Friday, May 30, 2014

Cameron Brown 3rd Trial: Pretrial 16

 Defendant Cameron Brown and Lauren Sarene Key
Date unknown

May 30, 2014
I’m taking the 8:39 AM train today into downtown Los Angeles. Mr. Sprocket is using the car to make sales calls. I don’t mind taking the train. It’s a shorter walk to court than the budget parking lots downtown. The only downside is if I have to take the train and bus all the way home.

As I was saying goodbye to Mr. Sprocket he asks me, “Do you have your phone?”  Nope. I forgot it, again. It’s at home, plugged into the charger. Once court is over and I take the train back to the valley, I will have to use a pay phone to see if Mr. Sprocket is nearby to pick me up.

This will be the first hearing that I cover with Brown representing himself.

8:27 AM
I’m up on the 9th floor. Patty Brown, the defendant's wife is already here. She gives me a smile and says hello.

A very sharply dressed female attorney arrives. I’m admiring the braided hair band she has on her head. She enters Dept.105 once the bailiff opens the door.

A see a few defense attorney’s who are familiar faces. I don’t know any names I have seen them several times in Dept. 30 or waiting outside courtrooms. One attorney is knocking on the door to Dept. 107.

Judge Ohta’s bailiff comes out of Dept. 108. When he returns he’s carrying a large bottle of water.  He unlocks the door for the attorney who is waiting on Dept. 107 to open.  The attorney comes back out after having dropped out a large envelope.

Before Brown is brought out, the bailiff tells the court that the defendant has motions. Judge Lomeli responds, “Tell him the next time he has motions, he can’t file them on the day he’s ordered.”  The bailiff goes back to the custody area.  When he comes back, Judge Lomeli tells his bailiff, “We can go ahead and bring him out.” One of the bailiff's nods to the court.  Judge Lomili responds, “Thank you.”

Brown is brought out. His hair is cut short but his beard is quite long. He’s carrying a green, canvas looking satchel with two light colored fabric handles.  Brown has filed a request for discovery.  Judge Lomeli asks, “I thought he had all the discovery?”  Brown tells the court that this is a request for any new discovery.

It appears Brown has also filed a motion for a paralegal. Judge Lomeli states he’s not inclined to appoint a paralegal. Brown has a standby counsel and a private investigator. Judge Lomeli goes on to state for the record that he plans on setting the trial for a September date and that there will be no further continuances.  "If Brown states he’s not ready, I’m going to declare him ready," the court states. Judge Lomeli states that the evidence, and all the information is very familiar to both parties. I’ll bring you back in July for status.  Or, the court can bring you back in June for your paralegal request.  Judge Lomeli states he hasn’t read Brown’s motion yet. Once the court has had the opportunity to read it, then Brown can respond/argue.

Brown’s investigator took possession of the discovery in this case. The court proposes to bring Brown back later, in June, and on the (prosecution’s?) end, they will address any new discovery.

DDA Hum tells the court that there was a prior list of discovery that was presented to the prior attorney, Mr. Laub.  Judge Lomeli proposes to bring Brown back on June 27th, that’s a Friday.

Brown objects. Brown states that his motion is an informal request for discovery. “If he [DDA Hum] doesn’t respond within 15 days ...”

I believe the court addresses Mr. Hum, asking if it’s his belief there is any new discovery. Hum replies that he doesn’t believe there is but he will certainly check.

Judge Lomeli rules that he will declare that, June 27, to be zero of 60 at this point. “Mr. Brown, do you agree to this?”

Brown replies, “No I do not agree with that. The reason is that my prior counsel Aron Laub was discussing with you that he had an expert who wasn’t available until November and you agreed with that."

Judge Lomeli replies, “Well, he is no longer your counsel. .. The expert in question, which expert? What expert are you talking about?”

I don’t believe Brown provides a name or even identifies the expert.

I believe Judge Lomeli continues, “But that was because he was counsel on that.”

Brown tells the court that he’s not available (ready?) to go to trial. “My PI told me six months. He hasn’t done anything.”

The court informs Brown, “That’s up to him. You went pro per in April. That would mean you will be going to trial in five months. ... If you don’t agree ..”

If Brown doesn’t agree to the continuance, then legally, he must go to trial in 60 days.  Brown doesn’t appear to understand this.

Judge Lomeli asks Brown what the name of his investigator is. He tells his court clerk to get the investigator. Tell the investigator I want to see him.  The court will determine if the investigator has done “absolutely nothing.”

The court tells Brown that if he doesn’t agree to the June 27th date, then he goes to trial in sixty days. Those are the terms, after the court consults with Mr. Royce.

Brown tells the court, “But I don’t agree with any of those. ... How is Aron Laub able to delay for three years then I have pro per and I have to go right away?”

The court tells the defendant that he is sadly mistaken if he thinks he will get the same amount of time that Aron Laub had.  Brown repeats again, that Aron Laub when he’s not ready there are continuance, but now that he gets the case he has to go to trial. “How come he got special treatment and not me?”

Judge Lomeli tells the defendant that he seems to be implying that this court, because Mr. Laub had continuances grant to him, and that because Brown is pro per, he should be given those same continuances. “That’s not the way it works.”

Brown replies, “I just need some more time. Not three years like him.”  Judge Lomeli states, “Right now it’s a September date. If for some reason, a compelling reason, and you are close to trial on that date, if I need to tweak that date..." The court would move the date.

Brown tells the court, “I’m starting from zero on on this.” The court informs the defendant, “You were granted pro per in April.”  I believe Brown tells the court that his PI is not cooperating with him. That his PI has not done any work on the case and that he needs a new PI to start over.  The court replies that to grant a new PI, he has to talk to him first. He tells Brown that his PI did come over and pick up discovery. There is some discovery that Brown can’t get because it might contain information he is not directly allowed to have. That’s why discovery is going to the PI.  The court also mentions security as a reason.

I believe it’s Mr. Hum who tells the court that it was his understanding that Mr. Laub was going to redact information that the defendant was not allowed to have, or the PI was going to do the redaction. Hum states that he remembers the last time they were here, Mr Brown didn’t want the investigator that Mr. Laub had. Mr. Brown wanted a new investigator. Mr. Laub told the court that the investigator he had was very familiar with the case. Mr. Hum states he doesn’t know what the investigator was given (to give to?) the defendant. Now, all of a sudden, the new PI needs to be replaced.

Judge Lomeli tells Brown that his two options are the June 27th date, or go to trial in 60 days.

Brown tells the court that he didn’t want Laub’s investigator because he had problems working with him before. Now the things that Brown wanted the investigator (Mr. Laub's? His new one?) to do, separate than what Aron discussed, he still hasn’t done any of that.

