Two brothers accused of sex crimes against two different victims will appear in Bulloch County Superior Court for a much awaited trial stemming from accusations that date back three years.
The convoluted tattoo shop case involving two brothers, two accusers, and claims of involvement of a former business partner-turned local competitor is far messier than one bogged down by COVID-19 delays, though when the trial begins, both brothers will have more than 700 days in jail under their belts.
Danny Joe Saldano, 37, and Vincent Saldano, 36, are brothers native to Bulloch County. Danny Joe owns Got Ink Tattoo in Statesboro and both he and Vincent are tattoo artists. All of the accusations made by victims reportedly occurred at the tattoo shop on S. Zetterower Avenue.
Danny Joe was arrested on August 29, 2019 after a three-day investigation stemming from a victim report made with the Statesboro Police Department. A grand jury returned true bills of indictment on two different counts of aggravated sexual battery back in 2019, with both incidents having similarities despite occurring almost two years apart, according to court documents.
Vincent Saldano was indicted in November 2019 on one count of rape based on an October 2017 allegation involving one of the same victims named in his brother’s case, but for a different offense. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest following the indictment.
Danny Joe Saldano’s case was tried before a jury and Judge Peed in March of this year, but the jury could not come to a unanimous decision, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial. Vincent’s case remained on the calendar for a jury selection ahead of a trial in mid-April 2021.
But in a last minute twist ahead of the new grand jury in April, DA Daphne Totten had the cases presented again and indicted them as co-defendants (something she previously promised public defenders she would not do) The collective indictments add an additional charge of aggravated sodomy and overlap the brothers into incidents of sexual assault for which they were not previously determined to be present.
Under Georgia law, a prosecutor may obtain a second indictment against a defendant for a same act which served as the basis for an initial indictment, without dismissing the first indictment – most commonly known as a ‘superseding indictment.’ But the new charges mean testimony from various cases not mentioned in the indictments can be presented at trial even though the incidents aren’t the basis of the accusations. While the evidence and testimony from the 2019 incident for which Danny Joe was already tried may not have been sufficient to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, it can now be used as corroborating evidence against Vincent Saldano. It also means additional penalties if convicted.
That’s why defense attorneys accused the state of being vindictive. In April of this year, attorneys alleged the state was being vindictive based on the following:
- Vincent’s case had been pending for 17 months from the indictment when a mistrial was declared in his brother’s case;
- Without the new claims of “parties to the crime,” the State would be unable to muddy the waters of Vincent’s trial with allegations against Danny Joe;
- The State’s reindictment is the “proximate result of its unsuccessful prosecution of Danny Joe Saldano and his rejection of all plea offers extended to him, combined with Vincent Saldano’s adherence to his demand for speedy trial”
- The last minute decision increases the potential penalty from one life sentence to three life sentences.
Defense attorneys called on the district attorney’s office to provide the Court with the rationale behind the superseding indictment and an identification of how the Saldanos are alleged to have committed or participated in each crime that is alleged. “Failure to provide a meaningful, justifiable explanation merely confirms that vindictiveness is the State’s rationale for this reindictment,” the special demurrer reads.
But Judge Muldrew said he did not find any evidence of vindictiveness and denied requests by the defense to force the state to act.
So, both Saldanos will face a jury beginning Monday morning with Danny Joe represented by public defenders and Vincent by Craig Bonnell of Rincon.