Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mary O'Callighan Sentencing, Michael Gargiulo #31 & Grim Sleeper Update

UPDATE 8/27: spelling, clarity, accuracy
July 23, 2015
I’m on the 9th floor of the downtown Criminal Justice Center, sitting on a bench across from Dept. 108. There is a Gargiulo hearing and Mary O’Callaghan, the LAPD officer recently convicted of assault under color of authority will be sentenced today.


8:13 AM

There are quite a few people at this end of the hall. I observe first time greetings with many of the arriving people. It’s a good bet that the people are supporters of LAPD Officer Mary O’Callaghan.

Looking up, I see Gargiulo defense investigator Chris Nicely sitting on a bench down towards the center of the hall. He appears to be looking over his calendar. More supporters of Mary O'Callaghan have arrived. There are friendly greetings and hugs being exchanged.  I count at least fifteen people now.

Also today, DDA Beth Silverman is in jury selection in Dept. 106 on an old murder case. I’m hoping I get to say hello in the hall or later, if there's time to drop in on Dept. 106.

8:24 AM
DDA Shannon Presby arrives for the O’Callaghan sentencing. A reporter steps in front of him to speak to him.

Some of the people in the crowd of O’Callaghan supporters appear to be police officers.  More suited gentlemen arrive and speak to DDA Presby.  Mr. Ricco, O’Callaghan’s defense attorney arrives. H greets Presby and they chat. A female reporter identifies herself and approaches DDA Presby, telling him she emailed him.

DDA Dan Akemon arrives and checks the door. The hallway is so full that he goes down to the other end of the hall to speak to his investigator, Detective Small and another woman.

Mary O'Callaghan Sentencing
8:50 AM

Inside Department 108. Mary Hearns, Department Head for the Superior Court’s Public Information Office, (PIO) informs the media that the are allowed to use their laptops, as long as the keystrokes are not heard.

I believe I recognize DDA Jamie Garrison in the well. I’m pretty sure it’s DDA Garrison. During the people’s case in the Stephanie Lazarus trial, Garrison channeled the preliminary hearing testimony of LA County Coroner’s Investigator Lloyd Mahaney, who collected the bite mark swab off of Sherri Rasmussen’s body.

Chris Nicely leaves Dept. 108. There’s lots of bustle in the well and a bit in the gallery. The gallery is almost full. News media reporters set up their cameras in the jury box. Judge Ohta is here. He's wearing a white shirt and a light blue patterned tie. He will officiate the sentencing since he was the judge of record on the trial.

Jane Robison from the DA’s office is here and is able to find a seat in the gallery. I can usually type very softly. I hope I can type soft enough for Judge Ohta. DDA Presby speaks to Jane Robison for a moment. Judge Ohta asks for DDA Presby and Mr. Ricco to approach. It's for just a moment and then Judge Ohta leaves the bench.

PIO Mary Hearn is now in the jury box with the cameramen. Last minute stragglers arrive. Judge Ohta comes out to the bench for a moment. More last minute people arrive.

DDA Joshua Ritter, who last week was on the verge of closing arguments in his case, arrives with some staff.  Mary O’Callaghan is brought out. She is in a blue jump suit. She’s wearing the white long-johns type shirt underneath.



8:59AM
Rico puts his arm on the back of Mary’s chair. A few moments later her rubs her back for comfort. Mary appears to lean in closer to her attorney.

Detective Small leaves the courtroom. There are quite a few deputies in the courtroom. There are three in the well. Five deputy sheriff’s by the courtroom door. More sheriffs go to the back of the courtroom on the far left.


9:02 AM
Judge Ohta takes the bench.

Judge Ohta addresses the gallery. “I expect an anticipate that all of you will accord one another. [with] civility and dignity that these proceedings require. ... There shall be no emotional outburst or display of physical gestures or the like. ... If anyone acts out in that manner, you will be escorted from the courtroom.”

Judge Ohta calls the case. People v O’Callaghan and asks the parties to state their appearances. Robert Ricco for Ms. Callaghan. DDA Presby for the people.

The court continues: "The matter before the court [is] of sentencing. ... I understand that on the people's side there may be people who would like to address the court?"

First person Sandra Thomas, Alesia Thomas‘ mother.

"You honor. I‘m Sandra Thomas, Alesia’s mother. I want to thank God that.... I am so sorry all of this occurred. It was ... just happened out of nowhere. What I thought about a lot .. the only time when Alesia was placed in the back seat of the police car ... At ... once she was in the back seat, and she was saying I can’t breathe, Ms. O’Callaghan decided to take a cigarette smoke. After that, when she returned ..."

"I was wondering .... As a medical assistant, I’ve studied a lot of medicine. I love it with a passion. I’ve learned CPR. And I was wondering why would she leave when she can’t breathe. [Why did she] stay away so long and come back? Why didn’t she do some [CPR?]? Why not offer compression and a couple of breaths? Why was that chosen [cigarette] for her to do first?"

"To me, it appeared she was expecting that it [would] happen. She wanted that to happen. That’s what it looked like to me. Why didn’t she give her compressions and a couple of breaths if she was unconscious? Unfortunately, that is not what happened."

"I would love to forgive her, but I have to ask God to help me learn to forgive her ... how to learn to forgive. I have love for everyone in this world. When you work in the medical field..." 

Ms. Thomas’ voice starts to break, and I’m affected by hearing her voice falter.

"You have to have compassion for people. You have to want them to get better in their [health? heart?]. I help people of all ethnicity, it doesn’t matter. You don’t hurt a human being. When you are old, you are like a baby again. And it doesn’t matter what color you are. And if I was a police officer and she was a heavy girl .... And I would have to try to talk to her. [And ask her] What happened to you? Why did you get yourself in this position? I would allow her to give her [opinion?] ... ask questions and we could have moved forward with letting her to speak to someone ... to speak to a psychiatrist."

"And my grand-kids, they are without a mother now. And after, Ms. O’Callaghan ... speaks about how her son successfully completed [OS?] Academy. Now how does that make me feel? It was terrible. There was no feeling there at all."

