• Sex-Crime or Hate-Crime: Analysis of a strange Case

    The Strange case of Noah and Tricia Boewer – did they get a fair trial?

    Husband and wife Noah and Tricia Boewer, who are White, were found not guilty of hate crimes against Dirrick Williams, who is Black; but they were found guilty of lesser charges stemming from an altercation outside the Monterey Lanes Bowling Alley July 6, 2018. All three were Seaside residents at the time.

    Hurling racial slurs at someone then attacking them is an exemplar hate crime. However, if racial slurs are uttered during a fight that began for some reason other than hatred, it’s not a hate crime.

    Dirrick claimed the former, but the Boewers claimed the latter occurred.

    The case was characterized as Sex Crime or Hate Crime because Tricia Boewer accused Williams of sexual battery for grabbing her butt and Williams accused the Boewers of hurling racial slurs then assaulting him, which would be a hate crime.

    What is certain is Dirrick left the Lanes and passed behind Noah and Tricia Boewer who were standing outside, then took a few more steps, turned around, advanced toward the Boewers, and a fight began between him and Noah. Tricia tried unsuccessfully to intervene then called 911.

    Tricia admitted calling Dirrick “nigger” but only after the fight was nearly over while the two men were exchanging punches with Noah pinned down on his back and Dirrick on top of him.

    Noah denied using any racial slurs, but witnesses near the end of the fracas contradicted him at trial.

    The case yielded perplexing split-verdicts and sentencing, details of which can be found in prior issues of the Cedar Street Times.

    The Boewers were absolved of any hate crimes, but Noah was found guilty of felony assault causing great bodily harm and sentenced to 6 years in prison—likely to serve about half. Tricia was found guilty of misdemeanor battery, sentenced to 60 days in county jail—likely to serve only 20.

    How could that be?

    The short answer is: if someone assaults you, you don’t have the right to assault them back.

    If Dirrick copped a feel as he passed behind Tricia, that doesn’t give Noah or Tricia a free pass to start a fight. Furthermore, even if Dirrick started a fight with Noah after grabbing Tricia’s butt, as the Boewers claim, and that fight comes to an end, but one or both of the Boewers then threaten, advance toward, touch, or hit Williams—they are in the wrong according to Judge Andrew Liu.

    This last scenario is the most likely based on the jury’s verdicts.

    Why were the Boewers charged?

    Monterey police officers Sabino and Perez were on scene almost immediately with body-cams engaged, and found the Boewers agitated, animated, and yelling for revenge against Dirrick, who was standing calmly to the side.

    People screaming for revenge sound like victims. Indeed, Sabino even told the Boewers they were victims of a crime—but that statement, recorded on body-cam[1], was not allowed into evidence by order of Judge Liu. The jury never heard it.

    When officer Perez told Noah they were checking the video cameras, Noah replied “Good” and added “Cause you’ll see him running at me, throwing punches. Please pull the cameras. That’d be great. I love it.” [2] An aggressor wouldn’t be eager to reveal video evidence; but the jury never heard that either.

    After the fight outside, the Lanes’ bartender, Ms. Benevides, revealed that Dirrick asked her if he could leave his car at the Lanes because he felt he would be arrested.[3] Why would he say that? Perhaps the presence of cameras worried him. The jury never considered that question because they never heard about it. It was only later determined the cameras were not working.

    The Bartender’s Agenda.

    It seems that the bartender, Ms. Benevides, had an agenda to vilify the Boewers and extol Williams. She had known Dirrick for years and likes him. They are friends.[4] She noted to officer Perez how “respectful” Dirrick was—four times.[5] “He’s never looked at a girl and disrespected her” she said to Sabino.[6]

    During police interviews, Benevides rushed to flag down officer Sabino, then Perez, to relate a prejudicial narrative that happened hours earlier and had nothing to do with the fight outside. It was based on a conversation she supposedly overheard in the bowling alley’s bar amid the hubbub of League Night.

    Benevides claimed she heard Noah call two men “something like fucking Indians”[7].

    “Something like”—What happened to police critical thinking? Sabino should have ignored this story as a clumsy attempt to stigmatize the Boewers and pervert justice. Sabino never asked Noah about that incident in the bar nor about the comment Benevides alleged he made. He just believed it.

    In court, Noah could have denied saying anything—there were no other witnesses; but he admitted calling the men “fucking idiots” after they made sexual remarks about Tricia, who Benevides described as “very pretty” in short‑shorts and a tank-top[8].

