Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sherri Rae Rasmussen 2/7/1957 - 2/24/1986

Sherri at home, December 1985.

This entry was first published on February 24, 2016. Republished last year on her death anniversary and today on her birthday. Sherri would have been 61 today. Sprocket.


Matthew McGough is writing a book about Sherri's life and murder.

Sherri Rasmussen was an exceptional person.

Over the last several years I have interviewed many of Sherri’s family members, friends, and colleagues. Thirty years after Sherri’s tragic death, her absence continues to reverberate in their lives.

Sherri’s life was remarkable for how much she accomplished in her twenty-nine years, and for how humble she was. Sherri was a high achiever from the time she was a little girl. Sherri graduated from high school at age sixteen, college at twenty, and became a nurse the same year. At twenty-three, she earned her master’s degree in nursing from UCLA.

Despite being younger than many of her nursing colleagues, first at UCLA Medical Center and later at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, Sherri’s personal nature commanded trust and respect. Those who worked with Sherri remember her as an extremely competent nurse, always calm under pressure, and a natural leader. Sherri cared deeply about her patients and about the profession of nursing, to which she dedicated her adult life.

Sherri loved her family and friends and was beloved by them. Many people have told me about the profound impact Sherri had on their lives, how she encouraged them to do their best, and how her example continues to inspire them, even all these years later.

Jackie Robinson once said, “A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives.” By this measure, it makes perfect sense that Sherri is remembered so fondly by so many.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Michael Thomas Gargiulo Case, Pretrial Hearing 40

Previous post on this case can be found HERE.

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, booking photo, 2008.

UPDATE: edited for clarity
February 2, 2018
I arrive in downtown LA around 8am. That's plenty of time to get on the 9th floor before 8:30am, when Dept. 106, Judge Fidler's court opens.

For those who don't know, the civic center area of downtown Los Angeles has several hills, some steep and some not so steep. My walk from the church parking to the court on Temple Street is an easy block and a half and downhill. The Clara Shortridge-Foltz criminal court building takes up the entire block on Temple between Broadway and N. Spring Street. As I cross Broadway, Temple takes a sharper dip to the front entrance of the court. Unfortunately, as I get closer to the door, I see that the security station at the front entrance is closed, just like it was yesterday.

Clara Shortridge-Foltz, Criminal Justice Center.
Southeast corner of Temple St. and Broadway Ave.
My photo archive.

I have two choices. Continue downhill on Temple to the corner of N. Spring, turn right and take a tall, almost two story set of stairs to the upper balcony and back entrance. Or, I can walk back up the incline to Broadway, turn left and go slightly downhill on Broadway towards the level access walkway at the back of the building. I reverse course, deciding to take the incline verses the stairs.

When I realized the front entrance was closed, a woman stopped me on the sidewalk and asked which way to go to get into the court building. I told her to follow me. She asked me if I was going to jury duty. I told her "No." She immediately turned around to go East on Temple to N. Spring. "Mam!" I called after her, "This way is easier into the building." She then turned back around and rushed passed me up Temple.

As I'm walking west on Temple, CBS 48 Hours producer Greg Fisher is coming towards me and asked where I was going. I explain to him the front entrance is closed and we have to go to the back entrance. Greg is half a foot taller than me, in much better shape and with much longer legs. I'm not moving fast enough for him. My bag is heavy with my laptop and I struggle to keep up.

As we reach the door, the woman whom I just directed is in front of me at the security scanner. But she's standing there, not moving at all, acting like she doesn't know what to do. The security station is much like those found in airports. It consists of a walk through scanner for people, and an x-ray type device where you put your belongings on the table with the moving belt. Your personal items then move through the device so the security personnel can see through your belongings to make sure you're not bringing anything into a court building that's illegal. It's not like security scanners were just invented yesterday. They've been around for a long time.

