Thursday, October 17, 2019

Moncia Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial Hearing 13 and Sprocket Update News

Fabio Sementilli, murdered 1/23/2017

October 16, 2018
Taking public transportation into downtown Los Angeles is always a chore for me and can take up to two hours or longer. Today went pretty smoothly for once. I left home at 6:20 a.m. and was on Temple Street, a block from the courthouse by 8:00 a.m.

After I stop to get a hot tea at the 5th floor snack bar, I'm on the 9th Floor by 8:15 a.m. The door is open but there is only one Sheriff at the security scanner and the deputy tells me he needs two deputies (one to operate the belt scanner and one to watch people walk through) to let people into the hallway.

While I'm waiting, defense counsel for Michael Gargiulo, Daniel Nardoni, -one of the nicer defense attorneys I've met around the courthouse- approaches the security station. He's carrying a recently laundered white shirt on a hanger covered in plastic. To get the shirt to his client, he has to sign a document -I note Mr. Nardoni is a fellow lefty- and put the shirt on the belt scanner without the hanger or plastic.

8:20 AM
After Mr. Nardoni clears security with his briefcase and shirt the security guard decides to let me and a few jurors go through to the 9th Floor hallway even though a second deputy has not arrived yet.

While I'm waiting at the end of the hallway I note that there is a sign hanging on the door to Dept. 101, Judge Coen's courtroom that says something to the effect of, "Jurors wait until called." This tells me that Judge Coen is currently in trial. An attorney approaches Dept. 101 and tries the door. It's locked and the gentleman takes a seat to wait. 

I then see Deputy DA Melissa Opper arrive. She's wearing a tan skirt suit with a black jacket, black handbag and what looks like a long, thin gold necklace. She has a great smile and is kind enough to say hello. She is about to try the door to Dept. 101 but I tell her it's still locked.

8:25 AM
It's quiet today. There are less than a dozen people on the floor, with most of them wearing juror badges. Michael Simmrin, defense counsel for Baker arrives.

While I'm waiting another familiar face arrives. It's defense attorney Steve Meister. Mr. Meister was co-counsel with Mark Werksman on the James Fayed murder trial. We chat for a moment about love behind bars and the criminal justice system. I then see Dept. 101 open and I tell him I have to go.

Inside Dept. 101
8:33 AM

The gentleman I saw in the hallway is sitting at the counsel tables and there are other counsel here as well. There are spiral notebooks on the juror's chairs. DDA Opper and Simmrin take seats in the well directly in front of the jury box and start to chat. I don't recognize the bailiff or the individual at the clerk's desk. There's a young, handsome black man sitting in the back row with a notebook. I sense he is here for the case in trial.  More counsel arrive for the current case. Judge Coen calls for counsel at sidebar for the case that is currently in trial. One of the prosecutors reminds me of the actor, William H. Macy without Macy's beard. It appears the court is discussing jury selection in the current case. 

8:35 AM
Defense counsel for Sementilli, Leonard Levine and Hans J. Allhoff arrive. It appears Ms. Berk will be a no show today. Mr. Levine takes a seat by DDA Opper. Their phones are out and they are talking return dates.

8:37 AM
Deputy DA Beth Silverman arrives and joins her co-counsel in trying to find a return date in the middle of November. I hear several dates thrown out. November 11, 12 and 14. It goes back and forth between Mr. Simmrin, Levine and the prosecution trying to find a date that works for everyone. It appears they have a date and the court is informally notified.

8:45 AM
Baker and Sementill are brought out. Both defendants are in orange jumpsuits. Since the attorneys for the case in trial are at the counsel tables, the defendants, their counsel and the prosecution team are all standing. Judge Coen goes on the record and asks the parties where they are. Mr. Levine starts off telling the court they have agreed to a return date of November 11, but that's wrong since it's a holiday. DDA Silverman takes over and tells the court the return date is November 13, with the case calendar set at zero of 90 with a "reasonable people's continuance." The court asks each defendant individually if they agree to the continuance to 11/13. They each give a verbal, "Yes." And that's it. It's all over in a few minutes.

Note: We learned at the last pretrial hearing that Mr. Simmrin will not be ready for trial in 2019. I expect there will be monthly continuances until a trial date is selected.

Sprocket Update News

I wanted to let everyone know what's been happening with me.

December 31 of last year I moved into my new home. I'm pretty much settled in now and life is very good in this safe space. I love my little house! I'm hopeful for nesting hummingbirds in the ficus trees I was able to bring with me when nesting season starts.

At the end of September I started school for a new career in the health care field. I will be done with my training in early January, and then schedule my testing with the state. Once I pass the exam, I'll be looking for work in that field. I don't know where I will land but I'm hopeful I will be employed before the end of February.

I will continue to attend pretrial hearings in the Sementilli/Baker case as long as I am able. Once I'm settled in a new job, I will be trying to find the time to write up the rest of my notes on the Jennifer Francis civil trial that I attended earlier this year. There's a lot to digest in that case that is related to the Stephanie Lazarus murder trial.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial Hearing 12

Fabio Sementilli

Preious post on this case can be found HERE.

NOTE: I apologize for the lateness of this post. I've been under the weather with a head cold and cough. Sprocket.