Judge Lomeli tells Brown that he doesn’t want to hear/know what he discussed with his investigator. The court then adds, Mr. Laub noted (in his exparte communications?) that you had some theories that you had, that are not in any way germane to whether you are ready for trial. He is not going to follow leads, or what ever you want him to do. He has an obligation to prepare you for trial. He is under no obligation to follow (these other requests).

The court again asks if he will agree to the June 27 date. He gives the defendant his choices.

DDA Hum interjects and tells the court that possibly there is a misunderstanding.  He addresses the defendant directly. DDA Hum spends quite a bit of time patiently explaining in simple terms to Brown what accepting the continuance means. At one point, Brown interrupts Hum and Hum snaps back in a firm voice, “Don’t interrupt me. Let me finish. ... If you want more time then you need to waive.”  He adds that waiving means that on June 27, it does not mean that he will go to trial sixty days from that date. He could get a continuance again on that date. Hum continues to go over in minute detail the court process that Brown has experienced ever since the last trial.  Judge Lomeli further explains to the defendant what the hold over to June 27th means. “If you fail to waive, then in order to protect your rights under the constitution, you have to go to trial in 60 days.” 

Brown at some point, admits that he didn’t understand what it meant to waive. He finally understands and does waive time until June 27.

The last thing Brown tells the court is that he needs a doctor’s order. The judge asks why he needs to see the doctor. Brown replies, “I have a growth on the bottom of my foot that needs to be looked at.”  Judge Lomeli looks over at his clerk and asks. “Didn’t we already do that?”  Brown tells the court, “I need to go back. I got medication but it expired and I need to go back.”

DDA Hum then tells the court that he needs the name and number of Brown’s investigator.  Robert Royce (sp?).

Brown asks the court if he can request a certain investigator. “I have someone I like.”  The court tells Brown, “He’s already picked up the boxes and I want to see what he’s done.”   Then Brown tells the court he objects to the 6/27 Friday date.  The court asks Brown, “Why? Do you have some place to go?”  I don’t believe Brown has an answer to that.

Brown is then taken back into custody. After Brown has left, the court clerk tells Judge Lomeli that he has the investigator on the phone. Judge Lomeli gets on the phone with the investigator and tells him that Brown claims that he’s done nothing on the case.

The court tells the investigator that when he meets with his client, to tell him that you’ve have a chance to speak to me [Judge], and you tell him that if he doesn’t provide those things to you then you can’t prepare for the case.  Judge Lomeli also mentions something about, “... these theories that are way out there...” and that the investigator is not required to investigate everything that Brown wants the investigator to do.

Judge Lomeli is still on the phone. A bit later, I hear the court say, “... Right. ... and you say that you don’t have all the discovery? ... Mr. Laub. ... Just a mess.  ... Okay. When you meet with him the court is not inclined to replace you. ... can’t follow up on it. ... Plain and simple.”

I hear more of Judge Lomeli’s statements, to either the investigator or Mr. Hum. He says he (Brown) wants him to explore all these ... all these things that he can’t do. The investigator has met with Brown almost once a week, so the court is not inclined to replace him.

And that’s it for this hearing.

Here is what I’ve taken away from this hearing.  As far as the prosecution is concerned, they handed over all their discover to the defense, via Brown’s prior defense attorney, Mr. Laub.

Mr. Laub was required to hand that discovery over to Brown’s new private investigator. The investigator will give Brown specific discovery he asks for, but he is not allowed to have certain information in his cell with him.

I suspect it’s doubtful that Brown will be allowed to have the 30 plus boxes of trial materials from his first two trials, that his previous defense attorneys turned over to Mr. Laub.

From what the court said today, it’s my impression the court will not be giving Brown any special leeway, or extensive time to prepare his case, unless Brown is able to present reasonable cause for the delay.  It’s my best guess that this case could go to trial some time later this year, as early as September if Judge Lomeli holds to his projected trial date.

I have no idea what it is that Brown is asking his investigator to investigate, regarding theories that are not germane to the case.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Dawn DaLuise Case: Pretrial Hearing 2

Dawn DaLuise in custody March 19, 2014. 
Photo Credit: KTLA Pool Camera

UPDATE 6/23: An earlier version had Judge Dabney's name spelled wrong. I apologize.
May 19, 2014
8:15 AM
I’m on the 8th floor of the Airport Courthouse.  I arrived before 7 AM, missing most of the 405 traffic. Unfortunately, the cafeteria doesn’t open until 7:30 AM so I sat in the lobby to wait.  While I was waiting, I did have a very interesting chat with a woman, a retired minister. She was here for her first experience on jury duty.

My lobby companion lived most of her life in the center of her east coast state. When she and her husband retired, a family member offered them the opportunity to live with them in their home in the south bay area. They jumped at the chance.  They currently live in on the coast and are relatively recent transplants.

I shared with her a little bit about the LA County court system.

8:23 AM

Although there are several people from the general public here, I don’t see a single person from the media. A few people come and try the doors to the two courtrooms on this wing of the hallway.

Just to be sure that nothing’s changed, I check the LA county Sheriff’s inmate locator site again. The date is today and the courtroom is Dept. E.

There is a new sign on Judge Dabney's courtroom door that states no electronic media. It specifically states NO laptops. I'm disappointed.  Wont be able to use my laptop to write.

8:26 AM

I put my phone on silent and try to stretch out my low back.  I was up until 4 AM, helping Mr. Sprocket on a new ductless split system at a bakery.  I slept for maybe an hour before I got up to get ready to come here. I have no idea when I’ll get these notes written up.

8:33 AM
The courtroom opens. People head inside. I debate on whether to get in there to get a good seat, or wait to see if any of DaLuise's family show up.  I close up my laptop and head inside.

Inside, there are signs that indicate no sitting in the first row. I take a seat in the second row, directly behind the defense table. Judge Dabney's courtroom is a mirror image of Department F, next door.  The black female bailiff's desk is to the right. The court clerks desk is along the wall directly beside the curved corner bench.

I believe I forgot to mention in my last notes, that the courtroom ceilings are constructed and a nice, wide arch. Very attractive.

The clerk is at her desk and it is eerily silent in here.  After a while, I start to get a little chilled. I forgot to bring a light sweater. There are several attorneys in the well and three in the lone chairs on the very left side of the gallery.

