Michael Thomas Gargiulo, in custody
Booking photo, date unknown
UPDATE 9:15 PM spelling, clarity
May 16th, 2014
I'm downtown and the Clara Shortridge-Foltz Criminal Justice Center, also known as "CJC." I arrive on the 9th floor a few minutes after 8:00 AM. There are two hearings I'm hoping to attend today. Gargiulo's and Ka Pasasouk. I attended Pasasouk's preliminary hearing at the San Fernando Courthouse.
The lobby was quite empty, typical of a Friday. In the elevator on my ride up was DDA Robert "Bobby" Grace. DDA Grace who has prosecuted many high profile cases, was one of several DDA’s who ran for district attorney in 2012.
Investigator Chris Nicely sits down on the next bench over about a minute after I sat down. He’s wearing a sweater vest, check shirt and a heavy, gold banded watch. It’s a nice combination. I’ve been thinking about getting a watch to wear in court since I can’t have my phone visible when a judge is on the bench. My only hesitation is, I’ve never gotten used to wearing any type of jewelry or bracelets. I did occasionally wear watches in my bank auditing career but I usually lost them after wearing them for short periods.
There are little more than a handful of people on the entire floor.
It’s my understanding that the Ka Pasasouk hearing in Dept. 106, Judge Fidler’s court will be quick. It’s my guess that DDA Akemon will go there first before heading into Dept. 108.
A few more people have arrived on the 9th floor, but they are mostly at the other end of the hall. At this end it’s just me, Nicely and a suited gentleman sitting directly across the hall from me. The gentleman has his eyes closed, but he’s not asleep.
Three male attorney’s with rolling carts arrive and stop in front of Dept. 105, Judge Bowers, Jr. courtroom. More people have arrived. They are standing in the center of the hallway, in front of Dept. 104.
I notice a new sign on the paneled wall between Dept. 107 & 108. It says “No talking or passing notes while court is in session.” 'No passing notes' is a new one.
A sharply dressed female attorney quickly comes down the hallway pulling a rolling cart and enters Dept. 105 right after it opens.
Down at the center of the hallway, I see DDA Grace arrive on the 9th floor. He probably went up to one of the DA's floors, before coming back to the 9th. He’s greeting several people. I see another female DDA with Grace greeting some members of the public. They are most likely family members on a case they are working together. The woman is wearing a white jacket over a black dress with white dots. It sounds like DDA Beth Silverman, and I hear her introduce herself saying, "I'm Beth," but from where I'm sitting, I can’t tell if it’s her. I need new glasses.
Everyone enters Dept. 104. I believe the hearing is for Chester Turner, a convicted serial killer who has been charged with four additional murders. That case has a hearing today and I know Silverman is one of the prosecutors. Former DDA Truc Do and DDA Grace were on the team that successfully prosecuted Turner for 13 murders.
Nicely gets up and enters Dept. 108. DDA Akemon hasn’t arrived yet. There are more people from the general public on the floor now. Another male attorney with a rolling cart enters Dept. 105.
LAPD Robbery-Homicide Detective Dan Myers who worked the Ka Pasasouk case arrives. Detective Myers also worked on the Stephanie Lazarus case. He was called as a defense witness. He testified that he recovered a gun in Lazarus' locker.
I greet Dan and he asks about the cases that I'm covering. I mention that my number one case is the Cameron Brown case and Gargiulo is right behind that.
Myers and DDA Akemon are on another case together, the Alberd Tersargyan case, (aka Albert Harutyunyan) which originally was one of former DDA Alan Jackson's old cases. Tersargyan is charged with four counts of murder (he basically wiped out an entire family) and the case is being heard in Dept. 109, Judge Kennedy's court.
Alberd Tersargyan (who is Armenian and ex-military), is not the defendant's birth name. He apparently changed it when his visa expired around 2004 or 2005. In court, when Judge Kennedy addresses him, and in court filings he's charged under his real name, Albert Haroutunyan.
It's my understanding that Haroutunyan has developed quite a following/reputation among other detainees down at Men's Central Jail.
