Jury acquits brothers in My Cousin’s bar brawl | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Jury acquits brothers in My Cousin’s bar brawl

A jury found brothers Javier and Ricardo Hernandez not guilty Thursday on all counts of assaulting the owner of My Cousin’s Joint with a deadly weapon.

As El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Jerald Lasarow read the verdicts, 35-year-old Javier sat in his chair and bobbed back and forth and tried to hold back tears. Then he reached out and shook his brother’s hand.

The brothers stood and thanked the jury for their decision. “Thank you for your time, ” Ricardo, 26, said. “Gracias. Thank you all for everything.”

The 12-person jury spent a day-and-a-half deliberating the verdict, which was announced in court at 5:10 p.m.

Jury foreman Morey Kaplan, 67, said “truthfulness” of witnesses’ testimony was the central issue discussed by the jury.

“There was no evidence that the brothers cut anybody,” Kaplan said. “You have to have evidence that is conclusive. … We were presented a lot of conjecture, but that’s not proof.”

Jury members came to the conclusion that the prosecution had possibly charged the wrong men with the crimes, Kaplan said.

The Hernandez brothers participated in a barroom brawl in June that left Anthony Dana, co-owner of My Cousin’s Joint, with stab wounds to both his hands. He had to have metal screws and plates put in his right hand because a blade went through his index finger, an injury that has limited the movement of his finger. His left hand required stitches.

“Basically I know they did it. They know they did it. Apparently the jury didn’t think they did it,” Dana said. “I’m very disappointed. If they want people like that running around our community then I guess that’s what they’re going to get. These two men have changed my life for the rest of my life. . . (I was) stabbed by two people I did nothing to. But just because they are out in the community I’m not going to let them ruin my life or change what I’m going to do.”

Earlier in the trial, citing insufficient evidence, Judge Lasarow dropped charges against Javier and Ricardo that accused them of assaulting two additional men in the bar fight.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Atwell said testimonial changes concerning identity damaged his case. “We had a big change with a witness,” he said. “In fact, he went 180 degrees (in court).”

Simon Harvey, court-appointed defense attorney for Ricardo, said the jury made the correct decision. “On a technical level, there was insufficient evidence to convict,” he said. “Clearly when there is opposing evidence on either side the jury has a difficult job. In this case, they appear to have evaluated the witnesses and they went with the law and their gut feeling.”

Harvey added that it was very important for the defense that Steven Pagliaro, a 29-year-old from South Shore involved in the brawl, invoked the Fifth Amendment on the stand, refusing to testify.

As for the five South Lake Tahoe men injured during the brawl, Harvey said a “reinvestigation might be fruitful.”

All the men injured in the fight, Dana, Pagliaro, Patrick Newell, 20, Steve Brewster, 29, and Juan Sandoval, 35, have recovered from their injuries.

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