There is another desk directly beside the clerks desk. Then there is a walkway space to the jail area and the bailiff's desk to the right. There isn't a phone or computer at this desk but there is a file basked and what appears to be an industrial size hole punch or stapler. An attorney stops at the clerks desk to check in. There is a woman seated at the extra desk. She looks like a defense attorney. A Latino woman in the gallery gets up to speak to her.  The woman at the desk replies, "It will be a while."

Another deputy opens the door to the custody area and peeks his head inside Dept. E for a moment they goes back inside the jail area.

8:45 AM
Judge Dabney's court reporter arrives.  On the right side wall next to the gallery there is a large, permanent sign that says "No Food Or Drink In Courtroom."  There are individual fold up seats just like in Dept. F.  Two male attorneys come and go and then enter again.

Just to be safe, I put my phone in 'airplane' mode.

The female bailiff takes a suit of clothes back to the custody area. I start to yawn. I'm hoping I don't fall asleep. I had about a quart of iced tea this morning and a second, hot tea in the cafeteria. I only had sausage and hash hash browns in the cafeteria for breakfast. I was too afraid to have scrambled eggs because I'm still not sure exactly how I got the food poisoning after my last trip here.

A woman enters from the back area, sits in the jury box and is typing on her cell phone. My best guess is that she is a court appointed interpreter.

A defense attorney asks the bailiff if his client could be brought up so that he could speak to him. He is informed he may have to go to another area to see him because they already have some one (back in the private room/cell?).  A minute later he says that's okay, "Where ever."  The bailiff then calls him back to speak to his client.

It's now that I realize there are two ways that defense attorneys can speak to their clients. There is a second door to the custody area in the far back right corner.  It has a sign on it that says "Interview Room - No Cell Phones Allowed." This door does not have a window or one of those special locks on it like the doors behind the bailiff's desk. My guess is, this leads to a room where there is an enclosed "cage" area, much like Dept. 30 downtown, or Dept. 100 at Van Nuys.  I imagine there could be several defendants in this area at once, talking to their attorneys.

I'm guessing that DaLuise's case wont be called early since her family isn't here.

9:03 AM
A female attorney checks in with the bailiff.

9:15 AM
I didn't see him enter, but there now is a slightly balding white haired man sitting in the well seats directly in front of me. Is that defense attorney Pat Harris? I didn't see him check in with the court clerk. It will be a surprise if it is. Pat Harris defended Cameron Brown in his second trial.  Harris was affiliated with Geragos & Geragos for about 15 years or more. Now he has his own practice.  I attended most of Brown's second trial. I became ill right after the defense case started and missed several defense witnesses.

The defense attorney stands and faces the gallery. It is Pat Harris. He's known for defending Susan McDougal and co-authoring a book about it. I address him. "Pat Harris." He looks at me, but he doesn't recognize me. It has been a while. I add, "Betsy Ross, Trials & Tribulations." He smiles. He's surprised to see me. He replies that it's been six years.  I inform him that his former client is now pro per and still in custody.

It's my understanding that Brown earns "good time" credits while in the LA County Sheriff's custody. I believe (but I'm not positive), that he earns 1 day for every two days served in county.  He's been in county custody over 10 years. If Brown got convicted of second degree murder, it's possible he could be eligible for parole after he's sentenced.  It doesn't mean he will get parole, it just means he's eligible.

9:20 AM
Philip Dube, (pronounced Due-bay) DaLuise's public defender is her. I don't see any family. Dube comes out from the jail area carrying some magazines. He hands them to a gentleman in the last row, sitting on the other side of the courtroom. The man is older, gray hair and a beard. I don't believe he was here last time. If he was, I didn't see him. I hear Dube tell him that DaLuise is not allowed to have magazines while in custody.

It's my guess that one of the reasons that magazines are now allowed is because of the staples that could be used to hold them together. I can see the face of the magazine that was on top: People.

Judge Dabney takes the bench. He has mostly black hair, slightly balding with a grayish mustache and small beard. The first case is called. A defendant in an orange jumpsuit is brought out.  While this case is heard, Pat Harris and Dube get up from the well and chat beside the right wall in the gallery. Now I'm wondering how Harris is associated with the case.

I've become fascinated with the unusual lock on the door to the jail area.  It takes a huge, flat key that's on a ring on the bailiff's waist. From where I'm sitting, the key looks like it's three or four times the size of a normal door lock key.

Harris paces back and forth in the well. When the first case is over, Harris addresses the judge. He tells the court, "My is a witness who was ordered here today." Harris' client is Edward Feinstein, who is not in the courtroom. New discovery was provided to the defense late (last night? Friday?) and it's going to be held over.  The judge orders his client back for the next hearing.

That's it for Harris. He takes off.

It appears that Judge Dabney wanted to call the DaLuise case but her counsel can't be found. Someone tells the court that he needed a few more minutes with his client.

Another case is called in the mean time. A defense attorney tells the court that his client changed his mind and decides to take a plea on count 2.  The defendant takes a plea on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.  He pleads no contest. Judge Dabney makes sure that the defendant understands his rights and that he is giving up his rights by pleading.

9:50 AM
Judge Dabney leaves the bench. Mr. Dube passes an envelope to the gray haired friend of DaLuise. I hear him say, "These are some cards and letters."  I don't think that DaLuise had these cards and letters in her possession and gave them to her attorney. My guess on what happened is, Dube may have been able to share these items with his client in custody, or he returned them to DaLuise's friend because he was unable to share them with her.

The courtroom is back to that eerie pin drop silence.  There are only eight people in the gallery.

10:05 AM
DDA Heather Steggell, who is prosecuting the DaLuise case, returns. I believe Dube is still with his client. My notes are not clear, but I think Judge Dabny is back on the bench and asking if they can do the DaLuise case. He's told that Dube is still with his client. The bailiff gets up to check.

DDA Steggell gets up and goes to the 'Interview Room' to ask Dube if they can call the case. Steggell has a three defendant plea next door.

10:17 AM
Mr. Dube comes out from the interview room.  Judge Dabney and counsel talk about future dates off the record. They want to set the case at zero of 10 on June 23.

Judge Dabney calls the case: SA086704. DaLuise is brought out. I believe she has a waist chain, or is cuffed at the waist somehow. She quickly looks in the gallery and smiles at her friend in the back row.  Dube tells the court, "Friday, I received a large packet [of discovery] from the people and apparently more is to come."  Judge Dabney asks, "What is it?" I believe it's Steggell who answers. "Analysis of computer and phones from the defendant." She continues, "There are other witness phones (and computer?) ..." that still need to be analyzed. She tells the court that the report on the defendant's computer and phones is "pretty substantial. ... There is one witness computer in the process and possibly a second witness."