    Neither officer Sabino nor Perez followed through to identify the unnamed men and corroborate Benevides’ story. Benevides added to her reprobation that they (the staff) were having trouble with the Boewers “all day” without giving any further details. Had Sabino inquired, he would have found that “trouble” meant just that one incident in the bar, and that “all day” also meant that same incident. No other incidents were reported.  She also said no one else was in the bar at that time. The Boewers were at the Lanes for only one and a half hours.

    The manager of the Lanes also told the police they were having trouble with the Boewers all day as if he had personal knowledge—but he didn’t. He gave no details. He was just parroting what Benevides had told him, and the cops just accepted it without question as a reliable source condemning the Boewers.

    This should have raised red flags in the minds of the police. It was obvious Benevides likes Williams and had an agenda to protect him.

    The sergeant.

    Probably the worst thing Sabino did to implicate the Boewers was when he went on the phone to his superior, Sergeant Roobash to ask for advice as to what he should do.

    Sabino failed to adequately separate Noah and Tricia during questioning, leading to one interjecting into the other’s interview. This confounded and confused him. He interpreted that behavior as “trying to get their statements together”[9] and concluded that they must have instigated the whole thing and told that to Roobash.

    However, he never told Roobash his first impression of the fight—that it was mutual combat.[10]

    Instead, Sabino told Roobash that the Boewers were “going up to random families” and starting disturbances with them, and a couple of the employees said the Boewers “were causing disturbances the whole time”.[11]

    Neither of the officers’ body-cams reveal anything that would support the contention that the Boewers were approaching random families and causing trouble. Absolutely nothing. The only interactions the Boewers had with others at the Lanes were the bartender and two unidentified men. That’s it. And that’s the only incident that could remotely be called a disturbance.

    Sabino had bought in to the narrative promulgated by Benevides and parroted by her colleagues, all of whom were friends of Dirrick Williams.[12]

    To make matters worse, Sabino corrupted Tricia’s story that Williams grabbed her butt. He said to Roobash “So she’s saying she got grabbed—but I have witnesses saying No.”[13]

    It is dumbfounding that Sabino was so confused, or inept, or biased that he forgot that no witnesses saw how the fight started when the butt-grabbing allegedly occurred. Williams even admits no one was outside except the Bowers and himself when he stepped outside. The witnesses who said “no” they didn’t see Williams grab Tricia’s butt weren’t present when it happened. Apparently Sabino failed to make that connection.

    To say that Sabino’s interviewing skills were faulty is an understatement.

    But the damage to the Boewers was done. Sergeant Roobash could hardly be blamed for recommending charges against the Boewers from what he heard over the phone from officer Sabino.

    No one was arrested that night, but the district attorney charged the Boewers with hate crimes based on the police recommendation.

    Guilty until proven innocent.

    The Media love a hate crime. Flailing the accused plays to the mob, bolsters readership, flaunts a superior moral compass, and demonstrates wokeness—what’s not to like about that?

    Most local media crucified the Bowers as soon as they were accused. Both Tricia and Noah Boewer lost their jobs within days of several one-sided news stories.

    The Monterey Weekly was so eager to pander to the prosecution and the self-righteous on-line mob that were salivating for a hate-crime conviction, they published a story that portrayed the Boewers as drunk predators that followed Williams out of the bowling alley and beat him up—a complete fabrication! If anything, just the opposite seems to have occurred.

    So eager for a hate-crime story, the Monterey Weekly’s Monterey County NOW even characterized hanging a “Trump 2020” flag on a one’s own vehicle parked on the street outside a politician’s home as a hate crime.[14] Now that’s being woke.

    Biased Judiciary.

    It’s never good to lose your attorney in the middle of a case. The Public Defender’s Office removed Tricia’s first attorney, Eden Schwartz, after she pursued an aggressive defense, including having one judge disqualified for prejudice and challenging the decision of another that refused to dismiss the case.

    Her newly appointed attorney was public defender Jigar Patel, who despite coming into the middle of a case, did a commendable job according to Tricia. However, he faced a judge who disallowed almost all of the police body-cams from being heard at trial. Much of this would have been helpful to the defense.

    During the preliminary hearing, when Noah’s defense attorney Jan Lindberg suggested the motivation for Noah’s challenge to Dirrick was the assault on his wife and had nothing to do with Dirrick’s race, Judge Liu said:

    “Do you not see that there could be a blend of issues especially when you consider — I would call it a long history of aggression in society based on a perceived threat from a black man toward a white woman? I mean, isn’t that in our history that — that it’s all part of race? Isn’t it all part of race and part of that dynamic?”[15]

    That statement reeks of racism. It is a poisonous cultural trope that stereotypes all White people. Liu should have recused himself after making it. Liu seems to accept that White men of today are to be castigated for the sins of their fathers or mothers or sins of some distant ancestors.

