Sunday, December 18, 2016

Michael Gargiulo Case: Pretrial Hearing 36

Previous post on this case.

Friday December 16, 2016

I'm back at the downtown criminal court building for the second time this week. The LA County Sheriff's website indicated that Gargiulo's next hearing was on December 13, and I was here for the hearing. The first noticeable difference that day was Judge Ohta's placard was no longer on the door to Dept. 108. The new Judge is Lisa B. Lench. When I enter Dept. 108, I ask the two bailiff's standing in the well about the Gargiulo hearing. They inform me that the Gargiulo case will be in Dept. 106. I leave and head into Dept. 106.

It's been a long time since I've been in Judge Larry Paul Fidler's courtroom for a case. That was for Phil Spector's second trial in 2009. A lot of memories came flooding back as I entered. Even though Judge Fidler's courtroom is an exact duplicate of Dept. 108, Judge Fidler's court seemed smaller than what I remembered. Judge Fidler's clerk Wendy was at her desk. She tells me that the Gargiulo hearing was moved to Friday. This ended up being a totally wasted trip.

The Court's Public Information Office indicated that Judge Ohta has been moved to a new assignment and that the Gargiulo case was moved to Dept. 106 within the past week. Judge Ohta is now in Dept. 123 and the 987.9 Judge for the Gargiulo case. I believe that Judge Ohta has also been moved into a supervisory type position. When I get clarification on that, I'll update.

8:30 AM
Today, I make it back to the 9th floor by 8:30 am. I don't see anyone on the floor so I head inside. I note there is a satchel type briefcase lying on the defense table but no defense counsel in sight. In the gallery, I seen defense investigator Chris Nicely sitting with a handsome, suited young man. They are sitting in the second row and I take a seat in the third row. We exchange smiles. It's been six months since I've seen Chris at court. Chris and I chat about finding budget parking as close to the courthouse as possible.

There is a pretty young reporter sitting in the back row that I do not recognize.

I didn't take note on Wednesday, but today I notice that there is a three foot by two foot video screen mounted on the wall high above the jury box, just like the one in Dept. 30, arraignment court. There is a medium size candy jar on the corner of the clerk's counter, tucked up next to the wall. It's half full. There is an ivy type plant on the corner of the court reporter's desk. A petite female sheriff enters with what appears to be a coffee or tea drink and asking about Dept. 106's bailiff. I overhear the sheriff being told that Judge Fidler doesn't allow coffee in the courtroom, only water. That's good to know. Some judges don't mind if you sip on a coffee or tea, but not Judge Fidler.

9:00 AM

DDA Akemon arrives. He shakes hands with Chris Nicely. Nicely introduces the young man to DDA Akemon. It's Nicely's son. Judge Fidler's court reporter comes out. I don't know her name, but I've seen her in the courthouse over the years. The bailiff comes over to the gallery to ask whom everyone is. Luckily, I remembered to put on my lanyard with my "press" badge.

Next, Dale Rubin comes out from the custody area. He smiles at his investigator then goes over to chat with Akemon. Rubin must have been here for a while getting Gargiulo up to speed. Akemon and Rubin chat off the record about return dates. I overhear March and April and what the defendant may do about waiving rights. The clerk, hearing their conversation better than me, tells counsel that they will be going back to a regular time waiver.  For a time, Judge Ohta allowed Gargiulo to enter into a "general" time waiver. From what I hear, it looks like Akemon and Rubin have agreed on a return date and the clerk, hearing the date agrees.

The clerk asks counsel if they are ready for the court. They are. Gargiulo is brought out. Gargiulo's scalp is still clean shaven. Today he has a full mustache. He's not carrying any bag or loose papers. 

A deputy district attorney I vaguely recognize enters the courtroom. I believe it's Head Deputy of JSID [Justice System Integrity Division], James  Garrison. DDA Garrison was called in the Stephanie Lazarus case to read the preliminary hearing testimony of LASD Criminalist Lloyd Mahaney.

Rubin leans in to chat with his client. Judge Fidler comes out and takes the bench. I'm a bit surprised at the new lines in Judge Fidler's face and the goatee he's sporting. Back in 2009 when Judge Fidler was clean shaven, he reminded me of actor Bruce Willis.

Counsel state their appearances. Judge Fidler states for the record that the case was transferred to him by Dept. 100, the Master Calendar Court.

Rubin then speaks first. He informs the court that this is an 8 year old case. There are a lot of pretrial motions filed by the prosecution. The second chair is Daniel Nardoni. Rubin gives the court a very brief outline as to where the case is today. Rubin states, "We are hopeful to continue the case to March 17.  ... Hopeful on that date to respond to a number of pending [prosecution] motions already filed. ... The penalty investigator is up to speed. The guilt [phase] investigator is taking a little longer. ... [We'll have] a better idea in March."

DDA Akemon informs the court that previously, the case was under a "general" time waver in Dept. 108. Judge Fidler asks about that.  Rubin states that on March 17, they would like to make the court calendar zero of 90. [0/90].

Judge Fidler then addresses the defendant, "Sir, how do you pronounce your name?" Gargiulo responds, "Gargiulo." Judge Fidler quickly goes into reading Gargiulo his right to a speedy trial and asks if he agrees to waive that until the next court hearing on March 17th. Gargiulo agrees. And that's it. Judge Fidler leaves the bench.

Before Gargiulo gets up to be taken back into custody, Rubin points his finger at his client, touching his arm with the tip of his finger. Rubin tells Gargiulo, "Be good." Gargiulo responds, "I hear you." And that's it, he's taken back into custody. That's the last hearing for 2016.

The several times I've seen Gargiulo and his new counsel together, it's a marked difference than the relationship [or lack of one] Gargiulo had with former counsel Charles Lindner. From what I've observed, Rubin treats Gargiulo in a respectful manner and is able to communicate with him one on one.

Next post on this case.