DDA Daniel Akemon and DDA Garrett Dameron arrive and greet Detective Myers. Once the prosecution team arrives, I close up my laptop and take a seat in Dept. 108.
Inside Dept. 108, DDA Akemon is chatting with Gargiulo's investigators. I can't hear them, but I'm guessing that they are discussing what possible remedies Judge Ohta will make after his review of the Wilson hearing.
DDA Akemon tells me that the Gargiulo hearing will go first. Apparently, Judge Fidler is on vacation and Judge Ito will come down and preside over the hearing. The Pasasouk case will be heard at 10 AM.
Inside Dept. 108, there are a pair of attorneys inside the well, chatting. Judge Ohta's court reporter is at the clerks desk, on the phone. I look over at the tub of red vines on the clerk's counter. It's about two-thirds full now. At some point, another attorney, I think a DDA enters the well.
Detective Mark Lillienfeld arrives. Now the clerk is at her desk. Judge Ohta comes out from the back area and asks the three attorneys in the well if they are ready. The court reporter comes back out with her equipment. Judge Ohta speaks to counsel off the record about sentencing in two other defendants. This is about changing a sentencing.
Judge Ohta goes on the record in the other case. The DDA is Sean Hassett. I've heard of him before, but I've never met him. DDA Hassett worked on the City of Bell corruption scandal.
The two defendants are not in the courtroom. The original sentencing was in 2003. The US Supreme Court over ruled the sentencing on one of the counts. The case was appealed by the defendants. The court ordered bak to re sentence on count 2. Defense counsel waive appearances of defendants. (They are in prison.) Judge Ohta re sentences defendants on count 2. They were originally sentenced with the high term, 5 years on robbery. The US Supreme Ct ruled it should have been the middle term of 3 years. This re sentencing will be a reduction in sentence for both defendants. The higher court ordered new sentencing but it was never carried out. Minute orders were sent to the Dept. of Corrections. And that's it.
While this re sentencing was going on, DDA's Akemon and Dameron are in the well, sitting in the seats in front of the jury box. Akemon appears to be reviewing some documents. Judge Ohta asks Akemon if the LA Co. Sheriff's counsel is coming. Judge Ohta tells Akemon to ask him to be here. Akemon explains that it's not a counsel. It's a sworn deputy inside the jail. He's on his way from LA County jail. Akemon adds, 'He knows he's on notice." DDA Akemon leaves the courtroom to make the phone call.
Two additional sheriff's deputies arrive in anticipation of Gargiulo's hearing. Now, Detectives Myers and Lillienfeld, and Akemon and Dameron are all chatting by the courtroom entrance doors. The attractive, black female deputy with the three stripes arrives. Mr. Sprocket told me that three stripes usually indicates a rank of Sargent. According to the LA County Sheriff's Wikipedia entry, he's right. Another two deputies arrive. Now there are five deputies in the well. Several weapons are placed in the security box by the door.
Judge Ohta's bailiff chats with investigator Nicely. I believe he is explaining that they are waiting for Deputy Kennedy from the jail. Since there is a delay, the deputies take their weapons back out of the black box and a few of the deputies leave. Judge Ohta is back out of his robes.
Defense attorney Charles Lindner (who is in trial next door) arrives. I don't know if the man with him is one of his sons or an associate. They chat with DDA Akemon and one of the detectives. Lindner was ordered to be here as standby counsel for the hearing. I believe Akemon leaves the courtroom for a moment.
Deputy Kennedy arrives. He's in uniform. Judge Ohta takes the bench. Judge Ohta is informed that DDA Akemon is on his way. DDA Akemon arrives. Off the record, Akemon, Filipiak and Nicely go over their calenders.
A balding, youngish looking man in a tan suit arrives. I've never seen him before. He looks like a detective or an officer out of uniform.
Gargiulo is brought out. Filipiak and Nicely are at the defense table. Gargiulo looks like he has a bit of color in his face. He's carrying a green satchel with files, papers. Judge Ohta goes on the record with the review of the Wilson administrative hearing.
I believe Judge Ohta asks Gargiulo if there's something he needs. I believe he replies, "I'm just ready for argument's sake." Judge Ohta starts off by asking Deputy Kennedy a few questions.