"And that’s another reason I’m having trouble learning how to forgive her ...  Nobody can change what happened. That’s [what I have] to say today. ... Phillip Washington is my grandson. Oh, he’s here."

Judge Ohta addresses Mrs. Thomas. “I’m sorry for the loss of your daughter.”

DDA Presby introduces Mr. Washington.  He identifies himself as the father of Alesia’s older [son? daughter?]. I am having difficulty hearing him.

"Most difficult time in my life, having to explain to her younger daughter, [that her mother was gone]  about how difficult to speak in court ... then difficult time above ...

Mary O'Callaghan was not a professional ... She was a regular citizen who chose the noble process and then [betrayed?] her oath. ... And when this jury convicted Mary O'Callaghan, then they began to right that wrong. ... When her children will ask, what were her last moments like ... she was beaten, hog tied and treated like an animal. .... I don't know how to explain to them that she asked for help and no one listened [from?] them.  ... I don't know how to explain to them that her last words were, 'I can't breathe.'

Mr. Washington starts to break up. He says, "I'm sorry." He can't continue. Judge Ohta tells Mr. Washington, "We can wait for you, sir."

Mr. Washington continues.

When Alicia passed, her life taken, most importantly her children's lives, her children suffer the loss of their mother every day. I teach [them? her daughter?] that anger is not the way, that hate is not the way. and I've taught [them?] that the way is to forgive, but to also seek justice. .... I ask your honor to right this wrong. Let her children believe in the system to believe in justice.

Defense attorney Rico turns around in his seat to watch Mr. Washington speak.

Washington requests that O'Callaghan serve the three [year?] term.

Najee Ali (sp?) speaks on behalf of the family. 

He thanks Judge Ohta for permission to address the court. He thanks DDA Presby for bringing Ms. O'Callaghan to justice. ... It had a big impact on her family and her two children who will never see their mother again. ... They continue to mourn and miss their mother. ... There was nothing more important to her [Thomas) than her children and their safety. ... That's why she dropped them off [at] what she knew was a safe [haven?]. ... She should not have died in the back of a police [officer's?] car. ...  When she was telling [Ms.] O'Callaghan that she couldn't breathe, she responded with taunts and threats. ... She said to her, "Bitch, I'll break your arm." [She was] seen on video tape, assaulting her. ... Her last dying words as we saw her lose consciousness was, "I can't breathe." ... Black lives matter. ... Her life matters, to her children and our community. O'Callaghan has not shown any remorse for her crime. She has not apologized to the family. She could have done this through her lawyer. ... We ask that she receive the maximum sentence in state prison. ... Unfortunately, we see our citizens dying in police custody. ... The family is not seeking revenge. ... We've always sought justice for Alesia. ... Black lives matter; all lives matter.

That ends the victim impact statements.

The court asks, "Mr. Ricco, is there a statement or allocution that your client would like to make?"

Mary O'Callaghan stands up and turns to address Alesia Thomas' mother. "I never had the opportunity to say I'm sorry. ... I didn't have the opportunity until [now?]. ... Mother to mother, I'm extremely sorry for the loss of your daughter."

O'Callaghan starts to break down, and then continues. "There's not a day [that?] goes by that I don't think of her. I pray for her every day... I pray for her children ... that her children and you and other family members, and how much [she?] loved and  [to tell them? please?] forgive her. .... I'm sorry."

Alesia Thomas' mother appears moved by O'Callaghan's emotional remorse statement. Thomas' mother holds out her arms to O'Callaghan and asks the court if she can hug O'Callaghan.

The court denies the request. "No. It cannot be done," Judge Ohta answers. The court then moves onto the question of sentence. Both parties have submitted sentencing memorandums. "Mr. Presby, would you like to argue your point?" "Yes, your honor," DDA Presby replies.

DDA Presby first thanks the jury in this matter for their attention. He also thanks the court for providing both sides for a fair trial. In some cases, sentence is simply applying a predesignated [tier?], it's almost mechanical. ... But in cases like these, it's not a simple matter of addition. It requires [a review?] of the nuances of the case.

At every state in this process, the DA's office attempted to consider all the facts, to receive a just sentence. The prosecution opposes a reduction of the case to a misdemeanor. She is responsible for her actions. [The defense presented?] that Ms. Thomas was resisting and a combative defendant. "Those arguments were categorically rejected by the jury."

[An] effort to shift responsibility from Ms. O'Callaghan should be rejected by the court as it was rejected by the jury. ... Ms. O'Callaghan abused a position of trust. ... Police officers are supposed to [restrict? restrain?] individuals. This this great power comes great responsibility. ... the duty is not to be perfect, ... but to act reasonably under the circumstances of a particular case. ... When she goes by she is violating her duty. ... By failing to listen to Ms. Thomas, that she could not breathe, and could not comply to Ms. O'Callaghan's demands ... she compounded this by using gratuitous insults and kicking the victim. ... Her use of force was a violation of her position of trust. ... As a restrained prisoner, she was totally dependent of Ms. O'Callaghan. ... "Ms. Thomas needed help but all she got was violence." Instead of determining why she couldn't breathe, she decided to insult, shove and kick the victim. ... If the DA’s office thought that Ms O’Callagian casued Ms. Thomas death, we would have brought charges. ... After considering all the facts of the case along with Ms. O'Callaghan's history, the DA's office opposes reduction to a misdemeanor. ... Recommendation to spend 180 days in jail [and probation].

When defense attorney Rico stands up to speak, he first turns and addresses Alesia's mother. He then thanks to court for a fair trial. He then talks about O'Callaghan's service. [She has] honorably served this country and the city for so many years. ... She was in desert storm. Eighteen years on the LAPD. [She] lived a life of service, one that has been productive and one that is deserving of a probationary sentence. ... Ms. O'Callaghan went above and beyond serving her community of south east [Los Angeles]. ...