Judge Dabney rules that he wants everyone back on June 9th. The 9th doesn't work for Dube. Dube offers Friday the 13. Judge Dabney replies, "I'm not superstitious."  DaLuise lets out a little giggle or laugh at the courts comment.  Dabney orders Edward Feinsten, the prosecution's witness to be on call for the 13th and ordered back on the 23. And that's it. As DaLuise is taken back into custody, she turns to the gallery again. Smiling at her friend she lifts her palm up slightly to give him a wave.

After I leave Dept. E, I head up to the 9th floor to see if Judge Deborah Brazil's courtroom is open. I'd like to drop in and say hello. The door is locked so I make my way back home.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Michael Gargiulo Pretrial Hearing 18 & Ka Pasasouk

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, in custody
Booking photo, date unknown

UPDATE 9:15 PM spelling, clarity
May 16th, 2014
8:05 AM
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.

8:21 AM

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.

8:28 AM

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.

8:38 AM

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.

9:30 AM
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.

9:47 AM
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.

9:58 AM
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.

Ka Pasasouk
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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dawn DaLuise Case: Pretrial Hearing 1

Dawn DaLuise in custody March 19, 2014. 
Photo Credit: KTLA Pool Camera

UPDATE 6/23: An earlier version had Judge Dabney's name misspelled. I apologize.
UPDATE 5/24: An earlier version of this story included the first names of two family members of the defendant. They have been removed at the request of the defendant's family. 
It is not known if anyone went to authorities about the stalking or who notified authorities about the murder for hire plot. Sprocket.
April 18, 2014
You may have heard about the Dawn DaLuise case that unfolded in early March 2014.

DaLuise, a skin care specialist and owner of Dawn DaLuise Skin Refinery in West Hollywood, California. DaLuise who catered to celebrities and had been featured in several magazines, including Vanity Fair, was arrested March 5th by the LA County Sheriff's Fraud & Cyber Crimes Bureau. She's charged with 'murder for hire' of Gabriel Suarez, a competitor who in 2013, opened up his skin care business, "Smooth Cheeks" in the same building (8543 Santa Monica Blvd.) as DaLuise.

I heard about the case about a week after the arrest from a long time girlfriend (I'll call her 'Pat,' not her real name), who was a client of DaLuise. Pat relayed the story much as it was explained in the LA Times and a segment of the ABC 20/20 episode that aired April 11th.  A witness, Edward Feinstein, is alleged to be the individual who did the actual stalking of DaLuise. He is out on $150,000.00 bail.

According to Pat, DaLuise told her that someone was stalking her. The stalker had taken out suggestive, rape fantasy ads on Craigslist with DaLuise's photo, phone number and home address.

Pat was in shock that DaLuise was arrested and the fact that her bail was one million dollars. I explained that the high bail amount is the standard minimum whenever there is a murder or attempted murder charge against a defendant.  The fact that DaLuise was still in jail only meant that she has not been able to make her bond yet, not evidence of her guilt.

Backside, exterior view, LA County Airport Courthouse

I checked the LA County Sheriff's inmate locator web site and discovered DaLuise's case was filed at the Airport Courthouse.  This courthouse, which opened in February 2000, is a relatively new building, as far as court buildings for LA County go. I had never been there, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to see the building and sit in on DaLuise's hearing.

Getting to the Airport Courthouse required leaving the house almost an hour earlier than when I leave for downtown, so I don't hit any traffic on I-405. Once I found parking, I got breakfast in the Cafeteria. The security station on the main floor doesn't open until 8:00 AM. When I get in the security line, it's quite long. It has wound the length of the long lobby hallway three times. Fortunately, the line moves pretty quickly.

The Courthouse has nine floors and thirteen courtroom. At the end of the long lobby there are four glass elevators in a half circle, which are visible in the above photo. One of the elevators has a sign in front that states it's not in use.

When I get to the 8th floor, there’s a sign on Dept. E, Judge James R. Dabney's court, that the courtroom is dark, and all calendar matters will be held in Dept. F, Judge Mark Windham’s courtroom.

A cameraman with a tripod is here with a thin, blond reporter with ABC 20/20. I don't recognize her but she remembers me. I met her at the Kelly Soo Park trial. She is kind enough to give me the correct spelling of the defense attorney, Philip Dube, with the Public Defender's office. 

The DA's case calendar indicates the prosecutor assigned to the case is Heather Steggell.

There are less than a handful of people in the beautiful glass and tile building.  The floor tiles are an alternating pattern of off white and black & green squares surrounded by cream rectangular pieces. The walls are tiled using the same colors in large 12x24 inch tiles.

A red haired woman wearing a leopard print blouse walks down to this wing and checks the door on Dept. E. I'm checking our her red leather handbag. I say to her, "You here for Dawn?" She takes the cement bench beside me and replies that she is and asks me if I know Dawn. She is a friend. I tell her that I don't know her, that I'm an independent journalist.

The red haired friend gets up and hugs a pretty younger woman. She also greets a middle aged man. I hear her say the man's name. There are a few other supporters here. An older black woman that the younger woman hugs.  An eclectic group.  In the hallway, I chat with my friend Pat who tells me that this might be Dawn's ex-husband.

8:34 AM
The courtroom opens but no one heads inside. A suited gentleman with a badge walks by.

9:04 AM
I finally enter Dept. F and take a seat beside the blond reporter in the first row. She points out Dube to me. I continue to use my laptop in court since the judge is on the bench and no one has told me I have to close it. I see Dube head into the jail custody area to speak to his client but he comes back out quickly. There is a little window in the door to the jail area. The bailiff's desk is right in front of the door. It appears Dube might have a clerk with him, a very young looking man. No, I'm wrong.

The courtroom is not set up like a typical courtroom with the bench in the center of the back wall. This courtroom is different. The wood bench is a quarter circle in the back left corner. The back wall is wood paneling with a small State of California seal in the center, just like the ones I've seen on the lower floors of the downtown criminal court building.

The gallery seating are individual fold up seats with seat and back cushions. They're not bad. The fabric covering the seats is a muted blue with tiny lighter gray squares. All the courtroom decor is complimentary to the overall building design and colors.  The counsel seating in the well area is quite nice, too. All the chairs have a wood trim across the high backs. You can see one of the chairs in the photo of DaLuise.

The four people here for DaLuise are on the other side of the courtroom and a row or two back. From left to right they are, the black woman, the young woman, the possible ex-husband and then the red headed friend.

The ABC and I both wonder if the young woman in court is one of DaLuise's two daughters. DaLuise has posted photos of her daughters, as well as their names and ages on her Twitter account. I can't tell from where I'm sitting if it is one of her daughter's in the gallery, but it's a good bet.