Full disclosure. I admit that I get impatient with people at the security stations who don't know how to put their belongings on the moving belt. They are often confused about the security officer's instructions to take everything out of their pockets and put them in the round trays before they walk through the scanner. Impatient at the court scanners? Guilty as charged. I do need to work on having more patience. The rest of the morning, Greg doesn't let me forget that I went past the woman in front of me.

When we reach the 9th floor, the CBS 48 Hours camera crew is already there waiting for the security station to open. History lesson. This is the only security station on a courtroom floor. It was built before the start of the O.J. Simpson trial. Greg introduces me to the CBS camera crew. Apparently, Judge Fidler approved filming today's hearing. 48 Hours wants to get video of any family members who make statements to the court under Marsy's Law

A few minutes later defense investigator Chris Nicely arrives. He's wearing a really nice blue suit. Chris is quite tall and very easy on the eyes. While we wait, it's clear the sheriff's deputies are having difficulty turning the scanner machine on. One of the camera guys points out to the deputies that there appears to be a plug that's unplugged under the machine.  The cord gets plugged in and the sheriffs test the scanner. I had put myself in front of the camera equipment so I could get to the ladies restroom quickly. Greg, who likes to razz me, doesn't let me forget that either.

When I exit the restroom, the 9th floor hallway is mostly empty except for a group gathered in the center. It's CBS 48 Hours host Maureen Maher standing with the two cameramen I met at the security station. With her is another 48 Hours producer Doug Longhini. I walk toward the group and wait for a moment to introduce myself.  Maureen beats me to it and introduces herself first. Maureen is petite and just as pretty in person as she is on camera. She's wearing a sleeveless A-line black dress with a matching jacket. The cameramen are miking her up for interviews later.

Retired LAPD Hollywood Homicide Detective Tom Small and his wife Laurie (sp?) are also with the group. Detective Small investigated victim Ashley Ellerin's murder. His wife Laurie is a court reporter in Dept. 109, Judge Kennedy's court. Detective Small is in a complicated brace that is holding his right arm in a fixed position out from his body. With all that Mr. Sprocket has gone through, I'm guessing it's a good bet Detective Small had surgery to repair an injury on his right shoulder. I'm asked if I know Detective Small. I know him from several court appearances in this case and one other. I remember being in the elevator with him well over a year ago when he announced to a companion that he was retiring from the LAPD that day. After a few minutes I step away to sit down on a bench seat near Dept. 106 and jot down some notes.

8:30 AM
A bailiff opens Dept. 106 and Greg gets their approved filming order into the court. Across the hall from Dept. 106, Judge Lomeli's court clerk opens his courtroom, Dept 107. He stands with the door open for a minute, watching the group in the center of the hall. It looks like defense attorney Daniel Nardoni has arrived and joins the center hallway group. Other people headed for other courtrooms stop by to say hello to Maureen and the group.

Inside Dept. 106

When the courtroom opens, the camera crew gets right to work setting up their equipment in the jury box. Wendy, Judge Fidler's court clerk is telling the cameramen which podium to get in the back corner and where to place it in the well.

Like I noted in my post yesterday, Judge Fidler is in the middle of a death penalty trial with two separate juries. I can see the second jury's notebooks on the benches in the first and second rows of the gallery. There is a sign on the third bench row, not to sit there. This is to have some space between these jurors and members of the public. Since there are no jurors here today, I ask Wendy if it's okay to sit in the third row. She says that's fine today. A trick I learned from the late Dominick Dunne, I always try to sit directly in line with the witness box, or in this case, as close to the podium where the victims family members will stand. The camera crew quickly gets to work setting up wireless microphones at the bench, counsel tables and the podium.

Maureen enters the courtroom with Detective Small. Small takes a seat near the bailiff sitting on a chair in the well and Maureen sits with the other CBS crew in the far last row of the gallery.  Small's wife joins him a bit later. Defense attorney Nardoni arrives in the courtroom.