    During the trial, Judge Liu disallowed almost all body-cam evidence to be heard. The jury never heard important statements made by the Boewers and the police as recorded on their body-cams.

    During the sentencing hearing, Dirrick recited a twenty-minute tirade against the system, the lawyers, the jury, the verdicts, the Boewers, and the press.

    Then Judge Liu commiserated with him saying that Dirrick’s experiences were “also not foreign to me”. If Liu means he had experienced racial prejudice, then that’s yet another reason for recusal.

    As if to mollify Dirrick and apologize for the jury’s verdict, Liu said that hate crimes don’t fully embrace the dynamics of racism. He went on to say, in some off-the-wall logic, that a violent incident perpetrated against someone and motivated by race and feelings of racial superiority, may not be a hate crime.

    That’s absurd.

    California Penal Code 422.55 reads: “California law defines a hate crime as a criminal act committed in whole or in part because of the victim’s actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.”

    Crime motivated by racial hate is the very definition of a hate crime.

    Judge Liu was obviously unhappy with the verdict and wants to have it both ways. The Boewers were found not guilty of a hate crime, but they’re guilty of racism anyway—even though no a priori evidence exists to support that viewpoint. No prior arrests, no writings, no emails, no Facebook posts, no public rants, no social media statements, no negative character witnesses. Nothing whatsoever.

    But they are White—nowadays maybe that’s enough.

    Although Tricia apologized to Dirrick in the courtroom, Liu publicly excoriated her before sentencing, saying she was defiant and unrepentant—presumably because she did not recant her testimony and accept Dirrick’s version of events during her probation interview.

    Tricia still maintains that she told the truth about what happened that night at the Monterey Lanes and would not lie by changing her story to get a lighter sentence.

    Imposing jail time for a misdemeanor battery is extremely rare it almost never happens. Liu even said as much; yet Liu gave Tricia 60 days in county Jail. Even though he had no obligation to justify his decision, he mentioned in open court details of Tricia’s prior unrelated felony conviction years earlier, which only served to further stigmatize her in the public eye.

    This reporter and this newspaper gave more deference to Mr. Williams by never reporting his sordid background than Judge Liu gave to Tricia Boewer.

    Dirrick’s credibility was compromised.

    Dirrick’s testimony evolved over time. The first words Dirrick reported hearing from the Boewers evolved from: “Yeah motherfucker, turn around and walk away”[16] told to officer Sabino on the day of the incident July 6 2018, to “Keep walking motherfucker” told to Officer Perez the same day, to “What are you doing here nigger”[17]told to this reporter November 11 2018, to “Yeah, you better nigger”[18] told to District Attorney VanDamme and Investigator Gutierrez January 14 2019 and at trial.

    Dirrick never told the police he was called “nigger”. This worried the District Attorney, Ms. VanDamme and DA Investigator Gutierrez so much that during his pre-trial interview, they coached him over and over, how to explain why he never said it. They were having a tough time of it, so at one point Gutierrez even blurted “I’m not trying to put words in your mouth.”[19] But of course that dodgy behavior is exactly what was going on. But the jury never heard about it.

    Missing time was another problem. Two and a half hours of Williams’ time was unaccounted for. That’s especially strange since he wanted to go home to complete a deadline. Dirrick claimed he arrived at the bowling alley between 3 and 4 pm and almost immediately got a phone call from his cousin who coincidentally was also at the Lanes. However, a prosecution witness said he saw Williams in the bar at 2:30 pm.

    Dirrick says he spent about 20 minutes in the Pro-shop with his cousin, and spent 10 minutes in the bar where he drank half a beer (bartender said he was drinking brandy) before leaving and encountering the Bowers. By his account it would be 4:30 pm at the latest.

    But the altercation with the Boewers lasted only one or two minutes by everyone’s testimony, and was over at 7:08 pm when police arrived as Tricia was on the 911 call.

    What was Dirrick doing between 4:30 pm and 7 pm? The most likely scenario is he remained in the bar drinking brandy and happened to observe the incident between the Boewers and the two unidentified men the bartender mentioned. That is consistent with testimony from the Boewers, who said they saw Williams in the bar at a corner table.

    After the Boewers left the bar, Dirrick may have even chatted up the story with the bartender who seemed eager to spread it around. But Williams denies being there, and Benevides backs him up.

