Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer on Monday, Aug. 16, dropped felony charges against two transgender women who wielded pepper spray and a stun gun at a Huntington Beach bar fight.
The charges against Noelle Matthyssen and Karina Valenzuela-Vasquez — who claimed to be victims of a hate crime — were formally dismissed by Superior Court Judge Andre Manssourian because of insufficient evidence.
“After careful review of the evidence in this case, I personally made the decision several days ago to dismiss this case because I did not believe the facts could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Spitzer said `in a prepared statement.
During a two-day preliminary hearing in July, police officers involved in the case conceded they made fundamental errors during the investigation, and one officer admitted using the slur “tranny” while talking to colleagues at the scene.
The fight occurred outside the rooftop bar Hurricanes in October 2020. The transgender defendants were at the bar, looking down at the commotion on the street, basically people watching, according to testimony. The would-be victims, a man and a woman, were down below, saw the transgender women and began calling them names and challenging them to a fight, according to testimony.
When the transgender couple tried to leave, Valenzuela-Vasquez was pushed to the ground by the male victim — which was captured on video.
The defendants pulled out the pepper spray and Taser. That’s when the police showed up.
The three Huntington Beach officers who responded to the incident acknowledged during the preliminary hearing that they submitted faulty and incomplete police reports that failed to note physical attacks on the two transgender women and injuries they received, as well as their complaints of harassment that appeared bigoted..
“Oh yeah, I forgot,” Officer Tyler DeTrinidad testified when asked by Van-Anh To, a deputy public defender representing Valenzuela-Vasquez, why he didn’t note in his police report that Valenzuela-Vasquez claimed in an interview with him that she was sucker-punched.
DeTrinidad testified that he didn’t tell other officers or supervisors about Valenzuela-Vasquez being punched and didn’t try to investigate her complaint.
Officer Joseph Giles also testified during the preliminary hearing. Giles said he was shown at the scene a video recorded by an onlooker showing the male would-be victim shoving and taunting Valenzuela-Vasquez. But Giles did not show the evidence to any other officer or mention it in his report.
Matthyssen was defended by Alternate Deputy Public Defender Alex Ngo. After the preliminary hearing, Judge Scott B. Cooper determined there was enough evidence to conduct a trial, but Spitzer jettisoned the charges.
Staff writer Josh Cain contributed to this report.
Source: Orange County Register