8:35 AM
There are several conversations going on at once all around the gallery. Detective Small and seated the bailiff chat. Another bailiff comes out of the custody area and calls out for Gargiulo's counsel. Mr. Nardoni asks, "Is he back [there]?" The deputy answers, "Yes." Nardoni goes back to see his client in the custody area.

8:37 AM
Retired Detective Mark Lillienfeld arrives. I believe Detective Lillienfeld investigated the murder of Maria Bruno and attempted murder of Michelle Murphy. I give him a smile and he is kind enough to sit beside me and say hello. We chat about what retirement is like from a long career as a detective. The bailiff who is chatting with Detective Small gets up from his seat to come over and shake Detective Lillienfeld's hand.

DDA Garrett Dameron enters Dept. 106 and checks in with the court clerk. There is a tall slender man with him I don't recognize. Nardoni, out of the custody area, leaves the courtroom with his investigator Nicely to chat. Det. Lillienfeld leaves me and joins the group chatting with Det. Small. Greg and Maureen are chatting in the far corner of the last gallery row.

Tracy, the DA's victim support staff who works with the Major Crimes Division arrives and checks in with the bailiff. She wants to be sure which path the deputy wants the victim's family to take when they approach the podium. She then exits the courtroom.

8:48 AM
DDA Daniel Akemon arrives. He's chatting with Mr. Nardoni just outside the courtroom in the ante chamber. On Judge Fidler's bench, there are several reference books in a desktop book-holder to the right and a huge reference book directly in the center of his bench. On the wall behind the bench to the left, is a large TV screen. To the right of the bench is the clerks desk and counter area. Directly in front of the clerks walled-off counter area, there are several file boxes stacked up, three or four high. I'm guessing these files relate to the death penalty case.

A pretty petite woman from the DA's office I've seen in other cases arrives. I think she's with the DA's JSID unit (Justice System Integrity Division). There are handshakes all around with the group over by Detective Small.  I look behind me to the chairs near the door where Chris Nicely usually sits. He's concentrating on his notepad, taking notes.

I'm wondering what the hold-up is. Maybe we are waiting for lead defense attorney Dale Rubin.  Detective Lillienfeld joins Greg and Maureen in the back left corner of the gallery. There are conversations still going on in several groups around me. Nardoni and Nicely go back into the custody area to speak with Gargiulo.

New York Magazine Editor and author Carolyn Murnick arrives with a male friend. She immediately recognized me but again, I didn't recognize her at first. I'm starting to wonder if I'm developing face blindness, or it's my age. Carolyn takes a seat to my left to chat and say hello. Carolyn then reaches into her bag and signs for me a copy of her book, The Hot One, about her childhood friend and murder victim Ashley Ellerin. I'm touched. Due to my husband's health, I wasn't able to make it to her book signings in Los Angeles, so this is a nice surprise.

9:00 AM
The family of victim Tricia Pacaccio arrive along with the DA's victim support staff.  DDA Akemon is conferring with Mrs. Pacaccio and her sons. Detective Small introduces himself to the Pacaccio family. Carolyn and I scoot down to make room for Mrs. Pacaccio and her sons, Douglas and Thomas at the far left end of our row.

The court clerk asks if counsel are ready. Dale Rubin is still not here.

9:06 AM
People Magazine reporter Christine Pelisek arrives. She greets Detective Lillienfeld and takes a seat in the back row.

9:08 AM
The court clerk calls for counsel over at her counter. Wendy also asks for one of the cameramen. 48 Hours producer Doug comes over to the other cameraman in the jury box to chat. Lots of conversations going on at once. The camera was taken down. There will be no video taping today, just audio of the impact statements. (After the hearing I learn that the Pacaccio family did not wish to be filmed so the court reversed the filming order but let 48 Hours record the audio.)

The court clerk tells the bailiff. "I think we're ready now."

