Michael Thomas Gargiulo, date unknown
Michael Thomas Gargiulo Case QUICK LINKS
Gargiulo Pretrial Hearing 11....
Friday, September 27th, 2013
I’m finally on the 9th floor of the Shortridge-Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles. I'm down at the very end of the left wing, waiting for Dept. 108, Judge Ohta's courtroom to open.
The center of the hallway has several people waiting around for those courtrooms to open. Looking down the hallway, I see DDA Garrett Dameron clear security and head towards the other end. If I recall correctly, he’s starting a trial in Dept. 101, Judge Ronald S. Coen's courtroom.
Although I've never been in Judge Coen's courtroom it's my understanding he is considered a brilliant legal mind. I've heard that Judge Coen has an infamous index file on his desk that contain his hand written notes on legal rulings that he uses when making decisions. Judge Coen is a former DDA who unsuccessfully prosecuted John Holmes (Wonderland Murders).
If I'm remembering correctly from what Garrett told me a few months ago, the case is a death penalty case and the defendant is alleged to be the shooter in four murders. I believe the defendant had accomplices, who either pled out or have already gone to trial. If Gargiulo doesn't go too long, I'll try to drop in on Dameron's case later.
Two defense attorneys are on a nearby bench chatting about the hearings they have this morning.
DDA Akemon clears security and heads this way. Not long after, Dept. 108 opens and we head inside. The attorneys who were just outside on the bench next to me also head into Judge Ohta's courtroom.
It's an interesting wait watching the defense attorneys interact with each other. There's some jovial chatter about the case they've all been assigned, (I believe it's a gang related, food truck extortion charge. Sprocket.) and they inform each other which of the defendants they represent. A third attorney joins the group and there's more laughter, guffaws as one attorney indicates "we don't have to do anything" since this last counsel arrived.
A few Latino looking people enter and sit in the gallery. Eventually, there are about half a dozen people who show up for (I believe) the other hearing.
Gargiulo's investigator, Christian Filipiak arrives. DDA Akemon gets up from his seat to greet him and chat privately in the well. A fourth, slender attorney with salt and pepper hair arrives and checks in with Judge Ohta's clerk. Akemon passes two large massive stacks of paper to Filipiak and leaves a copy on the defense table for Gargiulo.
I don't know how I missed it when I entered, but on the short benches to my right, is a video camera and a tripod. The cameraman is nowhere to be seen. I didn't see who brought them in and I can't see a station logo on the equipment. I don't believe the camera is here for Gargiulo, but could be for another case.
The bailiff notifies one of the attorneys that his client is in the holding area. "Great," he replies. Soon after, he goes back to the holding area to confer with his client. The last attorney who arrived starts speaking in Spanish to a few people in the gallery.
The cameraman shows up but just as he enters, his phone goes off and he quickly leaves.
Filipiak informs the bailiff that the three large stacks of printouts on the defense table are for Gargiulo.
A man with an officer's badge hanging from his neck enters with a small stack of papers. He sits in the gallery for a moment, going over the pages.
Judge Ohta's court reporter starts to set up her equipment. Judge Ohta's clerk tells Akemon and Filipiak that they are just waiting on the bailiff, who left a few minutes ago. The officer hands the papers he brought with him to the clerk.
Another sheriff arrives with a backpack. I believe I hear knocking at the jail holding door, coming from the inside. The bailiff returns and unlocks the holding area door so the attorney can come back into the well.
The officer who came with the papers now goes over to one of the attorneys in the well and hands him the papers. Another attorney stands up and asks, "Anyone here for Edwin Quintanilla?" A young Latino woman steps forward and they go to the back of the courtroom to chat.
The clerk addresses a balding defense attorney in the gallery, telling him that everyone is here and the DDA is on his way. The regular bailiff steps out of the courtroom again.
DDA Akemon and Filipiak continue to chat. It appears they are talking about another case, not Gargiulo. Several people in the gallery whisper privately. The bailiff returns.
