Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial Hearing 6, & Sprocket News

Previous post can be found HERE.

UPDATE 10/20
edited for spelling, grammar, clarity. Sprocket
Ocober 2, 2018
Fabio Sementilli

It's after 8:00 am when I arrive on the 9th floor. Mr. Simmrin arrives around the same time I do. I politely ask Mr. Simmrin if he expects the hearing to go long today. He's kindly tells me that it should be a short hearing today.

Sementilli's defense team (Berk, Levine, gray haired gentleman and the tall thin man) arrives and Monica's sister, Anna Larson is here with them.  This is the same woman I've seen at prior court hearings. The big burly Sargent Westphal arrives with his keys to open Dept. 101, Judge Coen's court.

There are several members of Fabio's family here in the hallway. Two very pretty women and three men who all flew in from Canada. They are all wearing black shirts with "Rest in Peace Beloved Fabio" printed on the back.

I rush into Dept 101 because I want to be sure I get the aisle seat where I can hear the best.

DDA's Beth Silverman and Melissa Opper arrive. Beth is wearing a red and white dress with a matching red jacket and red leather handbag. She has something on I've rarely seen her wear. Flats. They are gray and go quite well with the dress. Usually, Beth is in heels. Melissa is wearing as usual, a dark suit.

Beth comes over to greet the family and also ask how things are going with me. (See note below.) Beth does one of the many things that she does best for the family, patiently answer their questions.

In the gallery I also answer questions for Fabio's family, pointing out who is who.

8:40 AM
Judge Coen takes the bench. A minute ago, chairs were being set up for the defendants. Defendants are put in chairs that do not have rollers on them. I point out to the family member beside me where each defendant will sit.

Mr. Simmrin comes out from the custody area. He must have been visiting with his client. Defendant Sementilli comes out first in the blue jumpsuit. Baker comes out quickly after and they are placed in the same chairs as the last few hearings.

Judge Coen goes on the record.  There are discovery items filed [by the people?]. The letter seized from Baker at the last hearing. The parties discuss the discovery issue of the seized letter. Sementilli's counsel wants to see the letter. DDA Silverman tells the court that unless Mr. Simmrin has any [discovery] issues, DDA Silverman will give a copy to Sementilli's counsel.  Mr. Simmrin states he has no issues with the letter.

Judge Coen appears a bit miffed on the bench. He asks the people why this wasn't handled informally instead of bringing this in front of him. The court tells the parties that he doesn't need to be involved in these issues. That they should be resolved between the parties and not involve the court's time.

Levine brings up to the court [possibly a motion?] that deals with any other letters in the Sheriff's possession, involving communication between defendants.

Judge Coen brings up search warrant affidavits. DDA Silverman informs the court that many of the search warrants are sealed. The people have been asking for discovery from the LAPD. By October 9, the court orders all discovery turned over.  I'm not certain, but as of today's date, I don't believe the people have received a single piece discovery from either defendant.

Levine brings up something about the hard drives that are needed for the people's discovery. He asks if the prosecution knows when there will be an end to discovery. Levine tells the court, "We want to get to trial as soon as possible." Levine wants to know the end of [discovery?] inquiry.

Judge Coen informs the parties that at this time, because his calendar is getting tight, they should put in a trial date. No other reason to block out time.  Currently, Judge Coen only has 19 days in January 2019 [for a trial]. Mr. Simmrin shakes his head about being ready to defend his client for trial in January. Regardless, it's my understanding that the case will need much more time than that. Coen states the next available time is the last week of April.

DDA Silverman informs the court that there is an ongoing investigation by the LAPD, which she does not have in her hand.

Levine tells the court they want an earlier date for trial. "We are not waiving time." The court responds, "I know, but I will make [whatever?] findings I have to make." Judge Coen adds, I've known Mr. Simmrin for years.  Judge Coen rules. He states Mr. Baker's 6th Amendment rights trumps everything, even defendant Sementilli's right to a speedy trial.

Judge Coen sets a potential start date  for Wednesday, April 24, or the next week starting on the 29th. Coen states it will be a six week trial.  DDA Silverman mentions something about the time frame or length of the trial that I miss.

Simmrin tells the court that he just received a 2 Terabyte hard drive of people discovery that he has not seen yet. Levine tells the court that they have some discovery but the latest batch does not have something. They appear to be ahead of Simmrin [in receiving their discovery?].

