Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Southern California Wildfires

Personal Stories
City: Los Angeles, CA
Basin: San Fernando Valley

I took the above photo about 30 minutes ago by stepping onto my street in front of my house and pointing my camera at the western sky. It's filled with smoke. The winds have taken hold of the smoke and the smell has invaded through the tiny cracks of my home.

I then pointed my camera at the eastern horizon. It's more of the same.

The Creek Fire started around 4:00 am near Sylmar, CA, which is about 25 miles from my home. Sylmar is in the northeastern edge of the San Fernando Valley, and butts up against the Angeles National Forest. This story from local ABC7 gives some information on this fire.

A little ways up the I-5 below Santa Clarita the Rye Fire broke out this morning. Santa Clarita is in Los Angeles county and about 40 miles from where I live. This Los Angeles Times story gives a quick update on this fire.

The Thomas Fire sprung up overnight in Ventura County, which is 50 miles to the west of where I live. Over 150 structures in that county have been destroyed. Thousands of people have evacuated the city of Ventura and surrounding areas. This Washington Post story will give you the latest on what Southern Californians are facing.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Seventeen Years Ago Today ...

This is an update of a post from 2009. Sprocket

Lauren Sarene Key, summer 2000.

Seventeen years ago today, in the early afternoon of November 8th, four-year-old Lauren Sarene Key ended up dead at the bottom of Inspiration Point, a 120-foot sheer cliff face in Ranch Palos Verdes. That day, Lauren was on a court-ordered visitation with her biological father, Cameron Brown, who drove her to the Abalone Cove parking lot where they set out on an approximate one-mile hike. The hike was along trails that hugged a steep, ocean cliff. They traveled down to the beach tide pools, back up the cliff to the main road, then out to the tip of Inspiration Point.

To this day, only two people know what really happened to cause Lauren to lose her life in such a dangerous place. Her father, Cameron Brown and Lauren.

Much later that night back at the Sheriff's station, Brown was interviewed by LA Co. Sheriff's Homicide detectives for approximately three hours. According to Detective Jeffery Leslie, Brown gave three slightly different versions as to what happened to Lauren on the southeast section of Inspiration Point. That single interview would be the one and only time Brown cooperated with authorities investigating the death of his daughter.

Brown was arrested on first degree murder charges in 2003. Because of the special circumstances of lying-in-wait and murder for financial gain bail was denied. Brown remained in the custody of LA Co. Sheriff's. Brown's first two trials ended in hung juries. All jurors from both trials agreed that Brown was guilt of something, however, they couldn't decide on what charge.

In November 2013, Huffington Post wrote:
Nov. 16 is Cameron Brown's 10th anniversary in jail, even though he’s never been convicted of a crime.
Brown's third trial started on March 18, 2015 with juror pre-screening. Opening statements started a week later on March 25th.

On May 13, 2015 the jurors reached a unanimous verdict. Brown was convicted of first degree murder. They also found true the special circumstances of lying in wait and murder for financial gain. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole on September 18, 2015. Brown is currently serving his sentence at the CDCR's California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in in Corcoran, California.

 Screenshot of CDCR's inmate locator page for Cameron Brown

Recently, the California Courts of Appeal upheld the lower court's decision on Brown's conviction. Seventeen years later, this case has finally been put to rest for Lauren's family.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cameron Brown's Appeal for Murder Conviction

Lauren Sarene Key, 4

UPDATE 7:30 PM - See below
October 18, 2017
Today, the California Courts of Appeal affirmed the conviction of Cameron Brown on first degree murder charges in the death of his 4-year-old child, Lauren Sarene Key.

Prosecutors argued and the jury agreed that Brown premeditatedly threw his daughter off of a 120ft cliff, Inspiration Point in November 2000 because he did not want to pay child support.

The court docket on the case states the justices "affirmed with modifications." Here is Brown's CA Courts of Appeal docket listing:

Interestingly, if you read the docket, on July 27, 2017, Brown waived the oral argument hearing and the state agreed four days later.

As soon as I am able to get a copy of the published decision, I will post it.