9:16 AM 
Judge Mark Windham comes out and takes the bench. He's wearing glasses. The bailiff asks everyone to stand. Court is now in session.

The walls that divide the well from the gallery are much higher than the downtown courtrooms. My laptop can't be seen from the bench and the bailiff doesn't ask me to close it.

Another case is heard first. It's put over over till tomorrow. A second case heard. The ABC reporter tells me that Mr. Dube is not in the courtroom at the moment. Counsel come and go. There are about five DA’s in the well and three defense attorneys.

Second defendat is brought out.  It's a death penalty case. It's put over for another date. The people don’t oppose a continuance.  Time is waived continued to May 2.

Third defendant brought out from custody. This is a sentencing. Appears that circumstances were, for the defendant to pay certain amount of victim restitution or sentenced to180 days in jail. Caltrans on probabtion violation paid part of it. There are some reports missing but the defense attorney says they have a plea transcript. There is no probation report. The defense attorney waives that. Grand theft. Probation for three years. Defendant to serve 180 days in LA County jail. The defendant's good time credits are outlined. 100 days credit against 180 days. Restitution $2,157.00. The defendant paid $1,000.00 last November 12. The court (claimed? indicated?) on February 25, the defendant paid $500.00 more. The defense attorney states his client did not pay that. The parties are working out the specifics. The people agree.

I look on over at the jury box. There appear to be 14 or 15 seats in three rows.

A fourth case is called that requires a Spanish language interpreter. It's a 3 count arraignment. Defendant pleads not guilty and denying all special allegations.  The cameraman sets up his camera in the jury box.

9:30 AM
A fifth case is called. The defense and people state their names for the record. The DDA is Ms. Walker. There are new occurrences.  The interpreter returns to her seat in the jury box, first row.

I note there are some beautiful tall wood file cabinets against the wall right beside the jury box, with a few plants on top. The California State flag and US flag are on poles on each side the State of California seal. The witness box sits in between the flags and under the state seal. This is where one would normally find the judge's bench.  The court reporter's desk is directly in front of the witness box.

A sixth case is called. I can't pronounce the defendant's name. He's wearing the LA County jail's new pale, lime green jumpsuit. There is an admission the defendant violated his probation.

9:36 AM
The youngish looking man that was speaking to Dube is Matthew A. King, an attorney with the State of California, Dept. of Justice, Office of the Attorney General. He is here to plead to the court to have DaLuise's Esthetician License put on hold/ revoked pending the outcome of the trial.

Earlier I saw the young woman that might be one of the defendant's daughters leave the courtroom for a time. Now she's back.  She comes over to the ABC reporter sitting next to me. She confirms the reporter's name. She introduces herself. She say's her name. It is one of DaLuise's daughters. She hands the ABC reporter a subpoena.

The reporter doesn't understand why she is being subpoenaed. This probably has something to do with the ABC 20/20 segment. I tell my reporter friend to contact her legal department as soon as possible. I'm surprised the reporter was served in open court, while the judge was on the bench. I've never seen that before. I thought it couldn't be done while court was in session, or even inside a courtroom but another reporter friend tells me it's legal.

9:55 AM
Mr. Dube enters the courtroom and then goes back to the custody holding area again.

I note that the clerk's desk is against the left side wall, directly beside the judge's desk. I'm trying to describe the side walls but it's difficult. They look like 2 feet by six feet, fabric covered panels in an off white color. They have a bit of a three dimension to them. From far away, they look like stone. There is a large sign on the side wall over the jury box, identifying the seat numbers.

Judge Windham stays on bench inbetween cases. He doesn’t go back in chambers when there is a lull in the courtroom.

10:15 AM
My laptop battery ran low so I had to switch to hand written notes.
More cases are called, but not DaLuise. It looks like there is a DDA permanently assigned to this courtroom to handle cases.

10:23 AM
Judge Windham asks if they are ready for DaLuise. DaLuise is brought out and her case is called. Judge Windham goes on the record.

Mr. King from the State of California. He's talking about protective orders. If the defendant makes bail, I believe King is asking for conditions be set on her bail that she not be allowed to practice. Dr. Conrad Murray's right to practice medicine in California was suspended pending the outcome of his involuntary murder trial. I will be surprised if the judge doesn't grant the State's request.

The prosecutor is not here at the moment. The DA assigned is in trial ... the defense waived time previously. The DA arrives. She is in trial in Dept. C.  I believe she tells the court that's scheduled to last through May 9th.

Judge Windham sets a date of May 12th for the prelim. That date is fine for the prosecution but the defense is in trial on that date.

I see that DaLuise has her right hand on her face, her elbow resting on the arm of her chair.

The judge goes over the defendants rights. The defendant has two rights, three really and prelim may not be unduly (violated?). There is a 10 day right then a 60 day right. These were waived for further investigation and discovery.  Further, there would be the right of reasonableness.

It appears the case may be continued without some other statute providing the defendant not waived the 10/60 rights.

DaLuise turns around to look at the gallery.  Judge Windham asks about a date of May 19th. Both parties agree. The court clock will be set at zero of 10 on that date. The case will be continued to that date.

I have in my notes Judge Windham, citation for People v. (Love?).

The people request a protective order for Garbiel Suarez, Elaine Suarez, Maria Suarez and Angel Suarez. I believe that's granted.  Judge asks to hear from Mr. King. King filed a motion on revoking the defendant's license to practice.

I have in my notes that (Pub?) cannot represent her on this motion. Judge Windham states, "As I understand ... the Attorney General may intervene in a case." It's not clear in my notes who says "... I'm not acting as a licensing agency..."

I believe Judge Windham continues, "... as a condition of bail, is a legitimate concern. ... Were this a purley civil issue, I'd understand ... concern. ... The way the Attorney General described ... is described in broad terms."

I believe DaLuise's defense attorney argues that this is a matter of bail and probation ...

There's more argument back and forth I believe, between the court and Mr. Dube. Judge Windham states, "I'm not going to consier limiting it in any other way. ... completely within bailwick as condition of bail. ... to protect the general public."

She occupies a position of great public trust.  Liken this to Prop 9.  (Victims?)  I see state of intervention in bail issue for purpose.  I'm not going to delay hearing and order to submit.

I believe Mr. Dube continues his arguments.

In setting bail, not aware of any condition to allow court to factor in employment. ... We are pre conviction. ... To strip her pre conviction is to consider her guilty. ... It will bar her from earning a living.

