The alleged victim in a San Miguel attempted murder case says the District Attorney's Office is unjustly prosecuting her boyfriend for a crime that "didn't happen," and said Tuesday she was pleased that a judge granted his request for a new attorney, hours before he was scheduled to go to trial.
"He didn't do it," Dancene Cordova of San Miguel told The Tribune on Tuesday.
Jim Pinedo is accused of shooting 42-year-old Cordova in the neck during an altercation on Oct. 2, 2017. Pinedo, 38, is facing 14 felony and misdemeanor charges including attempted murder, assault with a firearm, corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant, being a felon in possession of a firearm, disobeying a restraining order, false imprisonment, and attempting to dissuade a witness.
He's pleaded not guilty and previously rejected a plea agreement offer from the DA's Office of roughly 30 years in prison, according to his attorney.
If convicted of all charges, Pinedo faces the possibility of life in state prison.
A spokesman for the District Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.
'I want him to come home'
Cordova was admitted to a local hospital on Oct. 2, 2017, with a gunshot wound to the neck, according to a news release from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 20, the same day deputies in SWAT gear served a search warrant at a home in the 2700 block of Pine Hawk Way in San Miguel and arrested Pinedo on suspicion of attempted murder.
At the time, the Sheriff's Office said that Pinedo had shot the victim, who sought treatment at a hospital. Authorities responded to the hospital, investigated the circumstances and determined Pinedo was the suspect.
But Cordova says Pinedo's not to blame — she shot herself as Pinedo tried to wrestle the gun away from her, she said.
Speaking by phone Tuesday, Cordova said the two have been in a romantic relationship for nearly three years. She said that in the months leading up to the shooting, she had been struggling with methamphetamine addiction.
She said Pinedo — who court records show has local misdemeanor convictions and a 2011 drug-related felony conviction out of Kings County — had been arrested in June 2017 on suspicion of domestic violence charges stemming from a physical altercation between the two after Pinedo first discovered her shooting meth.
He hasn't been convicted of those charges; they were consolidated into the attempted murder case.
Cordova said that on Oct. 2, she was confronted by Pinedo after he again caught her shooting methamphetamine. She said an argument ensued and she grabbed Pinedo's rifle that he kept at his rural property despite his being a felon prohibited from owning firearms.
Cordova said she threatened to kill herself with the rifle and Pinedo attempted to take it from her, with the two ultimately struggling on the floor over the gun before it went off, striking her in the neck.
Pinedo rushed her to the hospital, Cordova said, but agreed to leave because there was an active restraining order barring him from being within 500 feet of her. Cordova was in a coma for a short time and said she "made up a lot of stuff" about Pinedo to investigators when she spoke with them.
She recanted much of her previous statements when she testified at Pinedo's preliminary hearing in December, she said. Still, a judge found enough probable cause to refer the case to trial.
"It didn't happen," she said. "I've tried to set the story straight. I've tried to explain to (the prosecutor). She's trying to prove (the case) through witnesses who weren't even there."
She said she also told the DA's Office she doesn't want to testify for the prosecution and stands by Pinedo "100 percent."
She said she's "not proud" that she previously lied to investigators but says she has Pinedo's family's support in trying to prove he's not guilty of attempted murder.
"It's the worst feeling in the world, to have somebody's life in your hands," she said. "I want him to come home."
A new attorney
Jury selection for Pinedo's trial was set to begin Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy heard a motion by Pinedo to fire his court-appointed public defender and hire a private defense attorney, citing ineffectual counsel. Trace Milan, the private attorney Pinedo's family said they were only able to afford just last week, told Duffy that he needed about two to three months to prepare for the trial.
Deputy District Attorney Megan Baltierra objected, citing the roughly 100 potential witnesses — including more than 50 law enforcement officers and more than 30 members of Pinedo and Cordova's friends, family and neighbors — that the DA's Office has already subpoenaed to testify.
Further continuing the trial would require each potential witness to be re-subpoenaed in the case, presenting a hardship for the prosecution, Baltierra argued.
Pinedo's public defender, Jeff Radding, told Duffy that though he's prepared to begin trial, Pinedo would have "more confidence" in the process if he were granted his preferred attorney, Milan.
Though Duffy initially denied Pinedo's motion for a new attorney and ordered the trial move forward, she overruled her own ruling later Tuesday afternoon and appointed Milan, who called Duffy's ruling an "honorable decision."
Milan declined to discuss specifics of the case, however, saying he has only just begun to examine the evidence in the case.
Pinedo is now scheduled to stand trial Oct. 22, nearly a year to the day since his arrest.
He's due back in court for a pre-trial conference on July 25 and remains in San Luis Obispo County Jail in lieu of $555,000 bail.