Gargiulo is brought out. His short hair appears just slightly longer. He still has the mustache. I notice there are two big X's on the back of his orange jumpsuit. He's also wearing the white long-john type shirt underneath.
Judge Ohta takes the bench. The bailiff is having difficulty with handcuffing Gargiulo to his chair. The cameraman moves his equipment off the gallery bench to the back of the courtroom. Gargiulo and Filipiak go over the papers that Akemon placed on the table.
Judge Ohta goes over the documents before him. There is a single page document filed by the people. It's a listing of discovery materials provided to Gargiulo and signed by Mr. Filipiak today.
Judge Ohta: Mr. Gargiulo, do you have that document?
I don't have who it is who explained to Judge Ohta, that those documents were provided to Gargiulo, all except the CD ROM, (a copy given to Filipiak) which he isn't allowed to have.
DDA Akemon: The people filed on September 23rd, a Motion in Limine to admit the "Perkins Operation."
[Note: Perkin's Operation. After Gargiulo had been arrested and arraigned on the Santa Monica case (the attack on Michelle Murphy), Gargiulo was taken to an El Monte police station (Maria Bruno was murdered in El Monte) and placed in custody there. In the holding area with Gargiulo were several undercover detectives. It's my understanding that Gargiulo was tape recorded during that time. The US Supreme Court has ruled that placing an undercover officer in with Gargiulo in this type of situation is completely within the law. Sprocket.]
Judge Ohta: (Does the) defendant have copies?
Unknown: Yes, your honor.
Judge Ohta states this motion is "...not yet ripe to be handled until trial." He then asks the defendant, "Mr. Gargiulo, ... come back on...?" I believe the month of November is offered. He then addresses DDA Akemon. "With respect to discovery, are we almost there?"
DDA Akemon: I think so.
Akemon explains that he is waiting for a report from an expert. He won't have the report until November at the earliest, possibly December. Then the people will have turned over all discovery to the defendant. That's their last documentation to turn over then they will push for trial.
If I'm remembering correctly, I believe Judge Ohta asks if this is an expert where Gargiulo may have his own expert to counter the people's expert. I believe Akemon answers "Yes."
Judge Ohta asks if Thursday, November 22nd is okay. Gargiulo asks for Friday, November 22nd. DDA Akemon agrees. I think the hearing is over and I'm about to get up but Gargiulo speaks up and states he has some issues.
Gargiulo quickly reads off something from what he calls the "rules of the court" regarding legal material and legal responsibility, regarding his materials in his cell only allowed to be searched while he has legal counsel present. I believe that's the gist of what he said.
Gargiulo then goes on to inform the court that on June 24th, "...the sheriff's deliberately raided my cell and took my notes ... my whole defense strategy." He tells Judge Ohta that they came in with video cameras and video taped. Gargiulo is asking for the video footage to prove that the sheriff's searched his cell. Gargiulo is also asking for his notes back on his defense strategy.
Judge Ohta tells Gargiulo. "If that happened to you, I'm sorry it happened. I can't take it as fact that happened."
Gargiulo tells the court that the video would be discovery. Judge Ohta responds, "I'm not going to legally determine whether that's discoverable or not discoverable." I believe Judge Ohta asks Filipiak if he knows about this.
DDA Akemon informs the court that whatever search happened, internal or not, it did not happen at the request of the DA's office. Akemon states this would be a 1054 issue. The DA's office doesn't want to get in between Gargiulo and the sheriff's. He would not be asking the sheriff's for this video tape. I believe Akemon responds, "If he needs something, he needs to go through a different process."
Judge Ohta tells Gargiulo, "I'm not in a position to determine if the sheriff's office searched (the? your?) cell. ... I don't know if it was at the bequest of the DA's office or not."
Judge Ohta then reviews the issue again with Gargiulo, asking more questions. Judge Ohta continues, "My job isn't to assume anything happened, because I can't do that. ... He's made an informal discovery request... " (of the DA). Gargiulo states he figured he would do that first, before doing a subpoena.