UPDATE: Corrected home security system to a neighbor's security system.
September 4, 2019
Right when I entered the security line for the Clara Shortridge-Foltz Criminal Justice Center, I run into a gorgeous reporter that has been covering the Baker-Sementilli hearings. We say hello and introduce ourselves for the first time. Her name is Chetna and she is a producer for Dateline. We clear security and ride the elevator together.

The 9th Floor

Judge Coen’s courtroom is already open. There are two older women -probably close to my advancing age- seated in the second bench row where I usually sit. They have been here before and I believe are friends or relatives of defendant Sementill.  One woman has very short dark hair. She’s wearing a long strand of pearls. The other woman has darkish hair with blond highlights and blue framed glasses.

Some of the prosecution staff is already here. Deputy DA Melissa Opper is in the courtroom along with another Deputy DA, Paul Pzrelomiec who assisted Deputy DA Beth Silverman on the Grim Sleeper (Lonnie Franklin, Jr.) trial. Two LAPD Robbery-Homicide Detectives enter the courtroom. I recognize them immediately. One is the handsome Daryn Dupree and the other I believe is his partner, whose name escapes me at the moment.

Dupree greets Deputy DA Paul Przrelomiec. 

Blair Berk and Leonard Levine are not here. The defense attorney who stood in for them at the last hearing, Hans J Allhoff is here. The gray haired older gentleman who works with Sementilli’s defense team is in his usual spot, chatting with Judge Coen at the clerk’s counter.  Baker’s defense attorney, Michael Simmrin is not here but one of his support staff is, a youngish blond woman who signs for some documents in the well. 

I think we are waiting on Deputy DA Beth Silverman to arrive.

There is some off the record chatter. I overhear that Mr. Simmrin will not be able to make it and Sementilli’s defense attorney will stand in for him. 

Moments later Deputy DA Beth Silverman arrives. She’s wearing strapping black pumps, a red dress and a loose-fitting black jacket. Seeing the two RHD detectives and the young Deputy DA Paul Pzrelomiec, Silverman says something to the effect of, looks like a pretty good team ... a serial killer team.

The defense attorney and the prosecution team exchange a bit about putting the case over to another hearing. The date October 16th is mentioned.

Deputy DA Silverman banters, “… she said [at the] last court date she would be ready for trial.”

It’s a good guess that Silverman is referring to Ms. Berk. The defense counsel answers, “Yeah, but there was more discovery.” Silverman responds, “…there’s always more discovery. That’s just the kind of case  it is.”

Judge Coen calls another case. The defendant is brought in through the front doors. A tall, youngish man, he’s in a wheelchair.  This hearing is over pretty quickly and we are waiting for Baker and Sementilli to be brought out.

8:52 AM
Sementilli is brought out first. Her hair continues to grow out. It's longer and appears darker. She has what looks like an expanding file folder with her in a clear plastic bag. 

Semintilli turns and smiles to her supporters in the gallery. The woman with the dark hair and pearls puts her hand to her lips and gestures with her hand like she is blowing defendant Sementilli a kiss.

Right after Sementill turned to the gallery to give eye contact to her supporters, Judge Coen loudly admonished her to face the front of the courtroom and not turn around to the gallery. It's not in my notes but I believe Judge Coen called the bailiff over to monitor her to make sure she didn't turn around again.

A face I’ll never forget enters Dept. 101. It’s the lead counsel for Lonnie Franklin, Jr., Seymour Amster. The arguments between Amster and Silverman during the Franklin case were over the top bitter. Amster enters and drops his briefcase onto a chair in the well of the court. 

I believe he quickly leaves.

Defendant Baker is brought out at the same time and Judge Coen goes on the record.

Defense counsel Allhoff informs the court that he will be standing in for Mr. Simmrin today. Judge Coen clarifies for the record that he is representing Baker for this hearing only. 

Counsel and the court agree to put the court calendar at zero of 60 on October 16.  Judge Coen asks defendant Baker if he agrees. Baker agrees. He then asks Sementilli if she agrees. Sementilli agrees. 

As the bailiffs get the defendants ready to return to the custody area, Sementilli, is standing and turns to look at her family again. She smiles and mouths some words. It appears to me she is saying, Bye bye Bubbie, or maybe Mommy but that's just a guess.  The dark haired woman repeats her earlier gesture of blowing her a kiss again. 

And that’s it until October 16.

Exiting the courtroom Chetna and I follow Deputy DA Beth Silverman out. Silverman is silent regarding any questions about the prosecution or LAPD's success in locating the second assailant who was seen with defendant Baker on a neighbor's home security system. CBS 48 Hrs. has a report with images of the two assailants from the neighbor's security system.

In some of the pretrial banter between counsel it was discussed that Baker's counsel, Mr. Simmrin has communicated to the prosecution that this case will not go to trial this year. From what I heard, it appears to me that Mr. Simmrin will not be trial ready before 2020.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Michael Gargiulo Sanity Phase Verdict Reached

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, June 2008

August 22, 2019
2:05 pm KTLA is reporting that Gargiulo was found sane when he murdered two women (Ashley Ellerin, Maria Bruno) and attempted to murder a third (Michelle Murphy).

In the guilt phase of the trial, jurors will hear testimony and determine if Gargiulo will receive life without parole or the death penalty.

11:23 am
I just received notice that a verdict has been reached in the sanity phase of the Michael Gargiulo Trial. It will be read at 11:45am Pacific Time.

Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend the reading of the verdict. As I get news I will update this post.