    Would victimhood make you popular?

    When asked whether becoming victim of a hate crime would improve his profile as a book author and community activist, Dirrick was evasive and didn’t give the obvious answer: “Yes, of course”. Instead, after some prodding from the defense attorney, he unconvincingly muttered it might or might not.

    The Boewers’ convictions

    If the jury didn’t believe Dirrick’s account, then why were the Boewers convicted of anything?

    The answer lies in the law and Judge Andrew Liu’s instructions to the jury.

    When resisting an assault, a person can use only such force as is necessary to stop the threat. If you defensively stop an assault, then go on offense, you too are guilty of assault.

    This is what happened to Noah Boewer. Even if Dirrick had committed sexual battery on Tricia and threw the first punch at Noah, at some point during the first confrontation, the fight ended with Dirrick the winner[20]. Both combatants had abandoned a fighting stance and dropped their arms. Dirrick even stated that he felt the fight was over at that point.[21]

    However, Noah, beaten and full of adrenaline, reportedly attacked Dirrick by attempting to kick him in the groin. So, a second fight erupted. Dirrick dominated Noah once again and took him to ground, but Noah got in one punch that fractured several bones in Dirrick’s left cheek—ergo assault causing great bodily harm.

    It was not a hate crime because Noah’s motivation was not racial hatred; it was anger for being beaten up after Dirrick grabbed his wife’s butt.

    No one saw how the first fight started, but witnesses appeared during the second round, and at some point, Tricia intervened.

    Witness accounts vary. One said she jumped on Dirrick’s back, another said she tried to push Dirrick off of Noah when he was pinned to the ground. Yet another said she only lunged at Dirrick. Tricia said she tried to stop the fight by placing her arms between the two men.

    In any case, based on Judge Liu’s instructions to the jury, all of these actions could be considered criminal battery. Liu gave a very broad definition of battery, saying it includes hitting, touching, even approaching someone aggressively without touching them.

    The very act of intervening made Tricia guilty of battery—but not motivated by racial hatred. She was trying to stop the fight.

    Sloppy police work.

    Officer Sabino failed to separate the Boewers during questioning, so each was interjecting comments into the other’s interview, thereby confounding the interviews and confusing the officers.[22]

    Sabino and Perez allowed themselves to be deluded by a witness with an agenda. They believed that reports they heard from staff were describing multiple incidents[23] [24]; but they all stemmed from just one incident in the bar reported by Benevides and relayed to her colleagues.

    Conclusion

    For two and a half years I covered this case for the Cedar Street Times newspaper. I interviewed all the principals and attended many hearings including the preliminary hearing, trial, verdict, and sentencing.

    I have engaged with the judicial system several times in my life as witness, as victim, and as a juror.

    In every instance, I’d say the system worked, but imperfectly. I’d say the same about this case as well.

    Twelve random people took a week out of their lives for civic duty to society. They came together to tease out the facts from a lot of contradictory evidence. They had to decide if witnesses were truthful or lying. If actions were meaningful or irrelevant.

    They heard some things I think they shouldn’t and didn’t hear some things I they should have heard.

    I also think there would have been a different verdict if Judge Liu had allowed the jury full access to the police body-cams.

    Gary Baley


    [1] Sabino bodycam 59:23, 60:3

    [2] Perez bodycam 40:23 – 41:7

    [3] Perez bodycam 39:10

    [4] Perez bodycam 15:24

    [5] Perez bodycam 6:18, 8:11, 13:24, 40:5

    [6] Sabino bodycam 77:2

    [7] Sabino bodycam 74:6

    [8] Cedar St. Times Nov 23, 2018 cover story

    [9] Sabino bodycam 53:11

    [10] Sabino bodycam 59:2, 64:6

    [11] Sabino bodycam 52:3-9, 14-16

    [12] Perez bodycam 15:24

    [13] Sabino bodycam 54:18

    [14] Monterey County NOW Aug 7, 2020

    [15] Preliminary hearing 96:7

    [16] Sabino bodycam 43:11

    [17] Cedar Street Times 2018-11-23 pg 2

    [18] Williams’ DA interview 16:11”

    [19] Williams’ DA interview 24:2

    [20] Sabino bodycam 75:14

    [21] Williams DA interview 6:18

    [22] Sabino bodycam 53:7

    [23] Perez bodycam 6:2, 23:14

    [24] Sabino bodycam 54:3

    posted to Cedar Street Times on February 3, 2021

    Topics: Uncategorized

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