9:14 AM
Gargiulo is brought out. Since defense counsel Dale Rubin is not here, Gargiulo doesn't sit at the end of the table where everyone can see his face. He sits directly beside Nardoni so his back is to the gallery. When he entered, he looks exactly the same as the January hearing. He's wearing the orange jumpsuit with the white long-johns type shirt underneath. His head is completely bald except for his eyebrows and mustache. It's clear Gargiulo looks about 10 years older than his booking photo at the top of this post. His face is much leaner, thinner.

9:15 AM
Judge Fidler takes the bench. DDA Akemon tells the court they have the Picaccio family from Illinois. He introduces Tricia Pacaccio's mother, Diane (sp?). Tricia was murdered in Illinois in 1993. Her case is pending in that state. Mrs. Picaccio reads a prepared statement. One of her sons stands beside her at the podium. She speaks so fast, I get very few complete sentences of her statement. As she starts to talk about her daughter, her voice breaks and I feel her pain. The anguish in her voice at the loss of her daughter affects me. My friend Matthew McGough is always telling me I need to maintain a distant professionalism, but I still struggle with that. I've silently wiped tears many times in the gallery, listening to a family member sob during testimony or give an impact statement.

Mrs. Pacaccio thanks the court. "We ask that ... why this had to happen to our wonderful loving Tricia. .. Twenty-four years later ... hard time suffering ... cannot understand ... [We are] fundamentally different people down to our soul since this happened.  ... When someone who is indispensable to your happiness is gone ..." Mrs. Pacaccio weeps as she speaks to the court. Toward the end of her statement she's crying and my eyes start to well up.

I believe it's Douglas, Tricia's other brother who reads a letter from his father. Mr. Pacaccio was unable to travel due to health issues. "I am here to represent my daughter's rights and the right for a speedy trial. The defendant needs to be brought to trial in the murder of Tricia. ... If you give one thought ... [we?] who have been waiting 25 years. ... We are very angry, disgusted and surprised ... the delays and extensions."

Douglas speaks fast and I'm having trouble keeping up. "Please do not delay this case any longer. ... Know that we will have another long case, once it gets to Chicago, Illinois."

Judge Fidler addresses the victim's family. "I do hear you. I've been doing this for 35 years. ... I have to be general. I can't speak to prior delays, because I don't know what happened."

Judge Fidler then speaks to them hypothetically, as to what happens after a California case that receives a death penalty verdict. It is first reviewed by the California Supreme Court. After California, it goes to the Federal system. "If they [California Supreme Court] affirm, then 12-15 years, it goes to the Federal side. ... Then habeas corpus." Judge Fidler says something about the Federal system [here in the west] taking a dim view of the death penalty, so California death penalty cases lose.

Judge Fidler goes onto explain that they can't have any mistakes in a death penalty case. When he tries a case, he tries to make no mistakes.  "We had a new plea. That will delay [the case] as a matter of law. ... I promise both sides that I will move this case as expeditiously ... and still follow the law. ... Because of the new plea, there are going to be delays. ... I will keep you in mind. You're not nameless to me. ... You didn't come out here [for nothing]. "

DDA Akemon addresses the court. They have picked a name from the court's approved list for a doctor to evaluate Gargiulo for the people. Dr. Robert Schug. DDA Akmon states, "He is ready to start his evaluation almost immediately. ... He is asking for face to face meetings and an ability to bring a laptop [into the jail]."

Judge Fidler rules, "If you give me an order I will sign it." 

DDA Akemon tells the court they have the next pretrial date in mind, April 20, 2018. By that time, they may have a good status on where they are.  Judge Fidler sets the case calendar at zero of 90 on April 20th. Defense attorney Nardoni tells the court they have given discovery to the DA. Their hope is to start the case this summer.

And that's it. Judge Fidler is off the bench and Gargiulo is taken back into the custody area. Out in the hallway I learn that lead defense attorney Dale Rubin is under the weather, so that's why he wasn't in court today.

