His victim wouldn’t testify, but San Miguel man found guilty of attempted murder anyway

Jim Pinedo, 38, left, of San Miguel, who is accused of shooting his girlfriend in the neck Oct. 2, 2017, sits next to defense attorney Trace Milan during the first day of the testimony Oct. 31.
Jim Pinedo, 38, left, of San Miguel, who is accused of shooting his girlfriend in the neck Oct. 2, 2017, sits next to defense attorney Trace Milan during the first day of the testimony Oct. 31.

A San Miguel man accused of shooting his girlfriend in the neck with a .22-caliber rifle while he already had one ongoing domestic violence case filed against him could spend the rest of his life in prison following verdicts by a San Luis Obispo jury.

After a little more than a day and a half of deliberations, the jury of 11 women and one man found Jim Pinedo guilty of most charges and enhancements in a hearing that drew a crowd of members of Pinedo’s family, investigators, attorneys and court staff.

As the guilty verdicts were read one by one, the alleged victim sat quietly sobbing in the front row, her head in her hands.

Pinedo, 38, had pleaded not guilty to 10 felony charges of attempted murder, assault with a firearm, corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition, threatening a witness, false imprisonment, assault with a deadly weapon and battery, as well as sentencing enhancements attached to the charges for the use of a gun and being related to an ongoing pattern of domestic violence.

However, jurors could not agree on a critical enhancement attached to the attempted murder charge. Jurors hung on an enhancement for alleged premeditation, splitting 9 to 3, though it’s not clear which outcome the vote favored. Jurors also found Pinedo not guilty of false imprisonment and assault with a deadly weapon, instead finding him guilty of lesser included offenses of simple false imprisonment and simple assault, respectively.

All told, Pinedo is facing at least 30 years and as much as life in prison. Had jurors agreed the attempted murder was premeditated, Pinedo would have spent at least 50 years in prison, his attorney, Trace Millan, said following Friday’s hearing.

On Friday afternoon, District Attorney Dan Dow released a statement saying the verdict is a “significant victory for all victims of domestic violence.”

“It tells other victims that the criminal justice system can step in and help them even when they are unable to help themselves,” Dow wrote. “It is a troubling reality that victims of domestic violence are often unable to fully escape the psychological holds of their abusing partner and choose not to cooperate with prosecution.”

He added that he’s thankful for the attention and hard work of the jury.

During the two-week trial, Pinedo was accused by Deputy District Attorney Megan Baltierra of shooting Dancene Cordova, his girlfriend, in the neck at point blank range in a shed on a San Miguel property on Oct. 2, 2017, because Cordova didn’t successfully persuade prosecutors to dismiss previous domestic violence charges against him.

Pinedo dropped Cordova off at the hospital and fled, his attorney argued, because he had a restraining order against him.

Cordova spent 10 days in a medically induced coma before awaking and telling investigators that Pinedo shot her.

But Cordova recanted her accusations and refused to testify or cooperate in the case. She told The Tribune that Pinedo threatened to leave her after he caught her injecting methamphetamine. Cordova said she picked up Pinedo’s rifle and threatened to shoot herself, and the gun went off as the two struggled over the weapon.

On Friday afternoon, Milan said he was disappointed in the jury’s verdict and partially blamed his client’s guilty convictions on interactions some members of the jury reportedly had with Cordova and members of Pinedo’s family, namely his mother, who were constantly seen together waiting in the court lobby.

About halfway through the trial, Milan motioned for a mistrial after at least one juror sent Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy a message saying they were feeling intimidated, that Cordova or members of Pinedo’s family invaded their personal space and were staring at them from across the court lobby.

Milan said those interactions affected jurors’ perceptions of Cordova, especially at a time when the prosecution was presenting evidence alleging Cordova was being manipulated by Pinedo’s family. Duffy rejected Milan’s motion and did not replace any jurors or appoint any alternates.

“This is stuff the jury should not have seen, and this is exactly what the jury warned us about,” Milan said. “All of this was inappropriate, but none of this was behavior by Jim Pinedo.”

Milan said Pinedo will certainly appeal.

Outside the courtroom, jury foreperson Christy Grassle said deliberations went smoothly and that the group was very attentive and detail-focused during testimony. She said the small differences were overcome by simple requests for clarification from Duffy and read-backs of transcripts.

“It went pretty cohesively. There was no heated back and forth,” Grassle said.

Asked whether Cordova’s absence during the trial affected her own personal deliberation, she said: “To be honest, my heart breaks for her for what she’s going through.”

Another juror, who requested to remain anonymous because of the nature of the case, said she spent most of the trial not recognizing who the victim was in the courthouse, and once interactions became an issue, she and other jurors took pains to avoid them.

The unnamed juror said it was “the totality” of the evidence that Baliterra presented — Cordova’s past statements, recorded phone calls and forensics — that proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The juror added that a San Jose therapist’s testimony about why a victim would defend her abuser, even though the therapist didn’t know any details about Pinedo’s case, aptly described Pinedo and Cordova’s behavior.

Both Grassle and the other juror praised Duffy for a well-organized trial.

“If every trial went that way and every jury worked that hard, then we would have the greatest system on the planet,” the juror said.

Pinedo is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 9.

Matt Fountain: 781-7909, @mattfountain1
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