California Fourth District Court of Appeal Reverses Judge’s Decision to Strike Prior Strike Conviction on Hate Crime

Case # 18NF2623

Appellate opinion invalidates 5-year sentence given by trial court; defendant remains eligible for 38 years to life sentence if convicted on all charges in attack on pregnant black woman

SANTA ANA, Calif. – The California Fourth District Court of Appeal late Tuesday overturned an Orange County judge’s decision to strike a prior strike conviction when sentencing a third-strike defendant with a history of violence and committing hate crimes for chasing a pregnant black woman and threatening to kill her unborn child.

Judge Roger B. Robbins’ decision to strike the prior conviction allowed him to sentence Tyson Theodore Mayfield, 45, of Mission Viejo, to five years in state prison instead of the mandatory 25 years to life required by California’s Three Strikes Law. Mayfield was facing 38 years and four months to life in state prison as a result of sentencing enhancements charged in the case.

The appellate court ruled the dismissal of Mayfield’s strike was an abuse of judicial discretion by Robbins. The decision invalidates the five-year sentence imposed by Robbins and returns the case back to the trial court for prosecution. Mayfield remains eligible for a maximum sentence of 38 years and four months to life in state prison as a result of sentencing enhancements charged in the case.

District Attorney Todd Spitzer appeared repeatedly in front of Judge Robbins to argue against a lenient sentence given Mayfield’s violent and racist criminal history.

“This decision echoes the outrage that I expressed to the trial court over allowing such an evil person the opportunity to continue to victimize innocent people because of the color of their skin,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “I have spent decades fighting for victims – especially victims of hate – and ensuring that justice is served. As the elected District Attorney of Orange County, I will continue to fight to protect those who cannot protect themselves. The abuse of discretion and the complete disregard by the Court of the traumatic impact this crime had on the victim – a young, pregnant woman who literally ran for her life and the life of her unborn child – is nothing less than tragic. I watched this brave young woman describe to the Court the terror she was forced to endure because of the color of her skin and the ongoing terror she suffers thinking he is coming back for her and her children. She begged the Court to give the defendant more than five years behind bars and the Court ignored her. Thankfully, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office heard her and so did the Fourth District Court of Appeal.”

Mayfield was charged on Sept. 19, 2018, with one felony count of hate crime criminal threats with present ability to commit violent injury, one felony count of criminal threats, and one misdemeanor count of petty theft, with sentencing enhancements for hate crime with a prior conviction in 2017, and prior serious and violent felony convictions for assault with a deadly weapon in 2005 and mayhem in 2008 in Orange County.

Mayfield pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced in May 2019 to the court offer of five years in state prison.

Judge Robbins originally offered a two-year sentence but increased the offer to five years after District Attorney Spitzer appeared in court in April 2019 to object. District Attorney Spitzer appeared again in May 2019 to reiterate his objection to the court’s light offer and the striking of one of the defendant’s prior strikes.

“He is a dangerous person. There is just no question he is a racist,” District Attorney Todd Spitzer told the Court at the time, noting Mayfield’s swastika and SS lightning bolt tattoos. “He is indiscriminately picking out people on the street because he doesn’t like the way they look and using violence against them. Is a five year sentence going to protect society against someone so evil?”

Members of Christ Our Redeemer Church in Irvine, the NAACP, the OC Human Relations Commission, and the AntiDefamation League attended court hearings in support of the victim.

On Sept. 17, 2018, Mayfield approached a pregnant black woman sitting on a bus bench in Fullerton and yelled racial slurs at her. The defendant clenched his fists and repeatedly threatened to make the victim “drop” her unborn baby. Jane Doe feared for her safety and pepper sprayed Mayfield. The defendant stole the victim’s backpack and walked away.

Jane Doe contacted the Fullerton Police Department (FPD) who investigated this case but were not initially able to locate Mayfield. The victim returned to the bus bench and Mayfield approached her again, threatened to harm her, and used racial slurs. The defendant chased Jane Doe into a nearby café, where she remained until FPD located and arrested Mayfield. The defendant has multiple tattoos of symbols associated with white supremacy.

In a victim impact statement presented to the Court pursuant to Marsy’s Law, Jane Doe expressed her desire for a longer sentence. She fears for her safety and her children’s safety if Mayfield has access to find them and make good on his threats.

Jane Doe stated in part: “This situation has worsened my diagnosis of PTSD. Then it physically affected me. When Tyson was walking towards me telling me ‘I’m going to make sure you drop your baby. It’s a promise making sure you have this baby. I don’t like pregnant n****** like you, I have a field day of doing that,’ I felt very scared … When he made these threats towards me, what came to my mind was that he wanted to physically hurt me and my unborn child and do whatever he could for me to have this baby.”

“I literally had to run for my life when I was 8 months pregnant. I was protecting myself and my unborn child,” she told the court. “I feel like he should be in prison for much longer. Five years is not enough.”

Prior Hate Crime Conviction

On Sept. 4, 2017, Mayfield approached John Doe in a commercial parking lot in Fullerton. The defendant became agitated because the victim did not have a lighter he could borrow. Mayfield called John Doe, who is Filipino and Turkish, a racial slur and punched the victim multiple times. A nearby witness called 911 to report the incident. FPD officers responded to the scene and arrested the defendant.

Mayfield was convicted in on Oct. 19, 2017, of one misdemeanor count of hate crime assault causing injury. As part of his Court-offered plea, the charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, and prior strike conviction enhancements were dismissed. Mayfield was sentenced to one year in county jail. At the time of the crime, Mayfield was on parole.

Other Racially Motivated Conviction

Mayfield was sentenced to nine years in state prison for a 2005 mayhem conviction, in which he made racist comments towards a woman and her boyfriend getting gas after they declined to give Mayfield change. Mayfield hurled racial epithets as he punched the male victim repeatedly in the face, causing a gash in his mouth that required eight stiches.

Deputy District Attorney Laila Nikaien of the Special Prosecutions Unit prosecuted this case. Senior Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Molfetta argued the appeal.