Gargiulo then goes on to say what one of the jail deputies said to him. I try to write it down, but it's a bit rambling. "The sargent told me, 'We don't need to listen to you. We can make up our own rules.' And they waited for me to leave. ... They took my paperwork. ... They said they videotaped my cell."
Judge Ohta asks, "Why do you need the videotape?" Gargiulo answers, "That would show what they took."
Gargiulo appears to think that the sheriff's are not allowed to do this. Judge Ohta states, "I'm not sure. ... I think they have the right." Judge Ohta then continues on with what might be the issue here. "Your theory, the prosecution somehow has your notes and knows your defense strategy?" I believe Gargiulo responds affirmatively. Judge Ohta states, "I'm not sure how unusual that is .... to go into an inmate's cell when the inmate is not there. ... I see your concern, but I don't know it's true. ... But I can't simply take that as true. I have to remain impartial. ... You're not under oath. You're just talking to me. ... If your position is to challenge the sheriff about their policy ... I don't think the sheriff's will accede and that this happened ... " (as you say).
I believe Judge Ohta tells Gargiulo that the DA's office is not obligated under 1054 to look into it for him. Akemon tells the court that, as an officer of the court, "I have no idea what they did. ... I will not comply if Gargiulo asks for an informal discovery request." I believe he also adds that if he had anything, he would be obligated to turn it over to the court.
Gargiulo states he wants this on the record to get the videotape. Judge Ohta asks again, "Why do you need the videotape? Why can't you just get the notes?" I don't know if I have to his answer exact, but I believe he responded with, Because they tried to make it appear as if a weapon was made out of it.
(I have a bit of a 'Huh?' go through my brain when I hear that. Sprocket.)
Gargiulo continues that he made a complaint against the sheriff's. He describes the conversation with the sheriff's staff. "It just so happens all my paperwork was tossed over my bed and all my notes off my desk are missing. ... That's why I wanted to get video to see exactly what they did." I believe he tells Judge Ohta that the sheriff's also took a motion he had written. All this was done right before he had a court appearance. (Gargiulo did have a court appearance on June 28th, four days later. Sprocket.)
Judge Ohta then goes over what he thinks he heard. "You're saying the sheriff's tossed your cell and the only thing missing was your defense strategy and one motion? ... And then you said they said you were trying to make a weapon?"
Gargiulo explains that he was able to rewrite the motion before he went to court. He further explains to the court about the "weapon" issue but I'm totally lost trying to follow what he's saying. The "weapon" issue might be referring to some other event, that happened prior to this event.
Gargiulo tells the court, "It's very serious to me. ... It may seem like a joke to other individuals." Judge Ohta responds in a serious tone to Gargiulo. "I don't think that anyone takes it as a joke." Gargiulo goes on again about his right to be present when the sheriff's enter his cell. Judge Ohta states for the record, "Nothing has changed subsequent to my original inquiry."
Gargiulo then tells the court that he has an issue with his investigator. This investigator is a woman. This is the first time that I was aware that Gargiulo has a second investigator, besides Filipiak. Gargiulo tells the court he has witnesses that are in Costa Rica that need to be interviewed. He needs his investigator to also go interview witnesses in Chicago. "She's not able to do that. ... She just got back from Russia. ... She has finals."
Judge Ohta questions the fact that his investigator went to Russia for him to do interviews. Gargiulo explains that she was on vacation in Russia. She didn't got to Russia for him. Judge Ohta tells him that this issue has to be handled in Dept. 123. With this new issue, Judge Ohta asks if he still wishes to return on November 22nd. Gargiulo does.
And that's it for this hearing. I head down to the other end of the hallway to see if I can get a seat in Dameron's case. When I open the door to the courtroom, I see that the gallery is packed with extra seating for potential jurors. There's even someone on a chair right in front of the inner set of doors. Since I wasn't able to get a seat, I make my way back home.