I was really hoping that 48 Hours was going to get images of Gargiulo today. I have been unable to find any photos taken of Gargiulo beyond his various booking photos. It doesn't appear that Gargiulo has been photographed during any court proceeding since he was arrested in 2008.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Going to Court: Mr. Sprocket Update, Suge Knight, Artyom Gasparyan's Alleged Crime Spree Prelim, Alleged MS-13 Gang Death Penalty Case & Michael Thomas Gargiulo

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Catching Up With The Sprocket Household
Wednesday afternoon I felt as if a weight had been lifted. I had been working a good part of the day going through every 2017 invoice and calculating my sewing business sales taxes. With a deadline of 3:00 pm, I managed to get them filed online with 9 minutes to spare. An hour later, I got my notice of the District Attorney's calendar for February 1.

Lately, I haven't even bothered to open the District Attorney's daily calendar. Most of my time the past year was helping Mr. Sprocket recover his health. First was a difficult recovery from his double bypass heart surgery. He returned to subcontracting in April, unsure that he could work a demanding 8 hour day for an employer.

By the time he felt strong enough to put himself on the job market, he suffered a work related injury.  While using some large pipe wrenches on a big motor for a commercial HVAC system, he completely severed his long-head biceps tendon in his right arm. It was touch and go there for a couple months whether he would be able to heal without surgery. Fortunately, this tendon only does about 15 to 20% of the biceps lifting work. Unless you are very young and a professional athlete, the standard treatment for this injury is rest and time to recover.

Luckily, by late October his residual pain was minimal and he felt strong enough to put himself on the job market. He landed a job pretty quickly. It's a perfect fit for him at this point in his life. The position is strictly commercial high-rise buildings HVAC service; no refrigeration work. That means no middle of the night call outs to service a restaurant walk-in freezer. Although Mr. Sprocket is the newest service tech in a mostly installation company, he's the one with the most knowledge and service experience.

Overall, Mr. Sprocket's health has improved. With the extended supplement regimen he has been on, Mr. Sprocket feels his health is the best it's been in several years. He tells me daily he feels like a new person.

Potential New Cases
I wasn't really planning on going into downtown LA on Thursday since there is a Gargiulo hearing on Friday. However, once I got the sales taxes paid and the DA's calendar for the next day showed up, I thought I would take a look. I just wanted to see if there was anything interesting. There were several cases downtown that piqued my interest. Suge Knight was on the calendar for two courtrooms. A week ago, I was talking about the Knight case with my writing partner Katie. I haven't really followed the Knight case so I didn't know if that was a typo on the calendar or if he really did have two cases trailing each other in different courtrooms. The last news article I read said the murder trial was scheduled for January 8, 2018, but here it was February and the case was still in pretrial hearings. 

Also on the calendar was a listing for "continuing defense testimony" in Judge Fidler's courtroom. I was surprised. I thought the death penalty case that started in late October was supposed to be finished in early January, making way for the Gargiulo case. But again, here it is February and the defense is still putting on testimony. It is a cold case murder and alleged MS-13 gang affiliation. There are four defendants.

There was a preliminary hearing in Dept. 41, Judge Villar, that piqued my interest because of the Deputy District Attorney assigned. It's John McKinney with the DA's Major Crimes Division. I had heard good things about DDA McKinney but had never met him or followed one of his cases. This might be a good time to drop in and see what his case was about.

Best Laid Plans
I didn't sleep well Wednesday night. I did wake up in plenty of time to get to court, but I felt so out of sorts I debated with myself for almost an hour on whether to go or not. I got a late start out the door and didn't make it into downtown LA until after 9:00 am. I arrived on the 9th floor around 9:15 am.

Suge Knight, Dept. 101 Judge Coen

Full disclosure. I know very little about the case other than Knight has gone through a slew of attorneys. He is charged with murder, attempted murder in one case (TA136401 ) and charged with robbery in another (SA089020). Those cases are in Dept. 101. Knight is also charged with making criminal threats (BA452832). That case is in Dept. 120, Judge Richman.

