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Assault suspect charged with four felonies
A criminal complaint was filed in Yuma Justice Court Thursday afternoon against the man who allegedly beat a woman, kidnapped her from her home and threatened to shoot her.
“This is a case in which a woman, in the safety and sanctity of her own home, was beaten, drug out of it, terrorized during a car ride to a field in the middle of nowhere, told repeatedly she was going to be killed, her friends were going to be killed, her mother was going to be killed,” said prosecutor James Coil, of the Yuma County Attorney's Office.
“The victim was found basically distraught and in her pajamas a couple of miles away from her home along a road she had no reason to be at. A complete stranger to her stopped to render assistance. She got in his car and was terrified, and made a 911 call from his cell phone to report what had just happened to her.”
Gary Smith, 23, was arraigned before Justice of the Peace Greg Stewart, who informed him that the Yuma County Attorney's Office is alleging in the complaint that he committed four offenses and was charging him with four felonies.
Stewart informed Smith, who appeared with his attorney Conrad Mallek by his side, that he had been charged with two counts of aggravated assault, one of which was per domestic violence, the other with a deadly weapon, one count of kidnapping and one count of burglary.
As he did before the start of his client's hearing Tuesday, Mallek objected to the presence of media in the courtroom, stating that because the images and videos taken during the proceeding would be used repeatedly and show his client in prison clothing and handcuffs, it would prevent his client from getting an impartial jury if the case were to go to trial.
Mallek argued that, at the very least, his client should be allowed to change into the street clothes he was wearing the day he was arrested so the public wouldn't see the same images and form a preconceived opinion as to his client's innocence or guilt.
Stewart, however, ruled against both requests, saying he did not believe, with the Yuma area's population, the court would not be able to seat an impartial jury based on images of his client in the media.
In addition to scheduling Smith's next court date, a preliminary hearing for 4 p.m. March 22, Stewart ordered his bond, at the prosecution's request, be increased from the $250,000 he had set during a previous hearing to $500,000.
“This defendant comes before you, your honor, not the purest of driven snow,” Coil said. “He has a criminal history with at least two previous felony convictions.”
Prior to Stewart's setting the bond, Mallek argued he thought that doubling the amount was excessive and did not take into account that his client should not be considered a flight risk because he was in the process of turning himself Tuesday morning when he was arrested by sheriff's deputies at his law firm's office.
Mallek also said that Smith had come to his law firm Monday to hire him and that he had personally contacted the sheriff's office and notified them that his client would be turning himself in the following morning.
Coil disagreed, saying that while he had no reason not to believe Mallek that his client was going to eventually turn himself in, he believed it was more due to the fact that he had been spotted walking in the downtown area that morning.
“In this case, what happened is a third party actually saw the defendant walking down by the Landing Restaurant and called it in. And it ended with (Smith) being taken into custody at Mr. Mallek's office. I believe there were some conversations between Mr. Mallek and law enforcement in regard to this defendant surrendering himself, but he had days to surrender. This seems to have been precipitated not so much by the negotiations between Mr. Mallek and law enforcement but because an independent person saw (Smith) and called it in to law enforcement,” Coil said.
“Someone who is wanted by police, knows he is wanted by police, the police are actively looking for him. It is not as if they are attempting to negotiate a surrender, but that doesn't stop the efforts of law enforcement to locate and apprehend the person they are looking for, the person they have probable cause to arrest.”
Sheriff's deputies began searching for Smith on Saturday after he allegedly assaulted an individual known to him and forced the individual into his vehicle at about 11 a.m. in the 1100 block of South Palm Avenue. Smith was allegedly armed with a semiautomatic handgun and threatened to shoot the victim, kill other unspecified persons and then kill himself.
The victim, whose identity was not disclosed by the sheriff's office, was able to escape and contacted deputies.
Smith's vehicle was later located by deputies Saturday in the 100 block of South 6th Avenue. Deputies, with the assistance of the Yuma Police Department and the Border Patrol, conducted a search of the surrounding area but were unable to locate him.
According to the sheriff's office, Smith, who was considered armed and dangerous, did not have a weapon in his possession Tuesday morning when he was arrested.