Some things that don't get in the media. [She? They?] were instrumental in founding "Operation Progress," which has led to 15 graduates from South LA, raising funds for inner city youth; a three million foundation. ... Ms. O'Callaghan was instrumental for this and this is what she did off duty and not on duty. This is the Mary that is deserving of a probation sentence. ... [She has] three children. ... [Her] 12 year old son, resides in Vermont. ... [As a stepmother] she mentored three step children. ... They don't call her Mary, they call her Mom.

In regards to the mitigating factors, that the court may consider [under code #], every one of the mitigating factors apply to officer O'Callaghan. ... No prior criminal history, not even an arrest in her  50 years. [She is] more than willing to comply with probation and restitution, participating [in an]  electronic monitoring program. She is able to comply with the terms of probation. She doesn’t have drug history or an alcohol problem; no mental issues.

[I would] also like to point out, she was placed on her own recognizance and made every one of her court proceedings; she flew cross country and made it on time. She has faced consequences. She lost her job, her medical insurance. She lost her job with Orange County as a dispatcher. Her source of livelihood and earning power will be severely affected by the verdict.

Ms. O'Callagain expressed her sorry and remorse. The court has been provided with 26 character letters from friends and family members who Mary had helped, to recent neighbors that Mary had recently met. Black neighbors. It was never about race. ... She has served. ... She is not a danger to the community or anyone. It is for those reason we are asking to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor sentence, [and] Ms. O'Callaghan to probation to time served.

Judge Ohta asks the people, "Mr. Presby, would you like to respond to any of that?"  DDA Presby replies, "No your honor. Submitted.

Judge Ohta addresses the courtroom.  "I got this case very late in the process. This was not a case that was assigned to me. ... One day I walked into my office and I heard I got this case assigned to me and both attorneys walked into my office the same day. ... 
I was told that it had to be a trial. There was no settlement. ... I wondered if there was real substation discussion to settle the case. There are consequences when one goes to trial. ... And in this case, she was convicted. We do not go backwards. We go forward. ... With that in mind, I will tell you what I think about this case. ... I received for the record that [there] were perspective views that were presented to the court. I read everything put in front of me. I read ever single one."

Jidge Ohta reads from letters, and then continues with his observations of the case.

Ms. Alesia Thomas, a mother, daughter, friend, suffered extreme loss of human dignity on the last moments of her life. ... If she [had] survived and lived, if they had properly observed [that] she needed medical attention is unknown. ... She was restrained, kicked and yelled at as she lay dying. She said she could not move and could not breathe. ... She was told her arms would be broken if she did not comply. ... I see the plight of Ms. Thomas' two children, who must one day confront the circumstances of how their mother passed from this life. I have absorbed and processed all of this. ... This case is truly tragic from the stand point of those affected on both sides.

There are no winners here. I see grieving and suffering people here ... looking for a deep meaning way to understand this horrible incident. ... Justice in our system is based on two fundamental principals. ... The determination [of] guilt is ... by the people in our community ... Lay people who have no stake in this contest that we call jurors. .... Law enforcement, under our given structure, as chosen representatives, [derive?] their authority from the people they serve.

Jurors here as [assigned?] representatives have spoken. ... They took in the evidence and convicted the defendant of assault under color of authority. They have indicated the defendant has stepped beyond the scope of the authority given. ... The decision of sentence is under the sentencing analysis. ... Defendant Mary O'Callaghan comes before the court for [this?] sentencing.

On June 5, 2015, defendant Mary O'Callaghan was convicted of [the facts] underlying that occurred on July 22, 2012. The victim, Alesia Thomas, when charged with child abandonment.

Judge Ohta continues with his observations of the video, and then moves onto sentencing.

[I will] now analyze objectives of criminal sentencing in California. I state the rule verbatim.

O'Callaghan appears to be emotional while sitting at the defense table. I think she could be crying, but I can't see her. Her back is to me.  Judge Ohta reads from the sentencing guidelines. I do not transcribe everything he reads.

... punishing the defendant, deferring others from criminal conduct by underpinning its consequences. .. The DA recommended probation. ... Is she suitable for probation .... No indication, until today, there was no indication for remorse. Had been told until today, that there had to be a trial. [She] ... failed to see Ms. Thomas as a woman in distress who needed medical help. ... The nature of this crime is more serious. .... Instead of accurately [identifying] her physical condition as someone who could not move and could not breathe, she misread the situation ... unwillingness .... and used excessive force against someone who could not comply.

Judge Ohta denies probation. He moves onto the judgement to be imposed.  The court shall consider the sentencing rules. ... There is some misconception in this room that somehow the defendant can be sent to prison. She cannot. ... [This is] not a crime that she can be submitted to prison. ... That's because of realignment .... changed sentences to county jail. ... [?] Not exceeding one year, of by both that fine and imprisonment. ... A felony punished by this subdivision shall be punished by a term of 16 months or 2 or 3 years.

Judge Ohta reads more of the sentencing guidelines, and the new sentencing procedures. "It's called applied sentence." ... The portion of a defendant's sentence that is suspended shall be known as mandatory supervision, shall commence upon release [from] custody.  ... Thus, I order not to apply applied sentence ... The trial court must make [explicit?] finding in the interests of justice.

I note that it's all a bit confusing to follow because of AB109, realignment.

Judge Ohta cites a prior case, People v. Sandaval (sp?) that he relies on for sentencing in this case.

"She will get a split sentence. ... She will be sentenced to three years, however, [she is] unlikely ever to pose a danger to the community. ... Her service in the military is to her credit. ... The many letters of support from the community. Suspend the execution of 20 months. The first 16 [months] to be served in custody.

Judge Ohta then talks about how this case affected him and how he pondered the decision of sentencing. "I’ve spent several days thinking about this and I’ve not really slept. This has been very troubling to me. ... I've taken this job seriously, taking into considering everything that's been in front of me."

Probation is denied. Count one, select the high term of three years. ... Twenty months, concluding portion of the term, ... the execution of that is suspended. The defendant is ordered to pay $300.00 restitution fine.

There are other court costs imposed on O'Callaghan.  She is ordered to give blood, saliva and fingerprints.

A couple of things to the defendant. Under realignment, there is no parole. When you finish this sentence, there will be no one for you to answer to. You have the absolute right to appeal. ...

