Thursday, June 24, 2021

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Court restarts trials, struggles to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions

Colusa County Superior Court will remain on limited operations through the end of July, state officials announced Thursday, although COVID-19 restrictions could make it difficult for the local court to select a jury in two upcoming cases.

Nickolas Roberto Rohas, 25, refused a plea deal offered by the Colusa County District Attorney’s Office on July 1, leaving the clock ticking on his right to a jury trial.

Although the deal offered would likely keep Rojas in the Colusa County Jail to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state prison system, Rojas prefers to leave his fate up to a jury.

Rojas is charged with multiple felonies, including second degree robbery with special allegations of street terrorism, assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, and committing serious crimes while having prior felony convictions. He was arrested Oct. 9, 2019 for his part in an alleged assault on admitted fellow gang member Floyd “Donny” Harberle. His co-defendant, Andrew Garcia, pleaded guilty to reduced charges and was sentenced to four years, eight months in state prison.

Rojas is scheduled for trial on July 29.

The court, since March, has restricted the number of people that can be in the courtroom at the same time, which could make it more time consuming to “voir dire” the large number of potential jurors, officials said.

“We will have to make it work,” said Colusa County Chief Deputy Director Brenden Farrell.

William Gene Jones Jr., accused of bank robbery, is scheduled for trial in August. He has also declined an offered plea deal, officials said.

Although the court COVID-19 restrictions are in place until July 31, there is the likelihood that they will be extended to the end of the year due to increasing COVID-19 cases throughout the state.

Anyone entering the courtroom and the court clerk’s office are required to wear a facial covering, per the state’s orders.

Because courtroom seating is very limited, people may be asked to wait outside.

To further reduce the number of individuals in the courthouse, entrance shall be limited to those individuals conducting legitimate business. The clerk’s office hours have also been reduced and will be open from 9 AM to 2 PM, Monday-Friday, except court holidays, with a limited number of people in the lobby. The court recommends all persons utilize the drop box for all filing types located at the courthouse, 532 Oak Street, Colusa, in lieu of visiting the clerk’s office, if possible.

Further adjustments may be made to the court’s calendar, depending on the changing circumstances of the public health threat of COVID-19, court officials said. The court will monitor the situation and continue to consult with the Judicial Council. Visit online at colusa.courts.ca.gov for updates.

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