After William McKay killed Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Isaiah Cordero, officials across the Inland Empire have been calling for the resignation of San Bernardino Superior Judge Cara Hutson.
The San Bernardino/Riverside Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates sent a letter to the editor saying, “(W)e strongly oppose efforts to recall any judge without knowing all the true and correct facts which have occurred. Unfortunately, there have been serious and damaging misstatements that have been made to the press about the Judge’s handling of the William McKay case.”
McKay had been charged with kidnapping and threatening a woman, Lisa Renee Little, whom he had asked to dogsit at his house while he was in jail. He believed that she burglarized the house, the complaint said.
Hutson cleared McKay of the kidnapping charge during a bench trial Nov. 8, 2021, and reduced bail from $1 million to $500,000. McKay got out on bail March 23, and fatally shot Sheriff’s Deputy Isaiah Cordero during a traffic stop Dec. 29.
He was subsequently fatally shot himself by other deputies.
Critics argue that Hutson should have denied bail.
Here’s the transcript from that hearing.
McKay had represented himself. Deputy District Attorney Tess Ponce represented the state. The hearing covers both the judge’s findings at the bench trial, and the discussion to set bail at $500,000.
After the verdict that cleared him of the kidnapping charge, McKay asked for bail to resume.
“I’ve been in jail for seven months. I’ve learned a valuable lesson in all this. I’m not going nowhere. I sat here for three hours when Ms. Ponce took my bail the first time. I paid bail. I satisfied the government’s needs that they asked for at that time. And I sat in the front of this courtroom for three hours while Ms. Ponce did the paperwork. I’m not going anywhere. There’s going to be significant amount of changes to the rules. But to have me sit here for two months while it waits, you know, we’re at the beginning of November, that’s two months. I’d like to be able to get my affairs in order at home,” McKay said.
“I’ll walk in here gladly in January and take that time if that’s necessary, but please don’t make me sit in here for two months just wasting away. I still have to find my dog. I am not going to go – there’s no street justice coming out of me. I learned a whole different thing,” he said.
“I’m going to stop you right there,” Hutson said, interrupting McKay.
“The fact of the matter is this is still a three strikes case. Although a million does seem beyond the bail schedule of a three strikes case. I will reset bail at $500,000, which is the bail for a three strikes case. I will not release you (without bail) because the verdict is in and I have to always be mindful of the fact that you are still looking down the barrel of a life sentence. And so I must keep bail at $500,000 now. I can entertain something else if you have something else to present, but that is my ruling because the verdict has changed, circumstances have changed and I have adjusted the bail to those circumstances,” Hutson said.
McKay asked for Hutson to decrease bail to a number he could afford. He said he lost $12,000 from an earlier bail payment in this case, which Ponce refiled under a new number.
Hutson asked for Ponce’s reaction.
“Your Honor, I think given the change of circumstances and given – just given the stakes I was going to say no bail should be appropriate. I’ll submit to the Court,” Ponce said.
“Okay. That’s her stance. And I will leave it at $500,000 at this point to give you an opportunity,” Hutson replied.
The case against McKay argued that he had kidnapped a woman who had dogsat at his house while he was imprisoned. McKay suspected her of burglarizing the house. The complaint said McKay duct-taped her and caused her to perform manual labor.
“I do believe that Mr. McKay was a victim of burglary to his home, and that because Ms. Little had his property in her possession, she probably knew who took the rest of it,” Hutson said.
Hutson went on to say that McKay dispensed his brand of street justice by not involving law enforcement and by imprisoning Little himself.
“But here’s the problem which Mr. McKay has reiterated to the Court on more than one occasion. The way he lives his life is not necessarily the way of the legal system. In this instance, the Court knows beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. McKay decided to take matters into his own hands and dispense his brand of street justice in this matter. His way is not to involve law enforcement. But unfortunately, Ms. Little (the victim) did involve law enforcement which triggers the obligation of this Court to sort through what has and has not been proven throughout the trial.
“The Court bases its rulings on the facts elicited in this trial. And now I’m also considering the new evidence that Ms. Ponce has provided to the Court,” Hutson said.
At the hearing, prosecutor Tess Ponce also announced that there was a federal indictment against Little for transporting fentanyl. She said she had just discovered it.
“And Mr. McKay, the only relevance the Court sees in that, is it would be impeachable evidence and I still have it. So it works as impeachable evidence,” Hutson said.
“(T)he Court knows that Ms. Little’s hands are not clean. I’ll just leave it that way. So she’s not an angel to this Court. And that is considering — that is going to be considered within the ruling and verdicts that I am going to give in this matter,” Hutson continued.
McKay told Hutson that he knew Little was “foul,” and that he recommended Ponce look into her instead of him.
“I specifically told Ms. Ponce look into her, you’ve got the wrong person here. Look into the person who says they’re the victim, please. And this whole time I sat in jail. My dog is still missing. My other one is at the pound. I had to bury the other one,” McKay said.
Hutson said that Little made inconsistent testimony. Little described threats made against her by McKay three times, but only mentioned a knife she claimed McKay held against her throat in one of her descriptions.
McKay said during the hearing that Little had been proven as a liar.
Hutson ruled that the kidnapping to commit robbery charge failed. She said that a kidnapping did not occur, because the law for kidnapping requires a person to be moved a substantial distance. Since Little was kept imprisoned in the same house, Hutson found McKay not guilty of kidnapping.
Instead, McKay was definitely guilty of false imprisonment, and false imprisonment by violence, Hutson ruled.
McKay also took Little’s car, credit cards and Social Security card.
Hutson also found that McKay did not resist a police officer as charged. Although McKay had a knife in his hand when he was being chased by police after Little contacted the authorities, he did not brandish it, strike at the officers or threaten to use it.
He was, however, found guilty of delaying or resisting a police officer.
She also found McKay guilty on a felony count of evading an officer during a car chase along Cajon Pass, which McKay had admitted to.
Hutson also found McKay guilty of making criminal threats, which he admitted to, and receiving stolen property.
Suicide by police
McKay also had two prior felony counts. One, in 1999 for possession of a firearm, was for what he described as a failed “suicide by cop,” according to Hutson. He was fatally shot by police after killing Cordero.
McKay also committed a felony robbery in 2006, Hutson said.
Hutson originally scheduled sentencing for Jan. 7, 2022, because an earlier sentence would likely be invalidated under a change to California law, she said.
Case No. FWV21002096
Read Follow Our Courts’ prior coverage here.
Read the transcript here.