When I arrive in Dept. 101, there are few people in the gallery. I make sure the Sheriff's Deputy sitting right by the door sees my press badge as I quietly enter. I know there probably are victim family members in the gallery because I see a familiar face from the DA's victim support staff sitting with them. I take a seat in the gallery beside another reporter with a camera man. Siting at the far end of the long benches I recognize Associated Press reporter Brian Melley. Anytime Melley covers a case you can expect an excellent story. Here is his write-up on the hearing today.

By the tone I'm hearing from the bench, it appears Judge Coen has lost his patience with one of the attorneys at the counsel tables. I'm not sure who. Judge Coen is a formidable presence on the bench. (I was briefly in his courtroom back in 2013, when I wrote about Coen's famous file boxes.) At this point, I don't know who any of the defense counsel are. In the well along with other DA staff I see Asst. Head Deputy of Major Crimes, Craig Hum. It appears it's DDA Cynthia Barnes, who impatiently tosses back a piece of paper handed to her by the defense. After a bit of back and forth, the next pretrial hearing date is set at February 14. I hear from other reporters that a trial date has already been set for April 19. And that's it. People start to file out. I get the chance to say hello to DDA Hum in the hallway. He is kind enough to tell me that Knight's other case is in Dept. 120, on the 13th floor.

Suge Knight, Dept. 120 Judge Richman

The reporter in the gallery of Dept. 101 that I didn't recognize was LA Times reporter James Queally, who has written several pieces on the Knight case already. Queally remembers me, and I apologized to him that I didn't recognize him.

Judge Richman is on the bench. There are a bunch of people in the gallery. There is a DDA at the people's table. It's clear he is hearing pretrial hearings in other cases. DDA Barnes is in the well along with two other DDA's that were in Dept. 101. There is a small child, no more than 18 months or 2 years, sitting alone at the end of the third bench row.  I take a seat in this row a little ways to the left of the child. After awhile, a slender black man comes and sits beside the child. He's either the dad or the guardian.

Judge Richman calls a different case than Knight's. The defendant is the man with the very young child. He leaves the child on the bench alone in the gallery and takes a seat at the defense table. Judge Richman mentions the case is a residential burglary. There's a prior fire arms conviction. I miss the next several statements in the well because the young child is making noises while he's sitting alone. There are several women sitting behind the detectives on the other side of the aisle. They are trying to shush the noisy child. Judge Richman appears to be finished with this defendant when he asks the man, "I'll ask you the most important question. Eagles or Patriots?" The man tells the court "Eagles."

With this case over, Judge Richman banters with DDA Barnes in the well. In reference to one of the DDA's with her, he asks, "Why is he here? He look comfortable." The court asks for the parties in the Knight case. It isn't until after the hearing I learn that the DDA on this case is not Barnes but DDA Stefan Mrakich. I find that the older black attorney sitting in the well is Thaddeus Culpepper. The black female attorney sitting beside Knight at the defense table is Dominique Banos. Ms. Banos is an attractive black woman. She's wearing a very form fitting suit over her ample bosom. The white female attorney, Rena Wallenius, is there representing Ms. Banos. Mr. Culpepper sits in the gallery for a short time before taking a seat in the well behind Banos.

Judge Richman tells Banos, "I think I read your declaration." The court tells the press photographer he is welcome to remain. DDA Barnes tells the court that they just set the cases in Dept. 101 for February 14, calendar zero of 60 for pretrial. She tells the court the murder trial has been set for April 9, 10 for jury trial. The robbery case is also set for February 14, calendar at zero of 60. Judge Richman sets Knight's case in his courtroom for the same date at zero of 30. DDA Barnes suggests the court sets the calendar in Dept. 120 the same as Dept. 101 (zero of 60 as of 2/14).

