SAN JOSE — Cain Velasquez, the former UFC champion charged with a revenge shooting against a man accused of sexually abusing his son, made his first court appearance after the charges were greenlit for trial earlier this month.
But Monday’s arraignment was markedly different in that Velasquez, who pleaded not guilty to felony attempted murder, assault and weapons counts, entered the Hall of Justice from the outside rather than being transferred from the Main Jail. He secured bail and monitored release on Nov. 8 from a Superior Court judge at the conclusion of his preliminary examination, after a trial court and appellate court initially denied his path to bail.
Velasquez is accused of shooting at 44-year-old Harry Goularte Jr. as he traveled with his mother Patricia Goularte and his stepfather Paul Bender, who were reportedly driving him from Morgan Hill to San Jose on Feb. 28 to get fitted for an ankle monitor at a county office. Bender was wounded in the encounter.
Three days earlier, Goularte Jr. was arraigned on a felony charge of a lewd and lascivious act with a child, based on claims that he abused Velasquez’s son at a San Martin home daycare run by his mother. Goularte Jr. was granted supervised release over the objection of prosecutors.
Monday, Velasquez appeared with attorney Edward Sousa to enter his plea, and Velasquez was ordered to return to court Dec. 28. by Judge Daniel Nishigaya. Sousa said he was making a special appearance for Velasquez, and it was not immediately clear if that meant his legal team was changing; to this point, celebrity attorney Mark Geragos had been leading his defense.
Velasquez requested the court’s permission to allow him to fly to Arizona in early December to participate in a wrestling event, which Sousa said fell within the release conditions of Velasquez being able to travel for employment. Nishigaya sent the request to the courtroom of Judge Arthur Bocanegra, who approved Velasquez’s bail and GPS-monitored release.
Bocanegra said he was inclined to approve the travel request, but wanted to hear from the county pretrial services department about the logistics of Velasquez traveling and wrestling with an ankle monitor.
Deputy District Attorney Leigh Frazier, appearing in the place of Aaron French, who is the lead prosecutor in Velasquez’s case but was out of town, reiterated French’s past arguments about the danger they believe Velasquez posed. Frazier reiterated the past stance of Patricia Goularte and Bender’s attorney who said the two have had to go into hiding because of Velasquez’s fervent support.
Frazier said that continues to be the situation.
“The victims in this case are frankly terrified, have left their home and are living in a hotel right now,” Frazier said.
Bocnegra acknowledged that he was planning to approve the defendant’s request over the objI ection of the prosecution. He alluded to his statements Nov. 8, in which he said bail and monitored release were warranted because he believed Velasquez would not jeopardize the ability to be with his family.
“I still believe he’s not a flight risk,” Bocanegra said. “I have received not information that would cause the court concern … I don’t believe he would be a danger to people in Arizona.”
A prospective trial would likely start sometime in 2023. Velasquez faces up to life in prison if he’s convicted of the counts filed against him. Geragos had hinted in court filings leading up to the preliminary examination that he could introduce the idea that Velasquez has suffered impulse control issues stemming from brain injuries, endured from his mixed-martial arts prizefighting career, which includes two UFC heavyweight title belts while fighting out of San Jose.
Geragos also appears to be preparing to proxy litigate the sexual-assault charge against Goularte Jr. who is accused of sexually abusing Velasquez’s young son at a San Martin daycare operated by Goularte Jr.’s mother. In previous remarks in court and in public, he planted the seeds of a narrative in which Velasquez was taking action after the criminal-justice system failed his family, exacerbated by the eight months that Velasquez spent in jail while Goularte Jr. was free on the same conditions he himself had sought.
Check back later for updates to this story.