Mr. King states, purpose of setting bail is to protect the public.  I believe King brings up people v. Gray. The court can exercise that power and set as a condition of bail, suspension of practice or less (constrictive?) conditions of bail.  ... The prosecution alleges that defendant solicited murder against another Esthetician. ... Condition of bail ... she should be suspended from practice.

Judge Windham thinks his authority is clear to set a limit if bail is met.

This right is protected by preliminary hearing. If defendant should not be held to answer, then the issue is moot.

Mr. Dube argues the standard of proof, is a lighter burden (at prelim). Standard of the prelim is probable cause.

This is all moot if she remains in custody.

Judge Windham rules. "I think the public should be protected. ... risk to public. ... Temporary suspension of her license. ... Feel it is appropriate."

The amount of bail stands. If she makes bail, she is not to practice cosmetology and obey the protective order.  I believe the court asks if there is any other discovery from the people.  The people respond, "At this point, no."

The defendant is taken back into custody. And that's it.  Next hearing is May 19. The date for the prelim will most likely be set on that date.

I wait in the hallway for Mr. King to exit so I can get his business card. After that, I make my way home.

Dawn DaLuise Website (Appears to be suspended)
Dawn DaLuise on T.witter
Dawn DaLuise on Facebook

Mainstream Media Reports
03/07/14 LA Times - Skin care expert to stars charged with plotting to kill rival
03/07/14 TMZ - Ex Detroit Lions Player Suspected Hit Man in Murder for Hire Plot
03/12/14 ParkLaBreaNews - WeHo spa owner arrested in murder for hire plot
03/13/14 LA Times - West Hollywood skin care guru wanted to kill rival
03/1314 CBS4 - Witness Arrested for Cyber Stalking Rape Threat that Led to Murder for Hire Plot
03/14/14 People - Celeb Facialist Ordered Hit on Wrong Guy
04/11/14 ABC 20/20 Video Report

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Michael Gargiulo Case: Pretrial Hearing 17A

 Michael Thomas Gargiulo, in custody

UPDATE 5/18: edited for clarity, spelling

May 9th, 2014
8:05 AM
I’m on the 9th floor of the downtown Los Angeles Criminal Justice Center, sitting at the end of the left wing. It’s virtually empty in the hallway this early.

Backstory: Gargiulo's Last Pretrial Hearing
The last time I attended a court hearing was on April 17th at the Airport Courthouse. I have notes I still have to write up about the case of Dawn DaLuise, who is charged with attempted murder for hire.

After that hearing, I got home around noon and realized I had food poisoning. After 12 hours of pain, it left me flat on my back and out of sorts for almost five days, which is why I missed Gargiulo's last hearing on April 18th.

At Gargiulo's previous hearing on March 7th, stand-in defense attorney, Charles Lindner was ordered by Judge Ohta to appear on April 18th. My understanding is, Lindner did appear on the 18th. At that time, Judge Ohta still had not reviewed Gargiulo's subpoena's in camera.

May 9th, 2014
8:06 AM
A few minutes after I arrived, Gargiulo's defense investigator Chris Nicely arrived.  He’s wearing a nice dark suit jacket and slightly lighter gray pants. Most other times I’ve seen him, he’s worn sweater vests. It’s been a hot spring for Los Angeles so far this year, so I’m not surprised that Nicely switched to wearing a jacket.

8:19 AM
Down in the center of the hallway I see defense counsel for the Joshua Woodward case. Megan Wisegerber,  Kelly T. Currie are standing. It’s a guess that Janet Levine is sitting. I keep leaning forward to try to see if it’s her, but since she's on the same side of the hallway that I'm on, I can't tell from where I'm sitting.

The hallway is filling up with people at the other end.  It is Ms. Levine who was on the bench. She got up and I was able to see her face. They are waiting for Dept. 103 to open. I’ll miss that hearing this morning.  After Gargiulo, I’ll have to find out when the next pretrial hearing is for that case.  (Readers, you can always check the listing of 'Upcoming Pretrial Hearings' in the right column for cases you are interested in. Sprocket)

Nicely is sitting to my left. I glance over and see that he is reading some hand-written pages on lined paper. Looking back down the hallway, I can’t see as far as I used to. I’ll have to get my prescription updated.

One news event that I’ve been obsessed with the past two months has been the disappearance of flight MH370.

8:26 AM

The activity in the hallway has quieted down a bit.  I keep glancing left to see if the prosecutors from the Woodward case (DDA Marguritte Rizzo and DDA Habib Balian) have arrived yet. Woodward’s defense attorney’s are still in the hallway.

8:31 AM
I see one of the Woodward prosecutors, DDA Marguriette Rizzo walk this way.  She’s wearing that cream trench jacket with the big buttons down the back that I really like. She gives me a smile and heads into the ladies restroom.

Over at Department 107, Judge Lomeli steps out and unlocks his own courtroom door. Coffee cup in hand, he's wearing his standard suit vest.

8:39 AM
Down at the center of the hallway, I  see DDA Habib Balian has arrived. He's chatting with Woodward’s defense team. Then everyone steps into Dept. 103.

8:48 AM
LA County Sheriff's Detective Mark Lillienfeld arrives. He smiles and says hello. He then greets a man at the end of the hallway and they chat.

8:49 AM
Chris Nicely gets up and enters Dept. 108.

I unplug my computer from the wall outlet and close up my laptop. I follow him inside a few moments later.

8:50 AM
After I take a seat in the second bench row, investigator Christian Filipiak arrives. We exchange greetings and then he goes over to chat with Chris Nicely. Then the both step outside the courtroom.  Getting back into taking hand notes after I've been away for so long is hard.

I note that there is another deputy with Judge Ohta's bailiff at the bailiff's glassed in area. They both appear to be deeply focused on their cell phones. Judge Ohta's clerk comes out of the back area. She sees me, smiles and says hello.

8:55 AM
Detective Lillienfeld enters and takes a seat in the well.

A handsome bald man comes out from the back area carrying two soft sachels. It suddenly dawns on me that this is Judge Larry Fidler, who presided over the Phil Spector trial.  It's a good guess that he used the private elevator on Judge Ohta's side of the building. To me, Judge Fidler doesn't appear to be as tall as what I remembered when I sat in his courtroom through two trials.

Detective Lillienfeld heads out to the hallway. The clerk hands a package of juror notebooks to the bailiff. Wondering if Judge Ohta is in trial at the moment, I stand up to see if there are notebooks on the seats in the jury box. No notebooks on the seats.

9:05 AM
Another deputy arrives telling the other two about an event this Sunday.  Moments later, DDA Akemon arrives.  Detective Lillienfeld is back and Akemon compliments Lillienfeld on the deep green color of his suit.  I agree. It is a nice suit.

