Heat of passion: Cain Velasquez attorney explains why preliminary hearing judges’ reactions could be encouraging sign to defense

Attorney Mark Geragos won’t understate how difficult any major criminal case is, but indicated recent categorizations made by two judges during hearings for his client Cain Velasquez could be a good thing for their defense efforts.

A former UFC heavyweight champion, Velasquez is out on $1 million bail as he faces a number of charges including attempted murder. It was a fight to get former UFC heavyweight champion Velasquez out of incarceration, where he stayed for 253 days.

On Nov. 8, Geragos finally secured Velasquez’s bail, after the motion was heard by Judge Arthur Bocanegra, rather than Judge Shelyna Brown, who denied the motion thrice prior.

Geragos is not only pleased with the temporary outcome, but also indicated comments made throughout the process sound encouraging to his client’s end goal. Despite opposite bail rulings, Bocanegra and Brown indicated they there might be a potential viable defense: heat of passion. That’s for a trial judge to decide.

“I will say the judge who heard the hearsay evidence, and by the way, the previous judge who denied him bail, both had the same reaction: He has a viable defense. Those are magic words in the criminal law,” Geragos told MMA Junkie in an interview Thursday.

Velasquez, 40, was arrested Feb. 28 after he allegedly pursued and shot at another vehicle that contained Harry Goularte, a man accused of molesting Velasquez’s four-year-old son. Gunfire allegedly struck Goularte’s stepfather in the shoulder and caused injury.

If during trial, jurors decide he acted within the confines of normal human behavior due to the circumstances, such as an immense amount of emotion (heat of passion) due to his son’s alleged molestation, Velasquez could be acquitted.

“If you have a homicide plus the mental state of malice, that makes it a murder,” Geragos explained. “If you negate the malice, you go down to a manslaughter. If you’ve got a defense or justification, it can be an involuntary or it can be a complete acquittal. He’s charged with, not with murder because nobody is murdered, but with an attempted murder.

“The heat of passion comes in to negate the malice element. If you negate the malice element, it is not an attempted murder. That’s why both judges have commented he’s got a viable defense here. Because there is a heat of passion defense. The heat of passion defense and the jury instructions are such that both judicial officers have commented he’s got a viable defense to the accusations.”

Geragos often represents high-profile defendants and celebrities. Past clients include Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, and Nicole Ritchie, so he’s not glued to one judicial circuit. However, Geragos previously represented a client in a similar case in Santa Clara County (Calif.), and won. In 2012, Geragos successfully defended a man named Willam Lynch, who was accused of beating a priest who molested him as a child and was swiftly found not guilty.

“(An acquittal) wouldn’t surprise me in the least,” Geragos said. “Our officers tried a case in that county before, not identical circumstances before, and that resulted in an acquittal.”

Velasquez is due back in court Dec. 28 for the identification of counsel and trial setting. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and will partake in a professional wrestling match Saturday in Tempe, Ariz. on a special travel allowance. Velasquez will otherwise remain at home on GPS monitoring.

Goularte is due back in court Jan. 17 for a pre-trial hearing after he pleaded not guilty to one felony count of lewd acts with a minor. There is also an ongoing civil lawsuit, as the Velasquezes have filed against Goularte, his family members, and their businesses. It will resume in March.

“I think it’s obvious (Velasquez) wants a message out there,” Geragos said. “He wants the truth out there. The truth is what he’s seeking. If he tells the truth, we’re confident things will work out.”

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