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March 7, 2013
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Assault at Grass Valley motel reportedly involved knife, flashlight

A Nevada County judge found enough evidence to hold a local man to answer on charges of battery and assault with a deadly weapon in an attack on another man at a Grass Valley motel.

But even though the defendant allegedly made off with approximately $140 after the alleged beating and stabbing, Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger did not find evidence of intent and dismissed a count of robbery.

According to the alleged victim, Don Brown, the attack occurred Nov. 26, 2012, as he was sitting in a smoking area of the South Auburn Street motel with several friends, one of whom he declined to name.

The other man, subpoenaed as a witness, failed to appear for the preliminary hearing Thursday into the evidence against defendant Thomas Leal, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Brown testified that he was on the patio smoking marijuana when Leal “hopped” a privacy fence, hit him four times with a flashlight and stabbed him in the side.

Brown said that he dropped the cash and his pipe on the ground during the attack and that Leal took them before fleeing the scene.

According to Brown, Leal made reference to not being “jumped” again, as well as referring to the fact that Brown was an “enforcer” for the Hell’s Angels.

“I’m a freelance enforcer and drug dealer,” Brown said. “I’m not proud of it, but that’s what I do.”

Brown testified that he did not seek medical treatment at the time or make a police report.

“I was going to let my people deal with it,” he said, prompting Heidelberger to halt the proceedings and appoint an attorney to advise him against self-incrimination.

On the day after the alleged attack, a Grass Valley Police officer did a welfare check on Brown.

Brown said he eventually sought medical treatment Dec. 14 and was found to have several orbital fractures.

He testified that he has suffered more than 80 percent vision loss in his left eye and requires reconstructive surgery.

He testified that he told the motel manager about the attack and said she urged him to go to the hospital.

But the manager and her son both testified that when they talked to Brown the afternoon after the alleged attack, he told them he had been stabbed but had only a small scratch from the alleged knife wound and had no visible injuries to his face.

“He claimed he was beat up, but he wasn’t very specific,” Anton Iagunov said.

Deputy District Attorney Oliver Pong argued that while there was no evidence of a specific request or demand for money, Leal should still be charged with robbery because he took the property after allegedly hitting Brown.

Leal’s defense attorney, Jennifer Granger, said that Brown’s assailant Nov. 26 apparently attacked him in retaliation for a prior assault, not in order to take his property.

And Granger said who attacked Brown and when remains very much in question.

The “quote unquote stabbing,” she said, appeared to be a scratch.

“As far as the injuries to his face, the question is: Did that occur on the 26th?” she said, referring to the inconsistencies in the testimony.

Heidelberger sided with Granger on the robbery charges, saying the taking of the money and the pot pipe were “more a crime of opportunity” and that Pong could file a lesser theft charge.

She did find sufficient evidence to hold Leal to answer on one count of battery causing serious bodily injury with a special allegation of assault with a deadly weapon, as well as a count of assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury.

Heidelberger noted, however, that there clearly were issues of credibility.

Leal’s case was set for formal arraignment March 18.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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The Union Updated Mar 7, 2013 11:26PM Published Mar 12, 2013 11:59PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.