DDA Akemon and DDA Garrett Dameron leave the courtroom to have a private chat in the ante chamber.

9:08 AM
The pretty, black female deputy arrives. She has three stripes on her shoulder, but I don't know what rank that represents.  The four deputies are discussing a report about Gargiulo. Something happened on the way back to Men's Central Jail at his last hearing on April 18th.   I overhear one of the deputies say the DA wants to increase security involving Gargiulo.  They mention Gargiulo's pro per status.  Now the bailiff from Dept. 107 comes in and they share their information with him. Another statement I overhear is, "... apparently he's a trained boxer ... he has an issue."  Another says, "... so far ... he's pretty cooperative."  I hear them mention an escape attempt. The female deputy is reading a document and another deputy tells her about the El Monte jail incident. Another deputy with two stripes arrives.  I overhear statements that sound like, 'DA wants to increase security because of what happened when he came back from court ... and the handcuffs."  During this conversation about Gargiulo, I observed one of the deputies touch his fingers to his lips in describing the event.

9:16 AM
Judge Ohta's pretty court reporter comes out and sets up her equipment.

9:19 AM
DDA Akemon and Gargiulo's investigator chat at the defense table. Akemon places papers on the defense table and they appear to discuss them. There are three stacks of papers. One stack is over an inch thick.

I believe Akemon tells the investigator he laid out a timetable at the last hearing of a potential trial date of April 2015. There's one document that Filipiak asks Akemon if Gargiulo is entitled to have a copy of. I hear Akemon reply that he doesn't know but he'll find out.

DDA Akemon and Detective Lillienfeld leave the courtroom. I believe they left to make copies.

9:25 AM
Gargiulo is brought out. There are four deputies in the well, watching him. I have to move a little farther down on the bench row to get a clear view of Gargiulo.

Gargiulo chats with his investigators. Judge Ohta comes out in his robes. He sets papers and files on his bench and starts to go over some of the files.  Judge Ohta works on a file at the bench.  Gargiulo is still going over the papers at the defense table with his investigators.

9:30 AM
DDA Akemon returns and Judge Ohta goes on the record with People v. Gargiulo. The defendant is before the court, representing himself. He asks the investigators and the prosecutors to state their appearances for the record.  Judge Ohta tells the parties, "There are several things to take up today. ... One relates to (discovery?) [The SDT's] and one relates to pro per privileges. ... [We'll] take pro per status first. ... I received a document, filed on May 1. Before this document (was?) filed with the court ... (the) Sheriff's department faxed to the court notice that a Wilson hearing had taken place on (April 25th?)"

Based on the notice the court received and the documentation filed by the Sheriff's, it would appear that the Sheriff's Department proceeded with a Wilson hearing. The defendant was in violation and his pro per jail privileges were taken away.

Judge Ohta continues, "Before I go further, the allegation of jail (weapon? contraband?) is a crime. ... You have a right against self incrimination." Judge Ohta continues informing Gargiulo of all his rights with this allegation.  "You have a right to have the court review what happened. ... and (the?) basis of the sheriff's action against you. ... I don't know if a case will be filed against you regarding the 'shank' ..."

Judge Ohta then proceeds to read into the record the local rule 8.42, that requires certain things be done and note for the record what has been done so far.

Judge Ohta goes over what the documents he's read, appear to indicate what happened.

Gargiulo appeared in court on April 18, 2014. Apparently, on the way back to jail, Gargiulo was searched. Deputy (Pace?) found a metal object hidden in your mouth. On April 21, a (discovery?) hearing was conducted and you were found guilty."

Gargiulo was disciplined and put in "the hole."(I believe Gargiulo was put there for 10 days. Sprocket)

Judge Ohta continues, "Then you were given a Wilson hearing on April 25. The hearing officer found you were in violation of two sections of the pro per rules."

The first violation was possession of a metal object (or "shank" or "key").
The second violation is a duty not to infringe on the rights of other pro per status inmates.

Consequently, a notice to the court was faxed on April 28 of the action taken. The court filing was on May 1.

Judge Ohta goes over local rule 8.2. The court explains that the local rule is not legislative mandated. It sets forth certain procedural rights that need to be followed.  I believe Judge Ohta is reading a section of the local rule into the record.

1. Notice must be given to you (defendant) 24 hours in advance of a hearing.
2. You have a right to appeal within 48 hours.
3. You may call witnesses.
4. You must be given a copy of the evidence relied upon.

There are certain timing requirements, and this is after receiving notice.
There is a review of the sheriff's decision and then a calendar hearing scheduled to present evidence.

Judge Ohta tells the defendant, "That is what we're doing right now."

Gargiulo replies, "I'd like to speak on the record. The jail failed to follow all the rules. ... I can't prepare because (my?) privileges were violated. ... I filed an appeal and they failed to follow rules and reply in three days. ... There are so many rules they violated by taking me to segregation immediately."

Judge Ohta asks the defendant, "Are you saying that what's in this document is false?"

I miss Gargiulo's reply. Judge Ohta states, "What you're saying is, the notice given to you ... they failed to follow procedures (before?) the Wilson hearing?"

Gargiulo argues that they did not follow proper procedure. "They denied me the right to prepare. ... They did not give me documents until one day before the Wilson hearing. ... I filed a ton of complaints ... that have not been responded to."

Judge Ohta asks, "You're telling me you're not prepared?"  Gargiulo responds, "I have no privileges."

Judge Ohta explains to Gargiulo, "The way California court explains this is done, varies from county to county.  ... Once pro per status given ... the evidence hearing does not have to happen here. It can happen at the jail. ... Only at the point of court review of what happened and the court then determines modifying your privileges. ... What you say happened before ... may not have anything to do with the Wilson hearing. ... The Wilson hearing is separate. ... The memorandum on pro per privileges could be modified. ... They've already been modified by the sheriff's."

Judge Ohta asks Gargiulo what date does he want to return. "You're not going to get your pro per privileges ... You have no law library privileges, but you're entitled to have a hearing. ... You're entitled to present your (position? evidence?)"

I believe it's at this point that Gargiulo tells the court that he doesn't understand how there are two violations. He doesn't understand the second violation.

Judge Ohta patiently explains to Gargiulo, "The sheriff's position is this. If an inmate has a shank, who knows where that shank may travel. ... (It could be) taken to the law library. Other inmates are in jeopardy. ... Their rights are infringed upon."

Gargiulo responds, "That would be based on speculation..."  The court replies, "You could call it that if you like."  Gargiulo asks, "Where would I get the discovery? ... The DA's office?"  Judge Ohta replies, "Not the DA's office. It's the County Sheriff. ... If you're going to allege all things against the (sheriff?) ... I think we can do this in a week. ... The DA's office may not appear. ... You [the DA] can if you like."