The trial start date is selected. April 29th for a six week trial. The court clock will be set at zero of ten on that date.  Mr. Simmrin is okay with that date.

The court asks for the next question. Levine is not agreeable to that date. They do not waive time. They would file a motion. The court asks, "Motion to sever, correct? ... Since you're not waiving time?"

Judge Coen states he knows Mr. Simmrin to be a top lawyer. " of the best." Judge Coen asks Levine if he thinks he [Mr. Simmrin] is slacking off.  Judge Coen then rules. As I've seen him do before, he goes to one of those long black file boxes and reads from a ruling. There is "...good cause to continue. ... do find good cause to continue Sementilli case over counsel's objection." Judge Coen continues to read from the prior case law but he's too fast for me to get it all.

Levine requests a return date of December 13, and perhaps an inquiry of Mr. Simmrin [as to his readiness]. Levine question whether they should go to another court. Judge Coen states it is not his business to question Mr Simmrin.

Mr. Simmrin tells the court, regarding an earlier trial date, "...given all the discovery, ... I highly doubt that."

And that's it. It's over quickly. Defendant Sementilli's sister in the gallery stands as Sementilli is being led out of the courtroom. As she is led back into the custody area, Sementill looks at her sister and smiles.

The friends and family of Fabio who attended the hearing are: Fabio's sister Mirella Sementilli Rota and her husband Marco; Fabio's sister Loreta, her husband, Joe, and eldest son Anthony. The family shared with me one of Fabio's sayings: "Chin up and charge that mountain." Fabio's family cannot come to every court hearing, but they tell me their souls are here if not in body. The family asks if local friends of Fabio can attend these hearings to represent Fabio since they are unable to do so.

Next pretrial hearing is December 13.

Sprocket News
A little personal, bumpy ride here. I apologize to T&T readers that my notes on this hearing are over two weeks late. I hope you will forgive me when I share the reason why.

Over the past year, my life has changed dramatically. September 29, I sold my house. Escrow closes tomorrow. My last day on the property is October 28 where I will move into temporary housing. After 17 years of marriage, I am forging ahead on a new journey as a single woman again. Please do not be sad for me. My marriage was over many years ago. It wasn't until early this year that I realized I had to give up many things I appreciated about my life, being a wife, a homeowner, my hummingbird garden and possibly my trial reporting, to start again with a new life and new journey.

I don't know what the future holds for me or where I will be in six months. I'm hopeful that I will be able to stay in the area that I love and continue T&T for the next year, possibly two. Beyond that, it is unknown if T&T will continue operating.

If you have appreciated the eleven-and-a-half years of T&T's in-depth trial coverage, a donation to my trial reporting costs would be most appreciative and helpful at this time.You can click on the link to the right that says "Donate". Your bank statement will indicate a charge to "Betsy Ross Linens" which is the bank account I use for T&T and my sewing business.

A Personal Journey
T&T has not only a US readership but an international readership as well. T&T receives hits from people all over the globe dropping in to read the stories T&T has covered over the years.

I have been a some-what public person, at least on the web for over eleven years. In addition to covering high profile trials, I've also written briefly about more personal journeys. The retaliation that Phil Spector and his trial bride wife did to me during Spector's first then second trial; negative blog feedback; becoming friends with Dominick Dunne during Spector and his passing; my sewing business; a Thanksgiving disaster; my health; the antics of my cats; special honors; longtime friends, trial friends, and new trial friends; T&T fan mail; the loss of my beloved long-time companion, Sprocket Cat; my husband's various health issues; local wild fires; and my hummingbird nesting garden. I've shared quite a bit of my life on T&T.

I have been awed by all the women who have had the courage to come forward with their "Me Too" stories. But I also understand from a recent, very painful personal experience why many women remain silent. It is a very individual choice whether to go public or not against another person about a violation or betrayal of trust when that person may be powerful or a pubic personality. So from that, I also respect and honor those who choose to remain silent. You cannot judge someone who chooses to remain silent about an event that is overwhelmingly painful and raw.

On my own personal journey, I know my path has always been one of personal growth, and forgiveness of others, even those who have deeply wronged me. My journey has never been about causing pain to others. That is the path I walk.

