Friday, August 03, 2012

Hunsucker refusing to testify in Sovereign murder trial; DA's office had agreed to not prosecute if she testified

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office agreed not to prosecute Hunsucker in the case and to dismiss a possession of stolen property case against her in exchange for her testifying honestly in the prosecutions of Inong, Salas and Nathan Nix, who were all accused of being involved in Sovereign's shooting. - Grant Scott-Goforth/The Times-Standard

Nix and Inong have pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in relation to the case and are awaiting sentencing. Both face up to 11 years in prison.

Hunsucker has since pleaded guilty to an unrelated killing -- the second degree murder of Darrell Hanger in Willow Creek in 2011 -- and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Hunsucker is being held in the county jail on contempt charges for her refusal to testify, and District Attorney Paul Gallegos, who is prosecuting the Salas trial, said that he will call her as a witness every morning until his case rests.

”It's my position that her refusal to testify constitutes a breach,” Gallegos said.
He said that the court ruled Hunsucker “made herself unavailable,” and her prior sworn testimony will be admissible in court.

A 'nightmare in this community'; Sonia Hunsucker was allegedly involved in two homicides and a violent robbery in 12 months. Did prosecutors miss a chance to keep her behind bars? - Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard

...Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos called Hunsucker a “nightmare

in this community,” telling jurors that she had helped plan the robbery after noticing a safe in the Santa Clara Street home a couple of days before. Further, Gallegos said, Hunsucker went with one of the defendants and another woman -- Katrina Inong, who has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the case -- to procure the shotgun used to gun down Sovereign.

While prosecutors allege it was Salas who pulled the trigger that morning, Gallegos told jurors that Inong, Nix and Hunsucker were all willing participants in the botched robbery.

”They are all a part of this,” Gallegos said.

But not all of them are on trial. Gallegos' office agreed not to prosecute Hunsucker in the case and to dismiss the possession of stolen property case against her in exchange for her testifying honestly in the prosecutions of Inong, Salas and Nix.

At the time of Sovereign's killing, Hunsucker was no stranger to law enforcement. In fact, she'd just been released from state prison 65 days earlier, on March 28, 2010, according to California Department of Corrections spokeswoman Ashley Caldwell....

The events raise questions about whether Darrell Hanger's death could have possibly been prevented if Hunsucker had been charged with Sovereign's murder. Conceivably, she would still be sitting in jail, just now standing trial with Salas and Nix. Would that have changed anything? She apparently didn't fire the bullets that killed Darrell Hanger, and testimony in the murder trial hasn't claimed she was the instigator or mastermind of the botched burglary that led to the shootout. But, would Surber -- the apparent shooter -- have been at Ryan Hanger's house that night if Hunsucker, his girlfriend, weren't there?

The questions are unanswerable.

Speaking generally, Gallegos said his office takes the decisions associated with handling these types of prosecutions very seriously but doesn't have the luxury of seeing into the future.

”Unfortunately, we don't have a crystal ball when we're making decisions -- we have to make these decisions with the information we currently have,” he said. “We have to make a decision based on the immediate threat -- which is having a murderer on the street and trying to get enough evidence to charge that murderer and get them off the streets. The costs associated with that are what you see.

”... Sometimes we make decisions that go terribly wrong, or tragically wrong, but at the time we are not operating with a crystal ball that allows us to look into the future,” he said.