A week from today, Judge Ohta will schedule a review of the Wilson hearing on May 16th.  Judge Ohta orders the counsel for the Sheriff's Office to be here on that date.

Judge Ohta then moves onto the other issue. He's gone in camera to review Gargiulo's SDT's (subpoena duces tecum). The DA asked the court to keep certain concerns in mind. I miss what Judge Ohta gives as the first concern, but it's probably personal witness information. The second concern is any material from members of the prosecution team; LA County Sheriff's, El Monte PD.  Judge Ohta looked at envelopes from AOL,, Monterey Police Dept., LA Co. Sheriff's Dept. He did not find anything from (Mark Monitor?).

The material from AOL and, nothing that triggered any of the DA's concerns. The defense investigator will be given the material, make copies and return one to the court.

LA County Sheriff's: Sent out five SDT's. Sheriff's department launched a letter from (their? counsel?) citing 1054. "This is discovery and you need to ask prosecution."

Monterey Police Dept. There was a tape given to the court. This is ostensibly ... one of the issues of DA Akemon ... but not for Monterey Park. The defense will be given the tape and make a copy and return to the court.

Judge Ohta concludes, "And that's everything with respect to the defense SDT's. ... I believe the DA filed a request for discovery from the defense. ... We talked about setting parameters ... a time frame. ... Right now, the pro per privileges are suspended at the end of the Wilson hearing.  ... If I go along with the Sheriff's Dept., and the defense is restricted, you have to make a decision if you want to continue to (represent yourself)."

Gargiulo asks about his phone privileges.  Judge Ohta responds that the court is not required to go along with every single one of the restrictions. ... I don't know if having a shank is necessarily ... You have a right to have a hearing. ... County counsel will be here." Gargiulo asks the court, "Are you expecting a motion?"

Judge Ohta replies, "I don't expect (a motion?).  You dont' have privileges. ... Anything connected to your ability to pro per (privileges), phone, pencils, paper ... is all a privilege."

I'm not sure if Gargiulo asked another question at this point or not.

Judge Ohta continues, "I don't see it (impending?) ... Depending, ... (you?) can possibly have phone privileges back. ... Jail security is (primary?) with the sheriff. They have complete power. Not me."

This review hearing will be next Friday.

Akemon then tells the court that he has turned over to Gargiulo another set of discovery.  I miss the first page number, but the last page number was 27,060.  Gargiulo has in his cell with him, 27,060 pages of discovery from the prosecution.

There's something mentioned about DNA results from SERI that was put on a CD and given to Gargiulo's investigators.

Based on the allegations by the LA County Sheriff's, the prosecution filed with the court a memorandum of manifest need to provide increased courtroom security.  (It's my understanding that the DA's move here is to protect the public. They need to have their position on the record. Sprocket)

Judge Ohta gives his thoughts on this issue. "...finding of manifest need ... pertains to (?) and fact finder (jury). ... We don't need to worry about this until time of trial ... and doesn't impede on Mr. Gargiulo's rights."

I have this exchange in my notes, but unfortunately, I'm not sure who says what. It's possible the court asked the question and Gargiulo responded, or it could be the reverse.
Do you have anything for me?
There's a lot on my plate.
Garguilo then tells the court, "I do have a (question?). I did file a motion with the court regarding defense turning over discovery, stating I didn't have any discovery at this time. Still trying to locate witnesses and interview witnesses."

I believe the court tells the parties, "See you back on Friday, May 16."

A general time waver is then brought up (I believe) by the prosecution. I believe the court explains to the defendant the general time waiver under the penal code and the right to a speedy trial.  A general time waiver means the defendant doesn't have to do the zero of 30.  Judge Ohta asks, "Do you want to keep putting it over?"  Gargiulo agrees to the general time waiver.  However under 1382.a paragraph 2 sub a, if at any time Gargiulo rescinds the general time waiver, he now falls under the requirements of a trial in 60 days.

Judge Ohta asks Gargiulo, "Do you have any questions about what I just read?" "No, your honor," Gargiulo replies. It's on the record. Gargiulo has entered into a general time waiver.

I believe DDA Akemon tells the court that the document, Notice of Results of the LA Sheriff's Dept. hearing, he gave a copy of it to Gargiulo.

And that's it for the May 9th hearing.

It's my understanding that what was found in Gargiulo's mouth during the search on April 18th was the metal clip attached to a ball point pen. My understanding is, the sheriff's report called the piece of metal a "shank" and/or a "handcuff key."

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cameron Brown 3rd Trial: Case Update

Inspiration Point, Ranch Palos Verdes, CA
The sloping ledge on far right point in the photo is where prosecutors
allege Cameron Brown threw 4-year-old Lauren to her death.

On May 12th, I checked the LA County Sheriff's inmate locator web site to see if Cameron Brown's May 13th hearing was still on. The date was changed to May 30th. 

Sources at the court informed me that Cameron Brown is now representing himself. He's pro per. Brown agreed to the new May 30th date. The web site also indicated that Brown was assigned new quarters at Men's Central Jail on April 10. He's mostly likely on the pro per wing/tier now, where defendants are allowed to have their court materials in their cells.

It's my best guess that some time in early April, Brown filed a Faretta motion to represent himself and the motion was granted.  Brown told the court back in June of 2013 that he wanted to go pro per. His defense attorney at the time Aron Laub was able to deflect Brown's attempt to represent himself for 10 months.

What does this do to the case? It basically starts over.  In my opinion, this move will delay the case for certain for a year and possibly up to two years. 

The prosecution must give a copy of every piece of discovery to the defendant, directly. However, there are some things that, legally, the defendant will not be allowed to have, such as the personal information of witnesses.

The prosecution will have to go through every piece of discovery and remove/redact anything that has personal information of witnesses. That will take time. (In the Michael Gargiulo case, there are still some pieces of discovery that have not been turned over to Gargiulo yet. Gargiulo went pro per in 2012.)

Brown will be given an investigator to help him prepare his case. Brown's investigator will be given a complete copy of the prosecution's discovery, but like I said, it will still take some time to get that together and delivered to the defendant. There may be sensitive images that the prosecution feels Brown may not have a right to have in his cell. If they do, they will have to file a motion with the court and it will be litigated.

A pro per account will be opened for Brown at the jail so that he will be able to purchase paper, pencils, envelopes and stamps so he can prepare his case. He will be given access to the law library where there are telephones he can use to speak with his investigator.