The deadline for the filing of her appeal is outlined. She must file within 50 days of today's date.

Judge Ohta goes into more detail concerning an appeal and her rights to an attorney, rights to copies of any transcripts needed to effect her appeal. O'Callaghan replies "Yes, regarding understanding her rights to appeal.

Judge Ohta states, "That concludes all of the issues the court needs to resolve."

There's nothing else from DDA Presby and nothing from defense attorney Rico. The defendant is remanded. Judge Ohta states, "That concludes the sentencing hearing." And then he adds, "Oh. Credits. ... 49 actual, plus 49 for 90 days."

O'Callaghan is taken back into custody.  The gallery starts to leave the courtroom. As Judge Ohta leaves the bench, he's already out of his robes. He then asks for DDA Presby and Mr. Rico to stick around. And that's it.

LA Times story on O'Callaghan's sentencing
NBC News Report (with video)
Post by Jasmyne Cannick

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, Pretrial Hearing 31
10:08 AM
LAPD Detective Tom Small, DDA Daniel Akemon and DDA Garrett Dameron enter Dept. 108.  A few moments later, defense attorney Charles Lindner and his son, paralegal Abe Lindner arrive.

Lindner greets Judge Ohta, who is at his clerk's desk. "Glad to have you back." Judge Ohta replies, "I'm not back." Judge Ohta was here only for the O'Callaghan sentencing. He will not preside over Gargiulo's hearing.

10:13 AM
The jury from a current case in trial files in. Judge Sortino arrives. He's wearing a blue and white pin-stripe shirt.

O'Callaghan's defense attorney Rico, comes out from the custody area. DDA Presby and Rico chat with Judge Ohta at the clerk's counter.

Judge Sortino is now in his robe and takes the bench.

Another case, a female defendant is heard first. She is out of custody. There is a motion for release on file that's pending appeal. Her sentence is to be served in county, but it appears she is in some kind of out of custody program. She is asking for bail. If she is able to have bail, then the program she is in will allow her child to be with her. A Marsden motion was denied and the defendant wants to go Faretta. This case is put on hold for the moment.

The court goes off the record.

10:32 AM
Defense attorney Lindner and Judge Sortino chat off the record and get up to date on where things stand.  Apparently, defense attorney Dale Rubin (who will be handling the penalty phase of the trial), went to where Gargiulo is currently being housed at the court. My guess is one of the custody floors.

I believe Judge Sortino goes over the defense 1050 motion again. At the counsel table, Lindner and DDA Akemon chat. Now, DDA's Akemon and Dameron go over a document at the clerk's desk with paralegal Abe.

Judge Sortino is now having a conversation with his court reporter. There are two different conversations going on at once in the well and I can't track either one.

10:46 AM

Buzz!  Buzz!  The current case in trial has a question.

Now, another case is before the court, trying to schedule a sentencing date for two defendants.
DDA Phillip Marshall (sp?) is addressing Judge Sortino.. There are extensive victim's family members. 20 plus people from out of state want to be here for the sentencing. The DA continues updating the court. Verdicts were reached in January 2014. The defendants had months and months [to prepare their motions for new trial] but now they need another date set. The victim's families spent all this money [on air fare and they can't get a refund]. Judge Sortino asks the people if they could look into seeing if the victim's fund could be utilized to address this situation.

10:51AM
Buzz!  Buzz!  Judge Sortino asks his clerk, "Do they have question or do they want to go on break?" The clerk replies, "I'll go check right now."

10:58 AM
Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!  The case in trial jury has reached a verdict.

DDA's Akemon and Dameron are motioned into the hallway by Abe Lindner.

11:10 AM
People come and go inside the courtroom, getting ready for the verdict in the current case to be read.

DDA's Akemon and Dameron are now back inside Dept. 108.  Lots of other attorneys arrive and are milling about the well.  Defense attorney Dale Rubin is here.

Judge Sortino continues with DDA Marshall and the two defendants who still need to be sentenced.  DDA Marshall continues. Two defendants, convicted over a year ago. One defendant has been pro per over a year. The second defendant has been pro per since November [2014].  I'm not sure if the court or DDA Marshall states, a 60 day drop date on the two pro per defendants.  The defendant's are taken back into custody.

Judge Sortino decides to go back to the female defendant who, under Faretta, is representing herself. Her motion for bail is denied.

11:33 AM
Judge Sortino calls for the jury to be brought out so their verdict can be read in the case in trial.  Judge Sortino gets the verdict forms and goes on the record in that case. There are two defendants.  After the verdicts are read and the courtroom starts to empty a bit, we shift to Gargiulo.

The court and counsel talk off the record about the Gargiulo case. Defense attorney Rubin tells the court that he spoke to Gargiulo this morning. "I told him I would see him in a few [minutes]. ... That was two hours ago. ... [It] appears he's going to waive time."

It looks like defense attorney Dale Rubin's conversation with the defendant did the trick.

It's my understanding that back in early 2012, before Gargiulo went pro per, he tried to get the court to appoint another attorney for the guilt phase. I believe Gargiulo wanted Rubin (who was assigned to the penalty phase) but the courts would not agree to assign new counsel. Because of that, Gargiulo went pro per.

Counsel and the court set a tentative trial date of January 8, 2016. [If Gargiulo does agree to waive time when the case is called today] ... they will possibly set the case at zero of 120 today, and make the January 8 date, zero of ten and a return date of September 9.  Currently, the case is 30 of 60. The last date to go to trial under the current clock is August 14. All of this discussion is off the record.

It is now getting very close to the lunch hour. Judge Sortino addresses counsel. "When I came on the bench, I was told not to go overtime at lunch and to stop at 4:15 pm, because the bailiff's go on over-time at 4:30 PM.   Judge Sortino continues to talk with Lindner about his first time on the bench.

My stomach is major growling. I'm wondering if the court will call the lunch hour and the hearing won't happen until court resumes at 1:30 pm.

Judge Sortino asks Mr. Lindner, "January 8, is that a realistic date?" Lindner replies, "Yes."

The people ask, "Well, let's hear from Mr. Gargiulo."

