Friday, March 7, 2014

Michael Gargiulo Case, Pretrial Hearing 16

Michael Gargiulo, date unknown

UPDATED 8:12 PM: clarity, spelling, additional notes
UPDATED
6:45 AM
There is a pretrial hearing this morning in the Michael Gargiulo case. The prosecution filed their motion to quash Gargiulo's subpoenas to (I believe) law enforcement agencies and the City of Monterey Park. Gargiulo will either have a response to the prosecution's motion, or he might be presenting something in camera with Judge Ohta today, supporting his right to serve these subpoenas.

I will have an update after the hearing today.

Update Below:
7:15 AM
I took the Orange Line today so Mr. Sprocket could use my car to pick up parts at a supplier in the west valley. His work car has been sick for quite a while now and the White Whale Work truck is not that economical on gas. We try to be budget minded whenever we can.

The Tobias Dustin Summers case has a hearing in Dept. 101, Judge Coen’s courtroom today that I will probably miss. I’ve been keeping an eye on that case ever since it was transferred from Van Nuys to downtown. Summers and his partner in crime, Daniel Martinez are charged with the March 27th, 2013 kidnapping and rape of a ten-year-old Northridge girl. DDA Laura Knight Jackson is prosecuting.

KFI’s Eric Leonard was in the Van Nuys courtroom for the preliminary hearing last year.   I’ll never forget hearing Leonard’s audio report where a detective testified that the victim, at one point during her abduction, asked Summers something to the effect of: "Is this your job?” She was asking him if kidnapping kids and raping them was what he did for a living.

I can’t be in two courtrooms at once, and I don’t know that many DDA’s on a personal basis to contact them and ask them out of the blue what happened at their hearing that I missed. There are also several cases I’d love to follow but they are in courthouses too far away from me to be practical to cover.  At the Norwalk Courthouse, there is a case where a victim was discovered in concrete. At the Inglewood Courthouse, there is a cold case where a former Inglewood Councilman was murdered. These are just a few of the many cases I'd like to find out more about.

8:22 AM

I’m on the 9th floor. There are about a dozen people here. One of Gargiulo’s investigators, Chris Nicely is here. The lobby seemed like it had less people than what’s here on the 9th floor. There’s definitely a case in progress at this end of the hall. More people arrive. A family with two young children, one of them looks to be less than a year old.  The baby starts to cry.  Across from me is a bald, distinguished looking gentleman who has a three inch thick white binder on the bench beside him. He’s reading the paper.  I don’t see a badge at his belt so I’m not sure how to place him. I notice his footwear: black cowboy boots.

A man who is most likely an attorney nods hello to the balding man. He takes the bench seat beside him and starts reading a paper.  A young looking, uniformed officer arrives and peers into the low window of Dept. 108.

8:28 AM

Now it’s a little boisterous as several conversations are going on at once. More attorneys arrive. A pretty, female DDA greets the balding man and they exchange hugs.

Two more attorneys clear security. Dept. 105 opens and people start to head into Judge Bowers, Jr.’s courtroom.  The woman  DDA goes into Dept. 105 and the balding man heads into Dept. 107.

The hallway is still a bit boisterous. A handsome black defense attorney is chatting with another defense attorney on the bench across from me.

8:33 AM

Dept. 108 opens, but no one goes inside. Judge Ohta’s bailiff carries some clothing into his courtroom. 

8:36 AM
I see DDA Akemon and Dameron clear security so I start to pack up my laptop and head inside.

8:37 AM
Inside Dept. 108, I take a seat in the second bench row.  Investigator Nicely is a few steps behind me. Nicely takes a seat in the last bench row. Judge Ohta's clerk is at her desk.  This clerk was Judge Kennedy's clerk during the James Fayed case and later the Kelly Soo Park case. I notice the big container of Red Vines on the clerk's counter is mostly empty. Right beside the container, it looks like there is a box of some sort of chocolate treats. I also notice that in three different locations, the phone number to the courtroom is posted high on the walls in large type.

8:45 AM 
Another DDA arrives. He greets DDA Daniel Akemon and temporarily sets his files at the prosecution table. Investigator Nicely goes up to the clerks desk. It looks like he is presenting some papers. Now the other DDA goes over to the clerks desk before leaving Dept. 108.

The LAPD officer who was in the hallway enters and has a brief conversation with Judge Ohta's bailiff. He takes a seat in the courtroom.  It's a good bet the Judge Ohta is in trial, and this is a witness in another case.