Below is a screenshot of page two of the Appellate Court ruling. The full 94 page document can be found HERE.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Michael Gargiulo Case, Pretrial Hearing 38

Michael  Thomas Gargiulo in 2008 after his arrest.

UPDATE 9/13/17: edited for spelling, minor corrections (guilt phase to penalty phase), etc.
Previous post on this case HERE.

September 8, 2017
I’m on the train to downtown Los Angeles for a pretrial hearing in the Gargiulo case. For the June hearing, I was recovering from a lung infection and did not want to risk coughing up a storm in Judge Fidler’s court. It’s also why I’ve missed several pretrial hearings in the Robert Durst case.

When I reach the front entrance to the courthouse, I immediately notice a change. One security station was moved from the back of the building lobby to right inside the front door. So the long line to get in will back up outside the building instead of inside. There is still one security station inside the lobby on the south side entrance beside the west wall, creating a wide open lobby space.

East of the new lobby space, the District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division (JSID) used to be located in a cubby of warren like offices. They moved out of there when the DA moved into the renovated old courthouse building across the street last year. Since then, renovations had been going on in the old JSID space for sometime. Finished, this space is the new juror waiting room. I don’t know if the new space replaces the 5th and 11th floor jury rooms or is in addition to them.

In the elevator bay, I see 48 Hours producer Greg Fisher and we catch up. Apparently, this is only going to be a short hearing to set a trial date. That’s different than the clerk minute notes from the June hearing.  I got a copy of them in early July to make sure I didn’t miss anything important.

Up on the 9th floor, we run into People Magazine's Christine Peliseck. While working for LA Weekly, Christine broke the 'Grim Sleeper' story. Christine’s book on the Grim Sleeper case has been out since June. We head inside Dept. 106, Judge Fidler’s court and take a seat in the third row. 

Sitting in the second row off to our right is defense investigator Chris Nicely. His handsome young son is with him again.

I apologize to Christine that I missed her book reading at author Carolyn Murnick’s last LA book signing (explaining the long recovery Mr. Sprocket has had after his heart surgery). Murnick’s book, The Hot One, is about her murdered friend Ashley Ellerin, one of Gargiulo’s alleged victims. I met the lovely Carolyn back in 2012, not long after I started covering Gargiulo’s pretrial hearings.

While we wait, I try not to be too nosy listening to Christine and Greg discuss DDA Beth Silverman's new case. It's the murder of a well known hairdresser Fabio Sementilli. Apparently, the grand jury testimony has been sealed. Sementill's wife Monica 45, and her alleged lover Robert Louis Baker 55, have been charged with his brutal murder.

9:48 AM
Defense attorney Dan Nardoni arrives. He greets Judge Fidler’s clerk, checking in with her.  I strain to overhear the conversation going on over at the clerk’s desk. From what snatches I can hear, the prosecution is dropping the robbery charges and the trial won’t start until January.

9:52 AM
Lead defense attorney Dale Rubin arrives. He joins Nardoni in his conversation with the clerk.

It’s All About Scheduling

We hear quite a bit of what’s going on and why the case will wait until January. Apparently, Judge Fidler is backed up solid with trials. The court has a death penalty case that is going to trial October 30 and that case will go on until the end of the year. There are no dates available during that trial for pretrial hearings in this case. If that case ends in a guilty verdict, then the penalty phase will happen, pushing the trial into January.

From the clerk’s perspective there is quite a bit more work that the court reporter is responsible for on a death penalty (DP) case. There is a lot of verification that must go into a DP court transcript. It must be certified by prosecution and defense for any errors. The clerk informs the defense that she has to give her court reporter a bit of extra time before starting another DP case back to back. 

She has to have a break.

Another issue is, the clerk is adamant that she needs 30-45 days for the court to obtain the needed number of jurors and she will NOT put in the request for them until a trial date has been set. 

She's learned that lesson the hard way.

The defense and the clerk go back and forth about setting a motions date and setting a trial date. The clerk is firm about giving her court reporter the time she needs as well as not willing to put in a request for jurors early, before a set trial date. Back and for the negotiations go.