Garbiulo's pro per privileges were revoked. His law library access. Access to get legal supplies, his pro per phone privileges. Those are pretty much most privileges. The defendant's pro per fund account is discussed and Judge Ohta asks why the sheriff's were able to take away the defendants pro per fund account?
Deputy Kennedy states that it was Officer (Hinds?) who conducted the hearing. He's not available today. Deputy Kennedy has to do this in his place. Deputy Kennedy apparently is not sure exactly which specific privileges of Gargiulo's were revoked. Judge Ohta appears to be a bit irritated. He tells Kennedy, "I need clarity." Deputy Kennedy leaves the courtroom to make a phone call. I'm guessing it's to get the correct information from Officer (Hinds?).
At the defense table, Gargiulo is asking the deputies for one hand free to file a motion. Apparently, when they handcuffed him to the chair, they kept his hands locked to the waist chain. It's not in my notes, but I have a memory of the Sargent telling Gargiulo that he is a security risk. The deputies then free one of his hands so he can work with his papers and documents. Three deputies stand and watch his every move.
A woman enters, speaks to the bailiff and sits in the front row for a moment. We are waiting for Deputy Kennedy to come back. Gargiulo is going through his papers. The bailiff sharpens a pencil for Gargiulo. The woman who just entered leaves.
Deputy Kennedy returns. He tells Judge Ohta that two things have been restricted for Gargiulo. No law library privileges. He will not be able to use the pro per phone system. He is able to use the regular phone system. Gargiulo is able to purchase legal supplies. Searches of Mr. Gargiulo will be conducted (as in?) general population setting.
Gargiulo objects. He states he would like to call (a witness?). Judge Ohta tells him that this is a review. It is not a hearing. Judge Oha states he does not have authority to change security at the jail. He continues, "I have a right to intervene in as far ... what I have seen ..."
Judge Ohta puts into the record the series of events as he understands them from the Wilson hearing documents. "... on that date on the way back ... you were searched. ... That a metal object was found that resembled a shank or key..." I believe Gargiulo replies but I miss the statement. Judge Ohta continues, "Well, they are now saying your access ... your phone access ... you won't be able to do legal research in the law library. ... Based on what I read and based on their actions ... there are two violations ... two sections of the pro per rules. One, 8.42b ... jail (security?) ... Two, 8.42d, ... to not to infringe on the rights of others ... Because of that ..."
I believe Gargiulo objects. Judge Ohta replies, "So now you say you object?" I have in my notes that Gargiulo objects for argument sake. He then starts to read from a hand written paper.
Gargiulo argues, "If ... any use of the object is pure speculation ... Did the defendant have the object during the use of pro per status ... Did the defendant use the object ... No, he did not. ... Did he use it against another defendant? ... No, he did not. ... Defendant did not use this small object. ... It could have been a sewing needle or to use as a small screwdriver to fix glasses ... Any use of this small, metal object is pure speculation. ... Request reinstatement of all privileges."
Judge Ohta asks Deputy Kennedy, "Do you wish to respond to any of that?" I believe Deputy Kennedy responds, "He was returning from court. ... The sheriff's don't have to wait for (something to happen?)"..."
Judge Ohta responds. "I've been a judge for a long time. ... I've handled several jail murders. ... Cases where inmates (?) ... The sheriff's don't have to wait until a violation happens before they take action. ... I've been put on notice that you previously made an attempt to escape [The El Monte jail event.] ... So there is a (connection? correlation?). ... The (concern?) .. is the restitution is whether there is evidence ... is substantiated. ... The US Supreme Ct, as it relates to security in jail ... those rights can be restricted upon ... as it relates to security. ... They cannot (punish?) but relate ... take actions to security. ... It appears to me ... that what the sheriff's have done, relates to security. The metal object could be used as a shank or key. ... (Possession? Possibility?) ... of law library is remote. ... I do think that concern is real, in respect to the law library. ... You have more opportunity to engage with other inmates. ... I do think that the ... substantial evidence supports the action. ... The defendant has the ability to purchase legal supplies. ... phone access is the same as other inmates."
