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