Judge Sortino asks Rubin, "you're formally back on the case?  Mr. Rubin replies, Well, formally, I'm part time.

We are going to continue into the lunch hour. I'm relieved.

12:06 PM
Gargiulo is inside Dept. 108 He's wearing his black horn-rimmed glasses. Defense attorney Rubin speaks to him. Judge Sortino asks the parties to state their appearances. DDA's Dameron and Akemon, Charles Lindner and Dale Rubin.

Rubin informs the court that he spoke to Mr. Gargiulo. "He is agreeable to put the case over to January 8 and set trial. ... He indicates to me that he will waive time. .... He would also like to put something on the record, but counsel [Lindner and Rubin] haven't see it yet."

Judge Sortino replies, "First things first." He addresses Gargiulo. "You have the right to go to trial August 14. Do you give up that right?"  Gargiulo replies, "Yes."

Mr. Rubin continues. He has something he wants to put on the record your honor."  Judge Sortino cautions Gargiulo. "What I can tell you ... is it's not a good idea to put on the record unless your attorney has seen it first."  Judge Sortino continues with his caution. He tells Gargiulo that there is a record. the court report takes everything down and the DA's have access to it.

The court sets a return date of September 9.

Judge Sortino continues to advise Gargiulo. "Discuss with Mr. Lindner what you want to tell the court. In that time frame, I recommend you speak to Mr. Lindner and Mr. Rubin and at that time. ...
When you come back on the 9th ... we'll address it."  Judge Sortino asks the people if they have anything to discuss.

DDA Akemon agrees with the court. There is the pending DNA issue in Chicago and the pending 1101(b) motion. The people want to resolve those issues sooner rather than later. They want to raise that now, so it doesn't cause a delay.

The court sets a trial date of January 8, 2016, with the case at zero of ten on that date.  They will return on September 9 for pretrial status.

DDA Akemon informs the court that they turned over to the defense new discovery today. Pages 29,669 to 30,412.  Gargiulo is taken back into the custody area. And that's it for Gargiulo.

Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., aka The Grim Sleeper: Update
Pretrial Hearings August 11 & August 17
The Franklin case is in Dept. 109, Judge Kathleen Kennedy's courtroom.  Franklin is charged with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Back in May of this year, I learned that the Franklin case, after many delays, had a trial date set for September 9, 2015. It is estimated the trial will take eight weeks. At that time I thought I could fit the Franklin case into my schedule.  I attended a pretrial hearing for the case in June 2015, and then became swamped with personal responsibilities.

I had hoped to attend the pretrial hearing on August 11, but I had caught Mr. Sprocket's flu bug two weeks before and was still not well enough to sit in court. I was pretty much confined to the sofa during that time. It is a shame that I missed that hearing because there were no media reports about what had happened. Court sources indicated that, with less than a month before the scheduled start of the trial, defense attorney Seymour Amster turned over to the prosecution 142 defense witness names. I can just imagine how explosive it must have been in court that day. The court took the case off calendar and the next pretrial hearing was set for August 17.

Unfortunately, I was still coughing and did not make the hearing on the 17. However, the mainstream media did report on the hearing.

The first news I saw on the August 17 hearing was a tweet by Los Angeles Times reporter Brittny Mejia:

I wasn't surprised by the news that the prosecution and defense were not getting along. Back in July 2012, I attended a pretrial hearing in the Franklin case where there was some back and forth bickering between defense attorney Seymour Amster and DDA Beth Silverman. DDA Silverman is co-prosecuting Franklin with DDA Marguerite Rizzo. I've been told DDA Rizzo is the department's "go to" person on anything DNA related. Both of these talented women are top performer's in the DA's office.

After the arguments between counsel became heated, Judge Kennedy finally stepped in and said,
"You're acting like children! ... I'm ordering you to go upstairs and work this out. ... I don't want this to be a personality driven case. ... Leave your ego at the door!'
In most of the cases I've covered in Los Angeles County, the prosecutor and defense teams are cordial and get along quite well inside and out of court. During the Ka Pasasouk and Barnes and Bolden preliminary hearings, I observed DDA Daniel Akemon get along quite well with all the defense attorneys.

In the James Fayed trial, former DDA's Alan Jackson and Eric Harmon were prosecuting and attorney Mark Werksman defended Fayed in the guilt phase and his cocounsel Steve Meister represented Fayed in the penalty phase. Everyone was cordial and quite friendly with each other.  A couple years later, Jackson joined forces with Werksman as a named partner.

The mainstream media is spread pretty thin when it comes to covering the Los Angeles County Superior Court, the largest county court system in the nation. Reporters rarely gets to observe these occasional blow-ups between counsel and even rarer still when the court comments on the behavior or has to rein in the tension.

That was the case back in March 2009 during the second Phil Spector trial. Former DDA Alan Jackson and defense attorney Doron Weinberg were having a battle of accusations after prosecution rebuttal witness and In Sessions TV anchor Lisa Bloom testified. Defense attorney Weinberg was accusing the prosecution of a discovery violation. After the bitter back and forth, Judge Larry Fidler made the following comment:
"It's clear that you can't stand each other. [...] I don't see any discovery violation. [...] Irregardless Mr. Weinberg, I saw your cross. You were not prejudiced in any way."
I also have a memory during that trial of Judge Fidler telling counsel that he appreciated the parties did not let the jury see their animosity towards each other during the trial.

At the Franklin August 17 hearing, Judge Kennedy put the Franklin case back on calendar. The next pretrial hearing is August 31 and the new trial start date [for voir dire] is October 14.

People Magazine investigative reporter, Christine Pelisek, who first first broke the story of the Grim Sleeper at LA Weekly back in August 2008, has a synopsis of the two hearings I missed combined into one story.