The shortest and surest way to live with honor in the world,
is to be in reality what we would appear to be;
and if we observe, we shall find, that all human virtues
increase and are strengthened
by the practice and experience of them.

-Socrates (469-399 B.C.)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, Pretrial Hearing 44

The previous post can be found HERE.

Michael Thomas Gargiulo 2008

August 10, 2018
I take the train into downtown Los Angeles. I think I have enough time to get a couple fried eggs in the cafeteria, but the line is too long. I head to the fifth floor snack bar and get a green Matcha tea and a hard boiled egg. That will have to hold me.

8:33 AM
Inside Dept 106. The courtroom is basically empty. The only people present are the bailiff, Judge Fidler’s clerk, Wendy, me and a pretty NBC reporter, Rebecca.

A suited gentleman arrives and sits in the first row. I’m in the second row. 
The only thing I hear is the tinnitus buzzing in my head. Sometimes it's strong like today. Other times I can barely hear it.

There are a quite a few boxes from Superior Document Services throughout the courtroom. A bunch stacked in front of the clerks counter. Some against the wall beside the jury box, some more against the low wall in the well of the court. 

There is some kind of hearing going on, because there are big binders on the prosecution and defense table and there are no notebooks on the seats in the jury box.

8:53 AM
Still very quiet inside 106. 

Judge Fidler's bench  has two tall stacks of papers. From where I'm sitting, one looks to be about 6” high and the other 8” high.

8:58 AM
Dale Rubin arrives. He wants to see his client,. The Gargiulo hearing is for 10 am. Everyone is real early. It's my understanding there is a hearing in another case that will go first before Gargiulo. There is a pool video camera here for that event.

I hear Mr. Rubin say to Judge Fidler's clerk, "It’s going to be easier if I see him now." Mr. Rubin adds, “I got a call.”

Judge Fidler's clerk responds to Mr. Rubin about the call he received regarding his client. She then tells him he might have to go to the14th floor to see Gargiulo. The 14th floor is a custody floor where detainees are held until they are needed for their court appearance. The clerk doesn't want Gargiulo brought down to the 9th floor until his hearing commences. I hear Mr. Rubin tell the clerk, "My main concern is that he gets out here and everything goes smooth."

The clerk tells the bailiff that the case will not be called until 10 am, so they don’t bring Gargiulo to 9th. He’s up on 14th in a holding cell area. Mr. Rubin leaves to go see Gargiulo on the 14th floor.

A few people arrive for the other hearing "Maxwell".  Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace arrives for the Maxwell hearing. Although I've never covered one of his cases, I've heard wonderful things about DDA Grace's skills in the courtroom.

After the Maxwell hearing is over, I go out into the hallway to wait for a while and read the web.

On the 9th floor hallway, DDA Garrett Dameron is the first to arrive. I like Garrett. He and DDA Dan Akemon have always been kind to me. While exchanging hellos, second chair defense attorney Dan Nardoni arrives and says hello. He always states my full name. Then DDA Dan Akemon arrives. DDA Akemon brought two law clerks/interns with him. The last dozen times or so I've seen Akemon, he always has interns with him.

I inform Mr. Nardoni his compadre (Dale Rubin) is up on 14, speaking with their client.

We head inside Dept. 106. The pretty court reporter and I chat about both of us being here for Spector One. I was almost certain I first saw her in this courtroom during that trial and she confirmed it. She’s been a court reporter almost 20 years.  The first hearing I ever attended in the downtown criminal court building was in this very courtroom in February 2007. It was for a pretrial hearing in the Spector murder trial. The rest, is history.

9:52 AM
Dale Rubin is here. He reenters courtroom with DDA Akemon who has documents for the defense to sign. I see him place them on the defense table.   Now DDA's Dameron and Akemon are at the clerk’s desk, dropping off a document.

I really need to get my eyes reexamined and new glasses. I'm having to squint more and more now to see things.

Judge Fidler's clerk had gotten up from her desk and she saw that I was typing on my laptop. Judge Fidler was not on the bench but she made it clear in no uncertain terms that I had not gotten approval to use my laptop. Busted. I admit, I was pushing it. Usually, if the judge is off the bench it's not a problem but I was bad and did not wait for permission to use it. I immediately close my laptop and switch to hand notes.