Judge Richman responds. He appears to be giving DDA Barnes a bit of friendly banter. "Judge Coen doesn't report to anybody. Judge Coen is a grade five. I'm just a grade three. I have to report to people." Judge Richman sets Knight's case at zero of 30 for February 14 and orders the defendant back at 8:30 am. The setting of the case calendar is all that DDA Barnes is here for. She then hands the presentation over to DDA Mrakish who presents to the court their conflict of interest allegation regarding Ms. Banos. The court comments that there are lawyers for the lawyers here. DDA Mrakish tells the court that he doesn't have a lawyer here.

Ms. Wallenius interjects on the conflict of interest allegation by the people by telling the court, "I am not a potted plant! The people have not filed a motion [regarding the conflict of interest] ... or on the perjury matter."

DDA Mrakish outlines for the court that sometime prior, Knight's phone privileges at the jail were restricted. He was only allowed to call his attorney. There were no 3-wall calls allowed. Mrakish tells the court [I believe] about a phone call between Ms. Banos, Knight and someone with a production company. Knight used the booking number belonging to another inmate to make the call, after the phone restrictions were put in place. DDA Mrakish states there is a potential conflict of interest between Ms. Banos and Knight. He is here to get a waiver from the defendant.

While this is going on, Knight has spun around in his chair. For a while there, Knight was spinning his chair a bit from side to side. Now he's turned it completely around, facing away from the judge and is speaking to a deputy sheriff standing behind him. Judge Richman stops the proceedings to ask if Knight is paying attention to what is going on. Knight spins back around and faces the court.

DDA Mrakish tells the court the production company may be paying Ms. Banos's fee. It creates a specter of conflict. Mr. Knight  has a "... right to have conflict free counsel" DDA Mrakish argues. Judge Richman tells the parties, "I'm just a small piece of a tail on a really big dog here." The court addresses the defendant. "Do you want Ms. Banos to continue to represent you?" Knight adamantly tells the court, "I'm not making a waiver." The court patiently continues to address the defendant. "Assume what the DA says is true. Do you want Ms. Banos to continue to represent you?" Knight replies, "Yes."

Judge Richman states that they are done here. There is no signed waiver, just a verbal waiver from the defendant. There's only one other question the court asks Knight. "Patriots or Eagles?" Knight makes his choice. There are a few more off the cuff comments from the court, something about Judge Ryan. Then Judge Richman addresses the defendant again. "Do you know the song, Drowning on Dry Land?" Knight replies, "Yeah." If I recall correctly, the court tells the defendant the song reminds him of Knight. There are a few more statements by the court that I miss.

Ms. Wallenius interjects and addresses the court. "What she [DDA Barnes?] did in the last courtroom is reprehensible! ... The people are suggesting Ms. Banos has broken  the law! ... I'm asking the court to make a finding she has not broken the law." Ms. Wallenius continues to argue with the court. The court responds, "You're bordering on contempt." Ms. Wallenius appears to back down from that and tells the court that the DA has made an allegation. The court responds, "I've not made any finding nor have I assumed anything." Judge Richman has had enough and that's it for the Knight hearing. Out in the hallway I get the names and correct spelling for all the counsel in this hearing.

Dept. 106, Judge Fidler

I head back down to the 9th floor to see if the trial in Judge Fidler's courtroom has resumed. Peeking through the window in the door, I see there's no one in the courtroom. I then head to the 3rd floor for Dept. 41.

Dept. 41, Judge M. L. Villar - Artyom Gasparyan preliminary hearing

I quietly enter Dept. 41. I make sure the bailiff sees my press pass. The courtroom gallery is almost completely empty except, I see Terri Keith from City News. Terri is one of my favorite reporters. She has a tough job and she does it quite well. Terri gives me a smile and scoots over so I can take a seat beside her. I note that Judge M. L. Villar is a woman.

Summary: Artyom Gasparyan is charged with 32 counts stemming from a crime spree that began August 5, 2015 and ended with the defendant being shot and apprehended on January 4, 2016. Gasparyan is charged with murder, several counts of attempted murder, robbery, and other crimes. This appeared to be a one man crime bonanza. A total of eight victims were shot, one fatal.