August 17: LA Times Franklin Story

I have some personal responsibilities that will take me through the next month. I hope I'm completely over my lung issue by then. However, the delay in the Franklin case means there won't be a conflict with the Gargiulo hearing on September 9 or Cameron Brown's sentencing on September 18.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Missing Special Olympics World Games Athlete from Albania


8/3/15
The missing Albanian athlete, Andi Giusmari, was found safe 366 miles away from the USC Campus. Story at KTLA.
8/2/15
Two hours ago, @LAPDHQ tweeted this alert about a missing Special Olympics Athlete from Albania.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cameron Brown Post Verdict Hearing 2

5/13/15 - Cameron Brown, 
moments before the guilty verdict was read.

July 17, 2015
On June 19, Brown was scheduled to have a Marsden hearing on July 10. I missed that hearing. Checking the LA County Sheriff's inmate locator web page, Brown was scheduled for another hearing today.

When I get inside Dept. 107, I find out that Brown's Marsden hearing didn't happen on July 10. There are several attorneys in the well and a few cases that will be heard before Brown's Marsden hearing, which will happen today. Defense attorney Aron Laub is waiting his turn in the jury box. I go over to say hello.

Other Cases in 107
The first hearing was over very quickly. The defendant was ill and did not come to court. The court ordered a bench warrant.

The second hearing was for three defendant’s: Leyla Ors (a German National out on bond), Joseph Cavallo and Emanuel Hudson (two attorneys, out of custody and not appearing), charged with trying to extort a Saudi sheik’s Son, Thamer Albalwi.

Short Synopsis
Last year, Leyla Ors went to the LAPD and accused Thamer Albalwi of rape and torture. After an initial investigation, Albalwi was arrested. I happened to be in the Airport Courthouse attending the preliminary hearing in the DaLuise case when Albalwi, out on bail, also had a court appearance. His counsel was former DDA Alan Jackson. Charges against Albalwi were eventually dismissed and the court declared him factually innocent.

Ors, Cavallo, Hudson Case

Court and counsel are waiting for defense attorney Harlan Braun, who is representing one of the defendants and will also stand in for second counsel. DDA Deborah Deleport from JSID is the assigned prosecutor listed on the DA's calendar but I'm not sure if she is here today or someone else is standing in.

Mr. Braun arrives at 8:39 am and the hearing starts. Ms. Ors is present with counsel and a court provided interpreter. The case is 0 of 90 today. The court did receive a memo with parameters as to the items involved and what needs to be extracted for this court's consideration. That went through [another judge's] court, and two court research attorneys were assigned.

I believe Mr. Braun raises the issue of confidentiality and the court explains that special masters are a common occurrence. Confidentiality won't be an issue. Some of the items must remain in a specific location, "the Wilshire Building" because of an LAPD agreement with the Secret Service; other items will be brought to court. The research attorney will have to go to the Wilshire location for research and extraction for those items that cannot be moved.

The DDA informs the court that she needs another extraction order for three more items that have not been extracted yet. These are three items obtained from Ms. Ors hotel room: a cell phone; phone card and sim card. The people also need another minute order to extract information from those items and to copy and preserve it to present to research attorneys.  The court thought those items were on the original memo. The people indicate they were, but those items have not been extracted yet. The court will sign the minute order and the prosecution needs a certified copy. Counsel for Ms. Ors doesn't believe they will get to the prelim anytime soon.

The people suggest putting the case over for another two months. The case is put over to October 8, and the case will be 0 of 90 on that date.

There is concern about some items that have not been returned to one of the defendants, and it's been over a year. A camera, a laptop and a few other items. The prosecution states that as soon as they're done, they'll be happy to turn them over. Mr. Braun states he will send over a proposal. Ms. Ors counsel states they are not agreeing to waive any suppression.

And that's it for this case.

 Lauren Sarene Key, died November 8, 2000.
Playing house under a table.

Cameron Brown

After the three defendant hearing, the court and Mr. Laub discuss the Brown case off the record. They are discussing the various ways things could go. If the Marsden is denied by the court, and the defendant decides to go pro per, the court will need Mr. Hum here.  After a bit more discussion, there is a bench conference. I overhear that there is another hearing for Brown on July 24.


Then the courtroom is cleared for the Marsden hearing. Since I can't attend, I head home.

Brown Sentencing
Sources indicate that after the hearing on July 24, Mr. Laub is still the counsel of record. Brown's sentencing and motion for a new trial will happen on September 18, 2015.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Michael Gargiulo Case, Pretrial Hearing 30


Michael Thomas Gargiulo, in custody
July 14, 2015
8:18 AM
I'm on the 9th floor. The floor is somewhat busy. Lots of seats are taken. A mix of general public and attorneys. I don’t see any jurors at this end of the hallway.

Judge Ohta’s name is still on the door. But I know he’s not on the bench today.

I see private investigator Chris Nicey at the center of the hall. Hes talking with an attorney and a group of people that look like family.

Lots of counsel greeting each other and discussing cases. A slender blond woman wearing a badge I don’t recognize approaches another attorney with a big smile and a hug. “Hello John!" she says. "Nice to see you.”

DDA Akemon’s young intern is here but I haven’t seen anyone from the prosecution or the defense teams. A cameraman shows up at this end of the hall, looking almost lost. I ask him what department is he looking for. He replies, 107. I point to the right door.

Another young DA clerk arrives. She looks like she’s barely out of high school. The court clerk for Dept. 108 opens the door. Now Dept. 107 opens and the hallway empties as parties go into Dept. 108 and 107. I’m betting the Gargiulo hearing will not be first on today’s calendar.

DDA Joshua Ritter comes down the hallway at a fast pace, pulling a leather case on wheels. He goes into Dept. 108. Men in suits and women in professional attire come and go from the courtrooms at a fast pace.

A DDA exits Dept. 108 and starts chatting with a detective who was sitting with DDA Akemon’s intern. It’s Detective Small who worked the Ashely Elerin case.  [I resist the urge to introduce myself to Detective Small, even thought I feel I know him ever since I've read his preliminary hearing testimony.] The young woman with the DDA is his daughter, who is interning. The DDA, his daughter and Detective Small catch up on family news.

8:48 AM
The hallway is mostly empty now. We are waiting for defense counsel and DDA Akemon to arrive.

8:56 AM
Looking down at the other end of the hall, I see DDA Akemon chatting with two other people. He must have just arrived.