DDA Akemon and DDA Garrett Dameron intently check their smart phones.

8:55 AM
The pretty court reporter comes out and sets up her equipment. DDA Akemon leaves the courtroom for a moment. A female DDA enters and starts to set up her laptop and files at the prosecution table. She knows DDA Dameron and they exchange greetings and start to chat.

Judge Ohta comes out of the back area. He's not in his robes. He's wearing a white shirt. He looks over his desk for something and takes a book from several that are stacked side by side on the right side (his left) of his bench.

9:04 AM
Judge Ohta comes back out wearing his robe.  Another female DDA joins the first at the prosecution table.  Several people are in the gallery now, including the family with children that I saw in the hallway.

I hear Judge Ohta comment to his clerk, "It's cold in here." She smiles and nods in reply. I agree. I did not wear heavy enough of a sweater today.

Dameron, Akemon and the female DDA's chat about the difficulties of getting her computer hooked into the ELMO (overhead projection system) and the problems when the files or presentations don't load properly.  She mentions a problem she had at the Burbank courthouse, mentioning a specific court clerk.  Judge Ohta, quietly listening to the conversation interjects , "Blame the courthouse staff." There is now a pleasant exchange as to how Judge Ohta heard about this event.

9:07 AM
Gargiulo is brought out. He looks much the same as he did during the last hearing. I try to make a small sketch outlining the shape of Gargiulo's wide sideburns. Investigator Nicely steps up to the defense table and takes a seat by Gargiulo. They go over several papers.

Judge Ohta goes on the record in the Gargiulo matter. He states Gargiulo's appearance and that he's pro per. Akemon and Dameron state their appearances. Judge Ohta then gives a short synopsis as to what happened at the last hearing, and why there were discussions on how to proceed with the defendant's SDT's. They discussed different angles of approach. The court decided to step back to determine if the prosecution had authority to quash the defense subpoenas. Judge Ohta goes onto state that the prosecution filed supplemental points and authorities to quash the subpoenas and compel compliance.  The court asks Gargiulo if he received the prosecution's motion.

Gargiulo first states that he received it yesterday at the jail. After a moment or two he corrects himself and states he received it on Tuesday.

Judge Ohta, in commenting on the prosecution's motion, states, "I'm not sure this is right on point. ... I can talk about it without discussing a ruling."  Judge Ohta goes onto explain that the local rules for the court's self governance, don't necessarily trump the statutes covering court procedure. He also mentions that there is case law where a local rule is in conflict with (statutes/case law), the local rule is subservient.

Judge Ohta mentions something to the effect that there could be a review to see if the statute could be inconsistent with local rules. The purpose behind the local rule, is there should not be an abuse of the court process. The defendant could unknowingly or unwittingly, abuse the court (process). The local rule gives authority to the court to oversee its own processes.

Penal code 1326 (c), gives the court discretion to determine via an in camera hearing, if the defense is entitled to get the documents. The local rule addresses the issue at the front end, where 1326 addresses it at the other end, after the court agrees, in some part, that the subpoenas are valid.

Judge Ohta adds, "Certainly an argument could be made that the local rule and the statute is inconsistent. ... I'm not sure that there's evidence that Gargiulo is abusing the subpoena power. ... It's there to ensure no abuse ... I think I have the power to enforce if I think it's being (abused). ... "

Gargiulo is asked by the court to outline "who" he served subpoenas on.  Gargiulo responds: "Match.com, (Mark Monitor ?), AOL, LA County Sheriff's Medical Dept. (LASD), El Monte Police Department and Monterey Park Police Department."  Gargiulo also adds that there is an envelope addressed to his other investigator, Christian Filipiak but he has no idea what that envelope contains.  Gargiulo also stated that he withdrew the subpoenas for the LASD and the El Monte PD, and asked for that information informally from the DA.  I believe Gargiulo then tells the court that all these subpoenas are related to the defendant, himself.

Judge Ohta then tells Gargiulo, "I don't need you to get into the relevance. ... I just want to know what you have out there. ... If I went in camera, that bypasses the prosecution's right to quash."  Judge Ohta then addresses DDA Akemon, asking if it's still the prosecution's position that they still have the right to quash, and if they want to litigate that. He wants to know if the prosecution will sidestep this process.  Judge Ohta is asking the prosecution to outline their concerns about these subpoenas. I believe he wants a document prepared that Gargiulo would get the chance to approve or disapprove.