I miss writing in my notes exactly when DDA Dan Akemon and DDA Garrett Dameron arrive. There’s also a new sheriff’s detective in the gallery. I believe I've met him before but I've forgotten his name. From my understanding Detective Mark Lillienfield has retired. He may have joined the DA’s office but it’s not clear if he’s still there. If my fading memory is right, this detective is Lillienfield’s former partner. DDA’s Dameron and Akemon join the defense at the clerks desk to try to workout the trial schedule.

After the Gargiulo case, the clerk states there are three trials stacked up after them. The defense has a “lot of motions” that need to be argued. They will need a full day(s?) for that and they still have responses and additional motions to file. The clerk asks, “Why did you wait so long to schedule motions?” I want to raise my hand and say, "I'm wondering the same thing!" From all the positive things I’ve heard about Mr. Rubin, purposefully dragging out a case is not something he does.

It's my personal bet (with no inside information) that arguing all the motions filed so far and those yet to come will take at least two days

 if not more. I just can't see how they will be done with everything in one day.

The 995 (defense motion to dismiss) has not been argued. Usually that motion is a formality motion by the defense soon after the preliminary hearing is finished. The prelim was held in 2010. Gargiulo went pro per in 2012 and before the 995 motion was filed. Over two years later, Gargiulo (who never filed a 995 motion) gave up his pro per status and former defense attorney Charles Lindner was re-appointed. I believe Lindner filed his 995 motion late in 2015. Right after that the court removed him from the case. Then it took time for the 987.95 court to appoint new counsel and approve their presented budget.

The people have filed a motion to present the events of the Perkin's Operation at the El Monte, California jail.  They still have to argue at least one 1101(b) motion -uncharged prior bad acts- to see if the prosecution can present the DNA evidence in the Illinois 1993 Tricia Pacaccio murder. Back when the case was in Dept. 108, it was speculated that it could take up to 90 days to get that evidence from Illinois, have it tested by the prosecution and defense and presented for trial.

I’m gathering from the conversation that Dale Rubin is retiring and the Gargiulo case will be his last case. He doesn’t want to be here in court over the summer.

The trial date is set at zero-of-60 on January 12, 2018. That means the trial will be held within 60 days of that date. That gives the clerk her 30-45 days she needs to get the needed jurors. Motions will be argued almost a month later on Feb 2nd.

It appears that is satisfactory to everyone so all that’s left is the formality of putting the case over on the record.

10:17 AM

The bailiff brings Gargiulo out. He is still completely balled and clean shaven, the only hair on his face are his eyebrows. He’s in an orange jumpsuit with the white long-john shirt on underneath. He’s wearing the black horn-rimmed glasses. Rubin and Nardoni lean in to speak to him.

10:20 AM
Judge Fidler takes the bench. The sheriff’s detective leaves. The case goes on the record. The court states the defendant is present. The people filed an amended complaint [dropping the burglary charges] and waive the reading. Gargiulo is still charged with two murders, one attempted murder and one attempted escape [during the Perkin’s Operation].

February 2nd is set for motions all day. All motions (and responses?) are to be filed by January 12. Trial date is set for January 12, zero-of-60. The court asks Gargiulo if he agrees and that’s it. Quick hearing.

On the elevator ride down I got a chance to catch up with DDA’s Dameron and Akemon who I had no seen since March. I let them know about Mr. Sprocket’s recovery and his latest challenge. In July, he completely tore is long head biceps tendon. Hopefully when I have time, I’ll try to update everyone on how he’s doing.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Michael Gargiulo Case, Pretrial Hearing 37

Previous post on this case.

March 17, 2017
I'm on the 9th floor of Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles waiting for Dept. 106, Judge Larry Paul Fidler's courtroom to open.

Several members of Gargiulo's defense team are also in the hallway deep in conversation.

Around 8:43am, Deputy DA Daniel Akemon arrives with a rolling cart and two file boxes. I'm surprised. Could that really be two additional full boxes of discovery at this late date?