The court modifies the pro per status. Gargiulo states, "I do have about 30,000 papers. ... They've written a false claim ... They can come in at any time and search." Gargiulo then complains about the phone access being the same as other inmates. "Any other defendant can her me on the phone, talk to my defense experts, and the district attorney could have access to that."
Judge Ohta goes into great detail to explain to Gargiulo about wire taps and that the district attorney would not have access to his phone conversations.
Gargiulo continues to argue, "Other inmates can hear my conversations." I believe Judge Ohta reminds Gargiulo that he was informed that once he went pro per, that there would be difficulties that he might face, by being in custody and pro per. That's the situation of being in jail.
Judge Ohta continues, "Case law does say ... at this juncture, because I agree with the modification (of pro per status by the sheriff's) I need a response from you whether you intend to continue to represent yourself."
Gariulo tells the court that he would like to file an appeal. He tells the court that Deputy (Hinds?) called the defendant a motherfucker and told him to shut up. Gargiulo tells the court that he's demanding that the sheriff's turn over all audio and video tapes. He makes more claims against the sheriff's. Gargiulo is requesting a copy of this transcript so he can prepare a defense. He talks about the showers, and that something happened there, and the fact the sheriff's have not followed proper procedure in regards to following the rules when it comes to searching his cell. He mentions something about his legal supplies, or that he hasn't been able to get more legal supplies.
Judge Ohta is reading over a document. He then reads into the record the documents that he reviewed of the Wilson hearing and describes them. He describes several exhibits. The declaration of Officer Kennedy. Five pages of historical analysis of what happened. One page declaration of hearing officer. Exhibit A, is the pro per rules. Exhibit B is the notice of Wilson administrative hearing. Exhibit C is the incident report concerning allegation the defendant had in his mouth a metal object, a key or shank. Page has a photocopy of a metal object. It appears to be a shank or metal key. Also attached is the inmate discipline report. Exhibit D is documented statement of hearing officer (at?) Wilson hearing. Exhibit E is notation or report of review (board?) by Sargent (Ponce?).
Detective Myers leaves the gallery of the courtroom.
Judge Ohta continues describing the documents Exhibit E is sheriff's department correspondence from Deputy Kennedy to Mr. Gargiulo concerning modification to pro per privileges.
The court states, "The defendant contention (is) at hearing was he didn't have enough time to prepare. ... Notice was given the day before the hearing ... within 48 hours. ... Hearing on April 21st. ... I don't see any problem. ... Despite complaint, I do believe the sheriff's department acted within rules and I believe the actions are proper."
The next pretrial hearing is set for June 27th, and Gargiulo agrees. Gargiulo makes a formal request for video and audio tapes for everything that was previously demanded. Gargiulo tells the court, "I would think that the DA's would have all that information since it does involve the case." Judge Ohta tells the defendant, "The DA's office is not involved with that. ... They are not involved. ... They did file something because ... filed under 190.3 under a mitigation factor. ... They did not hand over pictures (or?) reports."
Gargiulo addresses the court, "You keep saying 'shank.' The defense objects." Judge Ohta responds, "That's what it says in the report. ... I will give you a transcript (of today's proceedings) so you can prepare your written ...."
The general time waiver is discussed again. DDA Akemon puts on the record that Charles Lindner has been in the audience and present.
Gargiulo tells the court that it will take some time to get his supplies. "Every time I put in a pro per kit I'm not getting my double supplies ... It will take weeks to get my supplies." Deputy Kennedy tells the court he doesn't know what the defendant is talking about. Judge Ohta tells Gargiulo, "I'll see what I can do about that."
That's it for Gargiulo.
I rush across the hall to Dept. 106. The DDA's and the sheriff's chat privately in Department 106's ante chamber. There is country music playing at the deputy's desk. Judge Fidler's clerk asks me what I'm here for. I tell her Ka Pasasouk. She tells me they already had the hearing. I'm totally embarrassed. I answer, "I can't believe the DA didn't tell me!" Evidently they had the hearing and DDA Dameron must have stood in for DDA Akemon.
I rush back out the hallway to try to catch up with DDA Akemon. He tells me the next Pasasouk hearing is August 22.