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Case of Home Invasion Assault Now in Hands of Jury

MERCED - A heartless robber bent on revenge or the target of a set-up by a drug-addled ex-girlfriend?

Those opposing viewpoints were offered by attorneys Wednesday during closing arguments in the trial of Joey Cardoza, who’s accused of committing a brutal April 27 home invasion at the home of a 56-year-old Atwater woman.

If convicted, Cardoza faces 20 years in prison. Jurors will continue deliberating today.

The prosecution’s key witness in the case is Cardoza’s ex-girlfriend, Kimberly Grace, who is suspected of participating in the robbery at the Fay Drive home. She testified against Cardoza in exchange for a reduced jail term.

Deputy District Attorney Walter Wall said Cardoza previously had a four-year relationship with the victim’s daughter. He spent three years in prison for burglarizing the same woman’s home.

The night of the robbery, Wall said Cardoza and Grace walked through a side gate and entered the home. Cardoza found the victim using the bathroom, pulled her off the toilet and slammed her into the bathroom mirror. He then began punching her, knocking out a tooth and fracturing her eye socket. “She must have wondered whether she’d come out of this experience with her life,” Wall said.

High on meth, the robbers tied the victim’s hands with duct tape. The victim testified that Grace told her, “Don’t move, or I’ll cut your f—— throat.”

The couple loaded the victim’s Buick with jewelry, electronics and other items and drove away. Atwater police later traced the robbery back to Grace. Police obtained a photo of her using the victim’s debit card at the CitiBank at M Street and Collins Drive. Police also obtained a photo of Cardoza using the ATM at Compass Bank in Atwater.

The two were arrested at Cardoza’s parents’ home, where they’d been staying. Grace later gave a full confession.

Wall said a witness testified that Cardoza had bragged to her about the robbery, saying “that’s what (the victim) gets” for sending him to prison. Wall said the defendant sent letters to Grace in which he wrote that he was upset about her cooperation with police. “If you wouldn’t have said anything, we could have got out of this easy,” Cardoza wrote.

Wall said the victim had suspected Cardoza was behind the crime and brought up his name after police responded to the scene. “In order for you to believe Cardoza, every witness must be lying,” Wall argued.

Although some jurors began shaking their heads as Wall described the attack, defense attorney Jeffrey Tenenbaum reminded them to remain objective, despite the brutality of the attack. “You have to separate that sympathy from the woman that’s sitting here in court,” Tenenbaum said.

Tenenbaum pointed out there was little physical evidence connecting his client to the crime. Even though his client was said to be inside the home for 30 minutes, Tenenbaum said there was no DNA, hair or other evidence.

Tenenbaum also said it was Grace who thought up the robbery after finding some of Cardoza’s court papers from his previous burglary of the victim. But Tenenbaum said another man – not Cardoza – was with Grace during the robbery and that Cardoza wanted nothing to do with it. “Kimberly Grace said, ‘Let’s do something,’ and Joey Cardoza said, ‘Forget about it,’ ” Tenenbaum told jurors.

As for Cardoza’s alleged jailhouse letters, Tenenbaum said his client wasn’t admitting the robbery, but was upset because Grace was throwing him under the bus.

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