Judge Fidler's courtroom opens and we all file inside.  Judge Fidler is not on the bench yet and some counsel in the courtroom don't appear to be happy about that.

There's a beautiful bouquet of roses on the court reporter's desk. The candy jar at the clerk's desk is almost empty. For the first time, I notice a small desk bell, like you might find at a hotel desk, on the court clerk's counter. 

I have a flashback that over ten years ago, in February 2007 I first entered this courtroom for a pretrial hearing in the Phil Spector trial. The juror's chairs contain spiral notebooks, an indication that Judge Fidler is in the middle of a trial.

The court reporter comes out and sets up her equipment. A man, possibly an attorney, enters the courtroom. He chats with the court reporter, then goes into the back area to get tissues from the restroom.  The court clerk is at her desk. She warns an attorney not to get lost, that she is set to start at 9:15am.

In the well of the court I hear the words, "...four thousand pages of discovery turned over today..." There really is a lot of discovery being turned over today.

9:30 am
Defense counsel and the prosecution are over at the clerk's desk, having a conversation. There are other counsel in the well. There's a female Deputy DA I recognize, but I can't remember her name. Several counsel are wearing green for St. Patrick's Day. DDA Akemon has on a bright, almost neon green tie. It reminds me of his friend, former Deputy DA Alan Jackson's extensive tie collection.

I'm surprised. Deputy DA Paul Nunez, who prosecuted Stephanie Lazarus is here in the gallery. DDA Nunez is the Assistant Head Deputy of the Hardcore Gang Division. The new beard he's sprouted looks good on him. He chats with DDA Akemon. He peppers me with questions about Matthew McGough's book on the Lazarus case. I am sworn to secrecy regarding his work. I just smile and reply, "I can't answer that. You should talk to Matt."

Gargiulo is brought out. He looks much the same as he did before. Completely bald and clean shaven.

Judge Fidler goes on the record. The parties state their appearances.

DDA Akemon informs the court that they have turned over the following pages of discovery to the defense. Pages numbered 31,537 to 35,637. He informs the court that there is still ongoing discovery and they will have an additional two boxes of material ready for the defense next week. The people continue to work on discovery.

DDA Akemon brings up California Penal Code 190.3 the aggravating and mitigating factors that jurors are allowed to consider. The people originally filed a motion to introduce testimony from a crime scene analyst. [This would have been testimony by former FBI Profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole.] In an effort to streamline the trial, the prosecution is withdrawing that motion. I'm a bit disappointed from a trial watching perspective, but understand from a 'streamline the trial' perspective.

The people also filed a proposed jury questionnaire today.

The last issue is the voluminous discovery. There are over 35,000 pages. Some pages are duplicate documents. The prosecution has agreed to come up with an alternate set of documents [I take that to mean with no duplicates] so that defense, prosecution and the court are all working off the same set of documents.

The parties agree to set the case over to June, and set the trial in the fall.

DDA Akemon tells the court that the defense has requested the murder books in three death investigations where Gargiulo was considered [at one time] a suspect but never charged. If they turn over those murder books, they contain confidential information, however, the people feel the discovery obligation "trumps" the confidentiality issues in releasing those murder books.

The court issues a protective order for the confidential information in these files that will be turned over. The prosecution estimates the case will take anywhere from eight to twelve weeks for trial.

Lead defense counsel Dale Rubin tells the court that they are trying to cut down the number of witnesses.

The court asks counsel about pre-screening jurors for that length of trial.

Counsel anticipate coming back on June 9th and setting the court clock at 0/90 on that date. The court asks the defendant, "Is that agreeable to you Mr. Gargiulo?" Gargiulo responds, "Yes, it is." The court orders, "So joined."

I don't have it in my notes, but I have a memory of the defense mentioning something to the effect of arguing some motions on that date. And that's it.
Next post on this case can be found HERE.

