Credit: Courtesy

The air hung heavy in the hallway outside Department 8 at Santa Barbara Superior Court Friday morning, as the family of one of the four men facing charges in connection to the murder of Robert Gutierrez near Stearns Wharf last December prepared to crowd inside the downstairs courtroom, eyes puffy with tears, to take one of the first steps in what may become a long criminal trial.

Tomas Jauregui-Moreno was the only one out of the four defendants — all around the age of 20, and all facing serious charges following an alleged gang fight gone wrong — to appear in person in Judge Raimundo Montes De Oca’s arraignment court on Friday, shackled in a blue County Jail jumpsuit, speaking through a microphone behind a glass window.

He’s been held without bail since being arrested on January 19, along with the three other men — Christopher Dave Miranda, James Lee Rosborough, and Jiram Tenorio Ramon — but since then, a revolving door of attorneys and reports of several more arrests in connection with the case have added a new level of drama to the proceedings.

According to charging documents, Ramon faces the most serious charges of murder, with the special circumstance of committing the murder to benefit a criminal street gang and a special allegation of “personal use of a firearm causing death,” and is alleged to have been the shooter in the homicide.

Jauregui-Moreno and Miranda, on the other hand, both face the same charges but with the special allegation of “principal use of a handgun,” alleging they were involved in the altercation that led to the shooting of the innocent bystander but did not fire the weapon themselves. If convicted, this would be the second violent offense for Jauregui-Moreno.

Rosborough faces charges of “accessory after the fact,” and all four face the same charges of conspiracy to commit murder and criminal street gang conspiracy, with prosecutor Tate McCalliser alleging the crime was committed to benefit a Westside Santa Barbara gang.

When all four men appeared in their first court date via Zoom on January 23, Jauregui-Moreno was represented by Deputy Public Defender Brian Mathis, while Miranda was represented by defense attorney Douglas Ridley. 

A week later, Jauregui-Moreno and Miranda both appeared in court for a first round of attorney switch-ups. Jauregui-Moreno dropped Mathis and retained Andrea Keith, criminal defense attorney with Ridley Defense, while Miranda, who was originally represented by Ridley Defense’s founder, made the switch to a public defender.

On Friday, all four appeared in what was scheduled to be an arraignment date, but what ended up being another round of attorney swaps, and a continuation of all four arraignments to February 27.

Miranda, who was unable to make an appearance on Zoom or in person due to a “medical issue,” retained private defense attorney Meghan Behrens, who recently represented one of the men convicted in the Santa Maria MS-13 killings.

Doug Hayes, who had originally represented Ramon, told the court he would “not be able to represent” the defendant anymore, leaving Ramon as the only one out of the four without a private attorney.

After a brief meeting with Ramon, Deputy Public Attorney Mathis acted as “provisional attorney” to continue the arraignment to a later date, but Mathis said another public defender would have to be assigned before then due to a “conflict of interest.”

Rosborough, who appeared Friday via Zoom from the Santa Barbara County Jail, is the only defendant who has retained the same attorney since his arrest. During his brief appearance, attorney Neil Levinson told the court that Rosborough needed medical attention due to a hand injury sustained at the jail that would likely need a follow-up procedure.

During Jauregui-Moreno’s appearance, his family packed into the front rows of the courtroom.  With no bail, these appearances are the only time the family gets to be in the same room as him, even if it is behind a thick pane of glass.

During the few minutes of Jauregui-Moreno’s appearance, his attorney, Keith, made two requests of the court: First, that she opposed the decision that Jauregui-Moreno be held without bail; second, she asked that he be physically brought into the courtroom during his arraignment February 27 so that his family could see him.

And as the four Santa Barbara men await their arraignment, more details continue to come to light on the incident that started with an altercation between two groups and ended with the death of an innocent man celebrating his anniversary with his wife.

On Thursday, Santa Barbara Police announced that three juveniles were arrested and one weapon recovered in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in connection with the case. Two of the juveniles, aged 15, are in custody for murder, while the third 16-year-old juvenile is in custody for possession of a firearm and accessory to murder.  

According to Santa Barbara Police Lieutenant Kasi Corbett, the three juveniles were part of “the opposing group in the altercation” and have ties to Ventura County street gangs. One attorney representing a defendant in the trial said there were now as many as nine separate defendants in the incident.

All three juvenile defendants are scheduled for arraignment on February 21.


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