Akemon outlines one of his main concerns. That the defendant might get information that puts someone (witness/victim) at risk. Judge Ohta tells him that the prosecution could lodge a document with him. "If I see there's something of that nature ... be in a position to redact some things. ... We could litigate something like that and then move into in camera," Judge Ohta offers.

Akemon states his number one goal is to get to trial as quickly as he can. It's important to get past this discovery issue. The prosecution still stands by their position that they do have (authority?) to possibly quash subpoenas.  There is the possibility that if the DA's office stands by the local court rule, and if that had to be litigated, they might have to bring in the Los Angeles County legal department.

(In my opinion, I don't think anyone wants to go down that route, of bringing in the LA County Superior Court's legal department!)

Akemon mentions his concerns about victim and witnesses rights being protected. He thinks they can approach a resolution on that. But he also asks, "What happens after today? Next month? ... (When?) we have more people subpoenaed?"  Judge Ohta responds, "If I think Gargiulo is abusing (the subpoena power) I will enforce it. ... I'm not sure I'm there yet (? or if I'll ever get there...) ... but I believe I need to be protective of people's interest .... every one's involvement." (I believe Judge Ohta is referencing Gargiulo's rights, not just the prosecution, victim's and witnesses.)

Akemon states his concerns are that law enforcement agencies are being subpoenaed. That witnesses or victims are being subpoenaed. The people are in agreement that the court can take the subpoenas (in camera?) and see if it's appropriate for the defendant to receive them.

Judge Ohta then tells the prosecution that he wants all the prosecution's concerns outlined in a document and present it to the court and to let Gargiulo know. DDA Akemon stands by his position that Gargiulo has no standing to subpoena law enforcement records.  He gives the example of the El Monte case, (where Gargiulo was thought to be a suspect at one time but is no longer a suspect) and if the defendant subpoenaed the murder book in that case.  Akemon outlines his concerns of victims and witnesses. Anything concerning victims and witnesses that should be redacted.

Judge Ohta believes the subpoenas to AOL and Match.com would not hamper Akemon's first concern about LE files but could relate to his second concern.

I believe it's at this point that Gargiulo states that these subpoenas all have to do with the defendant, himself. (My take on this is, Gargiulo wants to get documentation from these businesses for his time on AOL, for his time on Match.com)

His subpoena to the LASD has to do with LA Sheriff's medical. It's not the agency itself.  The Monterey Park subpoena is something for another individual for impeachment purposes.   Gargiulo believes the 1326 in camera would be the best route.

Judge Ohta tells the defendant that there may be issues that Mr. Akemon has concerns about.  Gargiulo tells the court, "I'm trying to get by this and not take up the court's time."  Judge Ohta tells Akemon to formulate his document and stipulation. Outline the DA's concerns. "And if Mr. Gargiulo agrees, he signs it."

Akemon asks outright if Gargiulo would let the DA's office see the subpoenas right now. He'd then make copies and return them to the court.  Gargiulo appears to pause for a moment before telling the court he would rather the court review the subpoenas in camera first, going through the 1326 process.

The DA's office will document their concerns and the court will take certain actions. Gargiulo will either agree or disagree with that. If Gargiulo disagrees, then the court will rule.  All parties were ordered to return in one week, March 14th.  Judge Ohta takes Gargiulo's waiver for a speedy trial and that's it for today.

Update 8:12 PM
I forgot to mention that when I was leaving the 9th floor, I took an elevator up a few floors then back down.  On the ride back down, I saw an interesting sight. It was a detective with a skate board in his hand getting on the elevator. It looked like there was a yellow evidence tag attached to the skate board.  The detective got off on the 9th floor. It's a good bet that skate board is a piece of evidence in a current case.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey there Sprocket. Would you mind giving me the Norwalk courtroom info re the person found in concrete.
I live in Uptown Whittier so the Norwalk location is very handy for me. Anything you can provide would be helpful. Thanks much, Lynn aka: @NoGingersForMe
(We've tweeted each other a few times)

Sprocket said...

Lynn: Here's the LA Times Homicide Report on the case.

The defendant is Juan Manuel Ramirez.

DA case number VA128108-01 in Dept. J of the Norwalk courthouse. Next court appearance is April 2nd. You can track the defendant's next court appearances via the LASD inmate locator page

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for all the info. :)

Sprocket said...

I'm sorry that was the LA Weekly and not the LA Times.

Here is a report in the Pasadena Star News that names the victim as Guillermo Diaz, 38, of Santa Fe Springs.

Anonymous said...

Can you please give more information on the tobias summers case. I can't find any information about it except for old stuff from last year.