Prosecutors say Charles Fowler-Scholz was the shot caller that deadly New Year’s Eve at Old Sacramento’s Sports Corner Cafe, the man in charge when the bullets began to fly, even though he didn’t pull the trigger.
His attorney says the blame lay squarely on Fowler-Scholz’s wife, who used her simmering anger at her drunken, inattentive husband to turn revelry into chaos. When the shooting stopped, two men – Daniel Ferrier, 36, a bar security guard, and Gabriel Cordova, 35, a father of three ringing in the new year with his wife and friends – were shot dead at close range on Dec. 31, 2012.
Cordova’s wife, Christina, and security guard Stephen Walton were wounded.
“He knows he’s the key to what happened that night. It occurred because of him, Carlito Montoya and his wife, Amber,” prosecuting Sacramento County deputy District Attorney Anthony Ortiz told Sacramento Superior Court Judge Cheryl Chun Meegan in his closing argument Monday. Fowler-Scholz waived his right to a jury trial, leaving Meegan to decide whether Fowler-Scholz was responsible for the deaths.
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“If not for the defendant, Gabriel Cordova and Daniel Ferrier would not be dead,” Ortiz said.
Montoya, 25, is on his way to prison, convicted of murder in Sacramento in March for firing the point-blank rounds that killed Ferrier and Cordova. He faces sentencing in May. Amber Olivia Scholz called Fowler-Scholz and Montoya over to confront Cordova over a spilled drink before slipping out of the bar and out of harm’s way. She reached a plea agreement last June accepting a felony assault charge in connection to the fatal shootings and will be sentenced in June.
That leaves Fowler-Scholz, a 37-year-old with Norteño gang ties, facing two counts of murder and a charge of assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly smashing a beer bottle over Cordova’s head before the fight that left Cordova and Ferrier dead.
Defense attorney Olaf Hedberg argued that Amber Scholz instigated the confrontation that led to the shootings and that Montoya acted alone when he fired the weapon he had in his waistband, saying Fowler-Scholz was not responsible for the deaths.
“These people deserved better and so does my client. There is simply no way to explain what Carlito Montoya did, but there is no way to foresee it, either,” Hedberg said.
Ortiz drew a bright line from Montoya and Fowler-Scholz’s ties to Norteño outfits in Oakland and Sacramento to the violent incident at Sports Corner Cafe, showing photographs of the red Norteño clothing, bandannas and other paraphernalia that marked Fowler-Scholz’s home, along with video of a drunken Fowler-Scholz flashing his large Norteño tattoos to bar patrons.
Fowler-Scholz “chose a lifestyle. He chose it long ago. That’s what brought him to the bar Dec. 31, 2012,” Ortiz told Judge Meegan.
Hedberg argued that a “disgustingly drunk” Fowler-Scholz did not know Montoya had a gun, did nothing to encourage Montoya to fire the shots and was provoked into starting the fight with Cordova by Amber Scholz.
“Amber hated my client. She thought it would be fun to get him in trouble and arrested on New Year’s Eve,” Hedberg said. “It’s not the Norteños, it’s an angry woman. … She provoked him into getting into a fight, then ran off.”
Hedberg showed text messages between Fowler-Scholz and his wife in the months before the shootings that he said told of the couple’s deep-seated rift. The tensions only grew more heated at the bar.
Throughout trial for both Montoya and Fowler-Scholz, defense attorneys said the pair drank heavily and quickly at the Sports Corner Cafe, downing shot after shot of cognac and chasing the shots with beer. Fowler-Scholz had 10 drinks in the space of nearly 90 minutes, Hedberg argued, drawing from the bar’s security video.
Hedberg argued the jostled drink at the bar gave wife Amber Scholz the opportunity she needed to put her plan into motion.
“Amber knew what she was doing and she did it on purpose,” Hedberg said.