9:04 AM
DDA Akemon rushes down to this end of the hallway. He greets Detective Small, then Investigator Nicely. He then goes into Dept. 108 to check in with the court clerk.

Now I'm inside Dept. 108. I take my favorite place, in the second bench row. DDA Joshua Ritter is in trial. Judge Ohta's name plate is removed and there is no new name plate to find out who is sitting in for Judge Ohta until September.

There are a group of four DDA interns chatting away in the row behind me.

DDA's Ritter and Akemon are chatting away at the clerk's desk. There is a new court reporter at the reporter's desk and, there's a new bailiff.

9:08 AM
DDA Garrett Dameron arrives. He greets Detective Small and the other [Detective?] with him. They all chat.  DDA Dameron then goes over to chat with DDA's Akemon and Ritter.  Another defense counsel arrives.

9:12 AM
DDA's Akemon and Dameron leave Dept. 108. DDA's Akemon and Dameron could be having a discussion with investigator Chris Nicely in the hallway.

9:17 AM
We are still waiting. There is the case that is in trial and another case that has a pretrial hearing. The counsel for the case in trial are set up at the counsel tables. I see the replacement judge come out.

Surprisingly, I recognize him. It's his Honor Douglas Sortino, whose regular court is Department 124. Judge Sortino, back when he was a DDA, was assigned the Spector case from 2002-2005 and conducted the Phil Spector grand jury. In 2008, during the second Phil Spector trial, Judge Sortino was called by the defense as a court witness to testify on a discovery issue outside the presence of the jury.

In September 2012, Judge Sortino was one the four justices on the California Courts of Appeal, Division II, when Nels and Loretta Rasmussen, parents of murder victim Sherri Rae Rasmussen, were appealing a lower courts decision about the right to sue the LAPD.

In DDA Ritter's case, the two defendant's are brought out. The defendant's are in street clothes. One defendant has two interpreters. Two interpreters are assigned to give each other breaks. In Ritter's case, the court and counsel are going over modifications to jury instructions.

9:34 AM 
There is a commotion at the inner courtroom doors. It's Gargiulo's defense attorney, Charles Lindner. The doors open, and then Lindner quickly exits back into the ante chamber.

In the case in trial, DDA Ritter is arguing to admit 1101(b) evidence for a specific circumstance. Judge Sortino, brings in his experience with 1101(b) by referring to the Phil Spector case.  It's interesting to me that DDA Ritter, when he was still a clerk assigned to the Major Crimes Division, also worked the Spector case. Judge Sortino asks, "Do you disagree with me on [my?] analysis?" DDA Ritter explains that his motion is "identity" and he has no disagreements with Judge Sortino on his analysis.

Judge Sortino continues explaining about uncharged offenses and more analysis of the crimes and how that relates to his ruling.

9:35 AM
LA County Sheriff's Detective Mark Lillienfeld peeks his head into Dept. 108. Detective Lillienfeld and DDA Dameron leave the courtroom.  It's common in LA County courtrooms where it's a hurry up and wait situation, for your case to be called.

9:45 AM
People's investigative reporter Christine Pelisek arrives. She sits in the back row and chats with Detective Lillienfeld. The case in trial is waiting on a juror or two to arrive.

All of the counsel in the Gargiulo case enter the well. Lindner brings Judge Sortino up to speed on the status of the case. Lindner tells the court that his last filing was on June 15, a 1050 motion. Today, the case is 29 of 60. Judge Sortino reads the defense 1050 motion. Gargiulo is brought out and they go on the record. Counsel states their appearances for the record.

Judge Sortino asks, "Were are we at getting this ready for trial?" The court is informed that defense attorney Dale Rubin asked to be relieved from the case. He is currently appointed as second chair for penalty phase. Lindner tells the court that Mr. Rubin is in the same position as himself. 29,000 pages of discovery. The people have provided [through documentation?], many unproved violent crimes [for] in the penalty phase. Lindner continues, "Both guilt and penalty investigators need to go to Chicago. .... The people intend to introduce the [Glenview] Illinois, Tricia Pacaccio murder.... The people's theory is murder ... in that case, multiple stab wounds ... so ... [unique... consistent?] signature in that case. "

Lindner continues to explain the two victims in our case had multiple stabbings. "In Glenview, Illinois, ... detectives ... [are] no match for us ... [the] investigation [was] sloppy." On top of that, there is DNA regarding victims Murphy and Bruno, and how that relates to the Pacaccio murder. The defense doesn't have a [DNA] lab appointed yet but they do have an expert.

Next, Lindner explains the motion that he will file to separate out the Ashley Ellerin murder; that there's no scientific evidence, [or circumstantial] evidence to link the murder [back to Gargiulo]. The people are relying on modus operandi.  Lindner tells the court he's filed his 995 motion and the people are in the process of filing their 995 response.  The case also as a Perkin's issue.

[The court?] The case would have fourth and fifth amendment issues, based on the Perkin's Operation.

There are also fifth amendment issues.  Lindner makes a comment relating going to trial in 60 days as being at the Indianapolis Speedway [without the proper tires or equipment].

I believe it's the court who comments that Lindner's 1050 is the most detailed 1050 motion ever received. Judge Sortino states, "I think he's established good cause."  DDA Akemon states that the people, "Share the courts concern. ... We have a duty to do [that?] .... We are ready [for trial] ... We respect they have a lot of work to do."

DDA Akemon has a concern that the court hear from Mr. Rubin before ruling. Akemon would be much more comfortable if Mr. Rubin were here.  It's explained to the court that Mr. Rubin's position is secondary.  The court asks, "If you would like to set this for another week ... to get Mr. Rubin in here...." Judge Sortino goes onto explain to the parties that after next week, there will be a different judge in Dept. 108. [From conversations in open court, it's my understanding that Judge Sortino is going on vacation.]

Lindner tells the court that they "could be ready" around Thanksgiving, however, this is a high publicity case. Lindner mentions Ashton Kutcher would be testifying on the Ellerin death, and that will draw a large crowd.