Judge Fidler is the judge assigned to approve all wire tap requests in Los Angeles County. It's why he usually doesn't hold trial five days a week, only four.  Juge Fidler comes out to the clerk's counter area to speak with a detective dropping off (what I assume is) a wire tap warrant.

Over in the well of the court DDA's Akemon and Dameron chat. Then Judge Fidler's clerk talks with them about Judge Fidler's schedule and the "other case" that the Gargiulo case is competing with for being on Judge Fidler's schedule next.

Sprocket Note: This was the case that was supposed to have ended in January of this year, but went long. It's DDA Dayan Mathai's MS13 case that had more than one defendant. I know there was a hung jury on one or possibly more defendants.

DDA Dameron tells the clerk, "Dayan's not jumping ahead of me again. ... I've threatened his life over that." The clerk tells DDA Dameron about "...waivers ... So I'm just putting it out there." The clerk adds that one of DDA Mathai's defendants has gone pro per, so that would be better for DDA Dameron's case here.

And this is where I hear the next possible court date in the Gargiulo case. November 2, with calendar set at zero of 60. DDA Mathai's case and this case will both return to Dept. 106 on that date. On hearing that date, I know that the Gargiulo case will not go to trial until 2019.

Mr. Nardoni brings up the 995 motion with the clerk. "There's a 995 motion filed a long time ago," Nardoni tells her.

I have been waiting literally years for the Gargiulo 995 motion to be argued before the court. Mr. Rubin adds the possibility of arguing other motions in December.  The clerk asks the defense, "How much time do you need on that?"

Now the parties are debating if arguing the motions is too soon. What is so refreshing with this group of counsel, is how very respectful they are with each other. There's no animosity like I've seen in some other cases.

The clerk informs the defense that there is "nothing" available in December for motions to be argued. It's probably going to have to be the November 2 date. Mr. Rubin states, "[The] 995, we can do ... or we can do the Perkins...." The clerk asks, "What's the Perkins...?"  The parties explain the Perkins Operation to the clerk.

Other information about the 995 is discussed. The preliminary hearing transcript is 1500 pages. The 995 motion that was filed is about 100 pages. The parties feel the 995 motion needs to be argued so that Judge Fidler knows the case.

Sprocket Note: All of those page documents will have to be read by Judge Fidler before the 995 motion is argued before him.

10:05 AM
The bailiff goes to get the defendant. Gargiulo is brought out. He's still completely bald. Rubin leans in to speak to Gargiulo. I hear Mr. Nardoni ask his client, "How are you feeling? Any better?"

The clerk asks to speak to counsel for a second. I hear the clerk tell them, "...once you guys decide to go on that 995, it's going to go. No continuance."

Judge Fidler takes the bench. The parties state their appearances. DDA Akemon tells the court that their psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Schug has completed his review of the defendant. The people are turning over an additional 1500 pages of discovery with page numbers 37,822 to 39,352. The people
have given this material to the defense on DVD's.

Mr. Nardoni addresses the court next on the November 2nd date as a pretrial hearing as well as two motions.  They would argue the 995 motion on that date. He states the preliminary hearing transcript is 1400 pages. Mr. Rubin states the 995 motion is a "substantial motion".

Then Mr. Rubin adds something I do not recall ever hearing about the defendant. "Mr. Gargiulo has asthma. ... It's well documented. ... [an] inhaler.... up until recently [there's been] ... no problem with the showers. ... a week or two ago .... where he's getting his shower presently ... there's no ventilation .... he passed out .... [he] gets in [an] asthmatic seizure .... the steam ... I'm told [a]  Sargent or Lieutenant on the tier needed a court order for a better schedule."

Judge Fidler responds, "Just prepare [an order] for my signature and I'll sign it."

The next pretrial hearing is set for November 2nd with the case at zero of 60. I believe the court asks, "Is that all?" My notes are not clear as to who answered the court, but I believe it was the defense who replied, "Our hope is to commence trial in January." Judge Fidler responds, "Okay." Gargiulo is brought back into custody and that was it for the hearing.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial Hearing 5

Previous post can be found HERE.

LAPD Booking Photos
July 30, 2018
I arrive on the 9th floor at 8:15 am. Baker's defense attorney Michael Simmrin is here sitting on the bench at the very end of the hallway.