The parties are at the tail end of the preliminary hearing where the court is making their ruling. I've missed the closing arguments for both sides. For the moment, all I see is the back of the defendant. He hair is jet black, past his shoulders. Although the defendant is in a wheelchair beside his attorney, I can see from his body movements that he isn't paralyzed. He's able to move his lower body quite well.  DDA John McKinney is at the prosecution table. He is a tall, handsome black man. By the end of the prelim, the DA's office amended their original complaint, removing two charges and adding three. The court is detailing the evidence that was presented by the people. There were 133 exhibits presented in the course of the prelim and numerous witnesses. Judge Villar mentions GeoTime® mapping is a game changer. Not only place, but routes, times and place. It's illustrative to the court but not persuasive to the court. The court continues with the other evidence admitted that connects the defendant to the charged crimes. The court states, "Nine millimeter casings at crime scenes; multiple witnesses identified the defendant and vehicle." Judge Villar adds that the GeoTime® mapping [indicates the defendant?] to have been at these locations. "The forensic evidence, more than sufficient that ... [the defendant] will be held to answer."

That's it. Judge Villar rules that sufficient evidence was presented for the defendant be bound over for trial. There will be a hearing in Dept. 100 (Master Calendar Court) in two weeks. That's probably for assignment to a courtroom. When the defendant is wheeled out, I can see that his right arm is wrapped and in a sling. I can't remember if it was before or after Judge Villar adjourned the hearing when she specifically addressed the detective(s) by name and complimented them on their work.

Outside in the hallway, Terri Keith asked DDA McKinney several questions about the case and I listen in. The defendant's vehicle was equipped with a stand alone Garmond GPS. In was mounted on the dash. The crime spree occurred in neighborhoods all over Los Angeles County. Los Felitz, Glendale, West Hollywood, Burbank, Harbor, Mission, Woodland Hills, Wilshire, and Carson were some of the locations of the crimes. The murder victim occurred in the inner city and the motive isn't clear. He encountered the defendant for a short period, just seconds. It's possible that the victim was in the defendant's way. From December 29th, 2015 to January 1, 2016, the defendant had a co-conspirator (Daniel Ramirez? spelling?). Once together, they stayed together in the vehicle. The co-conspirator killed two people and then shot himself.

I asked DDA McKinney how long he's been with the Major Crimes Division. He tells me since 2011. After the chat with DDA McKinney, I head back up to the 9th floor.

Dept. 106, Judge Fidler - Alleged MS-13 gang murder case; 4 defendants, 2 juries
When I step into Dept. 106, the gallery is empty. The only person in the well is Judge Fidler's clerk, Wendy. The case that started in late October has gone long. The DDA on the case is Dayan Mathai. DDA Mathai is also leading the big insurance fraud case against Kelly Soo Park and a slew of other defendants, also pending in Dept. 106. Lonce LaMon at has been posting detailed reports on the insurance fraud case pretrial hearings.

For the murder case, the parties are still in the case-in-chief. No penalty phase has started yet. There are four defendants and two juries. The victim is Jacqueline Piazza, 13, who was raped and murdered in June 2001. One jury is hearing the case against Jorge Palacios, 39. The other jury is hearing the case against Santos Grimaldi, 35, Melvin Sandoval, 38, and Rogelio Contreras, 40. Grimaldi and Sandoval are facing the death penalty. If either one is found guilty, there will be a trial to determine penalty.

Wendy tells me they are in the defense case for one of the defendants. The parties and court are hopeful to start closing arguments on February 20. There will be separate closings for the defendants.

I ask Wendy about the Michael Gargiulo case. She tells me the parties passed on being the next case up on Judge Fidler's calendar. After so many courtrooms in one day, I head back home.

Previous hearing on the Gargiulo case can be found HERE.

Next hearing on the Gargiulo case can be found HERE.