After a bit more back and forth, the court decides, "Let's set a date next week. ... Get Mr. Rubin in here, and see to put the case over to a realistic date."

So return on July 23. No time waver at this point.

Judge Sortino then speaks to Gargiulo directly about the no time waiver and [Gargiulo's?]  own personal interest stand point. The court tells Gargiulo not to answer now, but to think about what
he's said.

Lindner tells the court that Gargiulo has been complaining about "pressure in his head" and "splitting headaches." His client was "shot [quickly] through the infirmary." The court tells Lindner to submit a medical order and the court will require that the medical treatment [reports?] be reviewed by the court.

DDA Akemon informs the court that the next date is 38 of 60.  The court rules that the last day is August 14 and will remain so.

And that was it for this hearing.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Michael Gargiulo Case, Pretrial Hearing 29

 Michael Gargiulo, in custody, 2008

June 15, 2015
8:15 AM
I'm in the hallway of the 9th floor. DDA Dan Akemon is here with a new law clerk. He tells me DDA Garrett Dameron is on vacation. The three of us chat for a short bit until DDA Akemon sees another DDA that he needs to talk to, and he's off.

9:00 AM
Inside Dept. 108.

Several attorneys are in the well for the case with three defendants that I wrote about in prior posts. This is the case where one of the defendants was brought out into the courtroom to speak with two women. It's a good bet this happened under court order by Judge Ohta.  I've never seen that happen before. Counsel are talking off the record, what to do with the case. Judge Ohta will be off the bench for two months. Another judge will step in to handle Judge Ohta's calendar.

Judge Ohta's schedule is discussed. His Honor comes back [from the appellate court] and starts the Johnson and Allen case September 8. All the attorneys in the current case are looking over their calendars and trying to juggle their schedules with the court to go to trial. DDA Joshua Ritter tells the court they will need three weeks for trial. There is discussion of possibly sending the case back to Dept. 100, Master Calendar Court, and then they get the luck of the draw as to which department the case lands in.

DDA Ritter tells the court they would like to schedule the case on the 22nd [July?] and take their chances on whatever Judge is put in Dept. 108.  Judge Ohta also tells counsel that Dept. 100 won't take a case for distribution to a courtroom unless it's 8 of 10. That's because Dept. 100 ensures 1382 issues do not get dismissed. Then Judge Ohta decides to have everyone back in chambers to discuss scheduling privately.

I step back outside into the hallway to work on my Lazarus oral arguments story. I pass DDA Akemon and Detective Mark Lillienfeld, chatting away in the ante chamber.

A bit later, DDA Akemon, Detective Lillienfeld and I are back inside Dept. 108. DDA Akemon and I chat about books we've recently read. We are waiting for defense counsel to arrive.

10:15 AM
Defense attorney Charles Lindner arrives with his son Abe, Lindner's paralegal. There are greetings all around.

Judge Ohta comes out from the back room area. Lindner thanks the court reporter for the transcript. Abe passes out documents to the prosecution. This could be Lindner's response to Gargiulo's 1382 request.

The friendly bailiff from Dept. 107 enters Dept. 108 from the custody area and says hello to the parties in the well. Greetings are exchanged and the deputy asks which case they are waiting on. This is the same deputy who was assigned to Judge Fidler's court during the first Phil Spector trial.

Lindner and Detective Lillienfeld have a discussion about a case, but I'm not positive it's this case.

DDA Akemon and Detective Lillienfeld quickly reads through the brief Lindner handed them.  After that, Lindner and DDA Akemon have a brief chat about California's death row.

Judge Ohta takes the bench and tells the bailiff to bring Gargiulo out. As usual, Gargiulo is in leg chains and his wrists are chained to his waist. Gargiulo appears to be smiling when he comes out. I He's carrying a file. He looks down at his file and doesn't speak to his counsel. Someone asks if a copy of Lindner's brief was given to Gargiulo.

Judge Ohta calls the case and all parties state their appearances for the record.  Judge Ohta gives a summary of what happened on Friday. Mr. Gargiulo, on Friday, gave notice to widrawal the general time waiver. The court asks if it's Gargiulo's intent to withdrawal his time waiver at the point.  Gargiulo replies, "That's correct, your honor."

Judge Ohta states for the record that the defendant has given notive to widtawal the general time waiver. That begins the 0/60.  Judge Ohta states the last day under 1382 is August 14.  Mr. Lindner filed a response to a speedy trial. Judge Ohta states, "The court read it. The motion to continue is premature. ... What I've read in [his?] response there, will be a motion to continue because of the amount of work that needs to be done. ...[The court} ... will not continue now. ... [The court] anticipates a motion to continue."

jDDA Akemon informs the court that he has a capital case in Dept. 109 [], that is tentatively scheduled to start February 2016. The people will be back in court on June 23 to discuss scheduling in that case. DDA Akemon asks the court if they can come back on June 29 or June 30.

Mr. Lindner has no problem with that return date.

The court asks the defendant, “Do you have a preference Mr. Gargiulo?” Gargiulo replies, “Oh, no. Not at all.”

The court tells the parties. “I have one case each of those days. Lets come back on the 30th.”

That puts the calendar at 15 of 60 on that date. The court states Mr. Gargiulo is ordered back for additional pretrial.

Mr. Lindner asks the court if he may be heard. “... I would like to make a record.” The court replies, “Sure.”

Mr. Lindner continues. “As you know the defendant stopped cooperating. Your honor, as you know, ... sent us back. ... He would not speak to us. ... I don’t know if I can prepare without [my] client speaking to me.”

I believe it’s Mr. Lindner who is worries about irreversible error. “Nothing he is doing now ... is not the first time this has happened in LA County.”  The court replies, “It’s not the first time [this has] happened to me either.”

Lindner pleads for Gargiulo to work with him. “I stand willing to work with him at any time.”

Note: On June 30, I had to help Mr. Sprocket with his business and couldn't make the hearing. However, I did make the following hearing on 7/14. Sprocket.

Prosecution 1101(b) Motion

Defense 995 Motion

Defense Response to Gargiulo's Request for Speedy Trial (1382)