There are a few public people here. No other press that I recognize. A young gentleman shows up at this end of the hallway wearing a jury badge. After a few minutes, I notice that the air is hot, almost sticky. The building AC may not be fully up to speed, which is not unusual on a Monday. I'm starting to sweat. I may have to tie up my hair.

8:24 AM
DDA Melissa Opper arrives. She's dressed like I've always seen her, in an all black, two-piece suit and black pumps. She goes directly to Simmrin and they chat about something. I'm too far away to listen in.

8:28 AM

Sementilli's full defense team arrives on the 9th floor. When they approach Simmrin as a group, DDA Opper politely steps away so they can chat. I overhear snatches of conversation this time. They appear to be trying to set a return date for the next hearing.

8:30 AM
Dept. 101 opens and everyone heads inside. I wonder if DDA Beth Silverman is busy with a pretrial hearing in another case or if she will arrive later. I take a seat in the 2nd bench row.

Judge Coen was at his bench out of his robe when I entered. Now Judge Coen is chatting with the gray haired gentleman on the Sementilli defense team at the clerk's counter. Now I wonder if this gentleman is a private investigator like I've guessed, or another attorney working on her case. Usually, when there are non-lead counsel working on a case, they still sit in the extra seats in the well. This gentleman sits in the gallery each time I've been here.

Although DDA Silverman has not arrived yet, the three defense counsel are trying to nail down a return date. Berk is asking DDA Opper a question about scheduling. "Melissa, does the 18th work for you?"

Berk is wearing a beautiful light brown jacket and I want one exactly like it. The jacket has nice lines and is gently tailored to her hip. It looks great on her. What I really like about it is, there is no collar or lapel. It's closed by a single, large button under the bra line.

Thankfully, Dept. 101 is noticeably several degrees cooler than the hallway. A second court reporter arrives. The court reporter was obviously sent to the wrong department because the regular court reporter for Dept. 101 is here.  The court reporter leaves to find where her fill in assignment is located.

I overhear someone, I think a bailiff of possibly Judge Coen himself say the defendants are not on the floor yet.

Back and forth, counsel are still trying to decide on a return date.

8:38 AM

DDA Silverman arrives with two interns.  Beth is wearing a black jacket paired over a black and white patterned dress with small splashes of color. 

Judge Coen asks the parties about time, meaning how long will the trial last. DDA Silverman tells the court that just their case alone will take six weeks. So if that's just the people's case, one wonders how long the defense will take.

I believe Judge Coen replies, "That changes things." He tells the parties, "I can give you four weeks in January. So now they are looking at March 2019.

Judge Coen and Levine chat. DDA Silverman and Simmrin chat about a hard drive sitting on the DA's desk.

Counsel are still trying to work out a return date. You have three different attorneys on the defense side, the court {Judge Coen's schedule} and the people. So five different groups need to find a return date that works for "everyone". The next dates Berk throws out are the 17th or 18th of September.

That doesn't work for everybody so they go back to August. August 24 works for everyone except DDA Silverman.  This is a tedious process with everyone checking their calendars to see how they can work this out.

Baker is brought out and and handcuffed to the chair at the end of the defense table. We are now waiting for Levine & Berk's client, Sementilli. Sementilli arrives. Judge Coen immediately goes on the record. Judge Coen states the parties that are present and that they are looking for a return date. Coen is looking to set the court calendar at zero of 60 on the next date. They are tentatively trying to set a return date which will be a discovery hearing update.

After a bit more back and forth among counsel the return date is set: October 2nd for a discovery hearing. I believe it is Levine who is asking if the court wants to set a trial date then (Oct 2) or now.

Judge Coen reminds Levine that his co-counsel's rights [representing Baker] trump California Penal Code 1382. Levine tells the court that they will file a motion to separate the cases. (In an effort to get to trial sooner I expect.) Judge Coen tells the parties that he has nothing available for trial until March 25, 2018. Coen wants to make the court calendar on this case zero of 60 on October 2. Coen states a tentative trial date will be drawn on that date.

DDA Silverman goes over a bit of housekeeping with the court regarding the 911 transcript and that the "SDT files" have not been returned to the court file. The court orders the DA is to take custody of the SDT files and make copies.

And that's it. The defendants are brought back into custody and the parties return date is October 2.

The next post on this case can be found HERE.