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Escobar called ‘flight risk,' bail now $1 million

May 18, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

A judge this morning increased the bail to $1 million for a man accused of stabbing his 7-month-old cousin and apparently leaving him for dead in a trash bin.

Deputy District Attorney Deborah Owen, assigned to prosecute 19-year-old Benjamin Jason Escobar of Huntington Park, said Escobar's $100,000 bail was too low.

This morning she asked Superior Court Judge Joseph Zimmerman to increase Escobar's bail to $1 million to better assure he is not released while the case against him moves forward.

Zimmerman voiced concern that Escobar did not have a public defender assigned to him today.

At an arraignment earlier this week, Escobar pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and declined to have a public defender assigned to his case. He reportedly said he would obtain his own counsel.

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When Escobar was ushered into the court this morning, shackled and in orange jail overalls, he stood alone.

Zimmerman asked Escobar if he had asked for a court-appointed attorney.

Escobar was silent at first, but then answered "no."

Escobar then said he had an attorney, but he did not know the name of the firm for which the attorney worked.

Zimmerman asked if Escobar wanted the services of an attorney.

Escobar answered, "Yes."

Zimmerman then said Escobar's rights could be substantially affected by today's hearings and called a recess and asked so a public defender could speak with Escobar.

Family of Anthony Escalera, the baby who was assaulted, filled the county jail court courtroom as Escobar was ushered into the court. Their crying could be heard in the background as the proceedings started.

Escobar has been charged with attempted murder in connection with the stabbing of Anthony at his Imperial home on Monday.

According to police, Anthony was stabbed in the neck and suffered 1 to 1 1/2 inch wound. He was removed from his crib, taken across the street and left in a black trash bin and had a white trash bag over him.

Imperial police found Anthony within 15 minutes of their arrival. Although he had lost a lot of blood and his breathing was shallow, Anthony survived the attack.

He is being treated at Children's Hospital.

An investigation by Imperial police and the county Sheriff's Office led to the arrest of Escobar, who had been staying with Anthony's family.

Owen argued there are a number of reasons the bail needed to be increased from the normal $100,000 bail for attempted murder cases.

"The defendant has no real ties to Imperial County," Owen told a reporter Thursday.

Owen added, "I am also arguing the defendant is a threat to the victim and other members of the victim's family. The court has to assure the victim is protected. I think the victim is vulnerable."

Escobar pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday.

Escobar approved a delay until May 30 for the next hearing. He has until that time to obtain an attorney.

Owen said she is concerned about the time that will pass until the next hearing.

"If he is putting it off this amount of time I wonder if he is trying to get out of custody," she said.

There has been little information released concerning a motive for the crime. A possible motive was to be discussed this morning in court.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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