor: Battery on a Peace Officer (Penal Code 243 (C) (2)) and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, (Vehicle Code 23152 (a). Almost a month later, on April 16th, 2010, the District Attorney at the time, Robert Holzapfel, filled an amended complaint, charging Bentley with attempted murder of a Peace Officer with special allegations, use of a firearm (Penal Code 664/187) and 12022.53 (b) ) in addition to the original charges of DUI and battery on a police officer.
For the past year, Bentley and his public defender began preparing a defense against these charges. In the meantime, Bentley and his family struggled to find funds to retain the private attorney who had taken Justin through the first preliminary hearing in July 2010. When Bentley attempted to change his attorney on March 18, 2011, his right to do so was denied, and he was told to be ready to appear in Court the following Monday, March 21, 2011, for a jury trial.
Unknown to Bentley, his public defender and his private attorney, a grand jury was called for that very afternoon (March 18, 2011) to hear testimony from Kyle Cessna about the case. The new District Attorney, Robert Maloney, asked the questions and conducted the hearing.
On Monday morning, March 21, 2011, Bentley, his Public Defender, and a partner from his private attorney’s law office, showed up in Glenn County Court in Willows, to ostensibly face trial with Judge Twede. Maloney arrived late and said he had new charges and wanted to vacate the trial and the date for the trial, and to bring the new charges from the Grand Jury, plus, he had additional charges to be added to the indictment sent down from the Grand Jury. There were a number of questions about whether he could wrap all of these different charges into a brand new case. Because the new indictment was hastily written with several typographical errors, and Maloney indicated he did not have all the charges in his new filing typed yet, Judge Twede gave him until April 1, 2011, to clean up his paperwork and return to court.
On April 1, 2011, Maloney returned to court, and this time Superior Court Judge Byrd allowed Attorney Grady Davis to take the case for Justin Bentley. But, again, both the Judge, and Grady Davis had questions about the new consolidated cases and amended complaint; thus, Judge Byrd allowed another two weeks to review what Maloney had presented to the court. Everyone showed up again on Friday, April 15, 2011, and the new consolidated case was handed down, and a preliminary hearing date of May 11, 2011 was set.
Maloney Stacks Up the Charges
When the District Attorney briefed the Grand Jury on March 18, 2011, he made it clear he hoped to get indictments on a lot of felonies that carried long and stiff sentences, but the Grand Jury came back with only one indictment with special allegations: Assault with a deadly weapon(part of a leg), (Penal Code 245 (a) 1) with the special allegation of great bodily injury (Penal Code 12022.7 (a))
Maloney kept just one of the charges from the March and April 2010 case, but beefed it up. He says in Count 2, Willful deliberate attempted murder of a Peace Officer (Penal Code 664/187 (a) (e) )with three enhancements: use of a semi-automatic firearm, (Penal Code12022.53 (b) use of a firearm (Penal code12022.5 (a) and causing great bodily injury (Penal Code12022.7 (a) From there he stacks felony on top of felony, which could keep Bentley in prison for the rest of his life!
Count 1 The defendant resisted arrest with the use of force (Penal Code 69)
Count 2 (described above)
Count 3 (He) committed assault with a deadly weapon (handcuffs) (Penal Code 245 (c))
Count 4 (He) committed assault with a deadly weapon (firearm)( Penal Code 245 (d) 2 ) with three enhancements: use of a semi-automatic firearm, (12022.5(a)) use of a firearm, (12022.53 (b)) (and causing) great bodily injury (12022.7 (a))
Count 5 Robbery with three enhancements (Penal Code 211), use of a semi-automatic firearm, (12022.53 (b)) use of a firearm, (12022.5 (a)) causing great bodily injury (12022.7 (a); Note: Robbery in count 5 is the handcuffs on Bentley’s wrist when he ran.
Count 6 Willful deliberate attempted murder of a Peace Officer (Penal Code 664\187 (a) (e)) with three enhancements: use of a semi-automatic firearm, (12022.53 (b)) use of a firearm, (12022.5 (a)) causing great bodily injury (12022.7 (a));
Count 7 DUI Under the influence of drugs and alcohol (Vehicle Code 23152 (a))
Count 8 DUI Having a .08 percent and more (Vehicle Code (b))
Why is Maloney suddenly compelled to stack up charge on top of charge? Is this a way to make the defendant pay out all the money he can raise, and then fall back on a Public Defender? Is it an attempt to get the defendant to plead to serious felony charges? Does he really and truly believe that Justin Bentley grabbed Cessna’s gun and tried to kill him even though there are no fingerprints other than Cessna’s on the gun?
Two things are clear. Officer Cessna has changed his stories consistently in each and every report that is part of the file: arrest report, internal affairs report, Department of Justice investigation, Preliminary Hearing (July 2010), and the Grand Jury report. Is Cessna attempting to protect himself from charges that he recklessly shot up downtown Orland? Is there, as on reporter suggested, “bad blood” between Bentley and the Orland Police Department? Is the new District Attorney trying to prove that he is tough? Who knows, but one thing is definite: the costs for Bentley’s defense is soaring.
written by Peggy McCormack