SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez pleaded not guilty on Friday to attempted murder charges in the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice. Velasquez smiled and waved at his supporters who filled the courtroom gallery.
Velasquez tried to kill a suspected pedophile who molested one of Velasquez’s 4-year-old family members inside a daycare, according to prosecutors.
The charges against the MMA star stem from a wild high speed chase and shooting. According to San Jose police, on February 28, Velasquez drove 100 miles-per-hour chasing Harry Goularte on Highway 101, and he opened fire on Goularte’s vehicle multiple times.
The chase stretched from Morgan Hill to San Jose before one bullet struck a second man who was in Goularte’s truck. Velasquez was arrested in San Jose and he has remained in jail with no bail ever since.
“Mr. Velasquez’s conduct on that day of his encounter with Goularte was the result of being severely provoked by seeing Goularte freely out in the community to continue to abuse other children,” the MMA star’s attorney wrote in court documents.
Goularte is charged with molesting a boy “hundreds of times” at a daycare owned and operated by his mother, Patricia Goularte, in San Martin, court records state.
Judge Jessica Delgado said a 5-day preliminary hearing for Velasquez will begin on September 26 to determine if prosecutors have enough evidence to move the case forward to trial.
On Friday, the MMA fighter’s defense attorneys and prosecutor Aaron French sparred over what evidence and witnesses that will be used for the preliminary hearing and trial. French said he will not call on Goularte to testify as a witness, and therefore does not have to hand-over evidence gathered for the child molestation case.
Defense attorneys said they need to see that evidence to help prove Velasquez’s innocence. Specifically, the defense wants a copy of a law enforcement detective’s interview with the 4-year-old boy who was allegedly molested.
“I do not plan on calling Goularte in as a witness,” French said.
Velasquez’s defense attorney said, “This is a problem. To pretend like he does not exist is fiction. He played a role. That is fundamentally unfair to Mr. Velasquez.”
The judge admitted that the investigations into Goularte and Velasquez “obviously and undeniably overlap,” adding, “this is a unique circumstance.”
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen described the February 28 shooting as a case of vigilantism. “The sad tragedy is that Mr. Velasquez chose to take the law into his own hands, endangering the public and everyone in the truck,” Rosen said.
The UFC, MMA, and WWE sports communities have rallied behind the fighter and defended his character as a devoted family man with no prior criminal record. WWE star Ronda Rousey wrote that if she had been in Velasquez’s position, she would have done “the same thing” or “worse.”
Harry Goularte was arrested by Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies on child molestation charges Feb. 23. He was released from jail two days later. On Feb. 28, his parents were driving Harry Goularte to meet with court officials for a GPS ankle monitor when Velasquez spotted them.
Velasquez was never alerted by jail officials that the suspected pedophile had been freed from custody. “Mr. Velasquez was shocked when he accidently encountered Patricia Goularte and her son,” defense attorney Mark Geragos wrote in court documents. Encountering both Goulartes was “triggering” for Velasquez because Patricia Goularte allowed her son to have access to vulnerable toddlers, Geragos wrote.
Velasquez was aiming at the accused child molester when he accidentally shot Harry Goularte’s 63-year-old stepfather, Paul Bender, in the arm.