T&T Readers: I apologize for the lateness of this update. Mostly it's been due to real life responsibilities to my own health and Mr. Sprocket's. For those of you following Mr. Sprocket's recovery, he has returned to work full time with a different company.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Robert Durst - 3/15/15 Interview with LA Co. Deputy DA John Lewin

February 28, 2016
For those of you living in a cave, eccentric real estate heir Robert Durst (of The Jinx fame) was arrested in Louisiana on March 14, 2015. His arrest was initiated by a murder warrant out of Los Angeles. Durst was charged with first degree murder in the death of his long-time friend, Susan Berman. Berman was found shot in the back of the head in her Benedict Canyon home on December 24, 2000.

While in the Louisiana jail facility, the day following his arrest, Durst agreed to an interview with LA County Deputy DA John Lewin. Durst spoke with Lewin for about two hours and forty-five minutes. The interview was video and audio recorded.

The video and audio files were released to the public by the LA Co. District Attorney's office on December 16, 2016, via a motion filed with the court. That motion also includes a complete transcript of the recording.

T&T has uploaded the video to YouTube.

The video consists of two parts, a video file and an audio file. The video was made through a closed circuit camera in the interview room at the Louisiana jail. It did not contain any audio. The audio recording was a separate file, made by the LAPD Robbery Homicide Division.

T&T merged the audio and video recordings, which were slightly different lengths. Although the audio and video were in sync at the start of the recording, towards the end they are out of sync. Because of the wide viewing angle of the video, the participant's faces are not clearly visible.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cameron Brown Appeal Update - Case Fully Briefed

4-year-old Lauren Sarene Key, murdered by her biological father
Cameron John Brown on 11/8/2000.

UPDATE 9/11/17:
Since my last report there have been several updates reflected on the case docket. On April 26, 2017, a petition for review by the California Supreme Court was denied. On July 22, 2017, a notice was sent that oral arguments were scheduled for August 24. On July 27, the appellant (defendant) filed a waiver for oral argument and the state filed their waiver on July 31. On August 24, the arguments were waived and the case submitted. It's now a wait to hear the courts decision.

February 27, 2017
The website for the California Courts, Appellate Court Case Information indicates that Cameron Brown's appeal for his first degree murder conviction in the death of his 4-year-old daughter Lauren is fully briefed. Below is a screenshot of the last actions appearing on the docket for Brown's appeal.

California Courts, Appellate Courts Case Information,
Cameron Brown appeal docket.

Cameron Brown was convicted of first degree murder in the death of his 4-year-old biological daughter, Lauren on May 13, 2015. He was sentenced to life without parole on September 18, 2015. His appeal was filed the same day. California's Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation indicates that Brown is currently being held at California's Substance Abuse Treatment Facility at Corcoran State Prison, in Corcoran, CA.

Full T&T coverage of Brown's second and third trial can be found here.

With the case fully briefed, it's now a waiting game for oral arguments to be scheduled. That could easily take a year or more. To give you an example, the Stephanie Lazarus appeal was fully briefed on December 13, 2013. Oral arguments were not scheduled until June 11, 2015, eighteen months later. The Appellate Court published their decision on July 13, 2015.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Sherri Rae Rasmussen 2/7/1957 - 2/24/1986

Sherri at home, December 1985.

This entry was first published on February 24, 2016. Republished on the anniversary of Sherri's death. Sherri was murdered 31 years ago today. Sprocket.
Matthew McGough is writing a book about Sherri's life and murder.

Sherri Rasmussen was an exceptional person.

Over the last several years I have interviewed many of Sherri’s family members, friends, and colleagues. Thirty years after Sherri’s tragic death, her absence continues to reverberate in their lives.

Sherri’s life was remarkable for how much she accomplished in her twenty-nine years, and for how humble she was. Sherri was a high achiever from the time she was a little girl. Sherri graduated from high school at age sixteen, college at twenty, and became a nurse the same year. At twenty-three, she earned her master’s degree in nursing from UCLA.

Despite being younger than many of her nursing colleagues, first at UCLA Medical Center and later at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, Sherri’s personal nature commanded trust and respect. Those who worked with Sherri remember her as an extremely competent nurse, always calm under pressure, and a natural leader. Sherri cared deeply about her patients and about the profession of nursing, to which she dedicated her adult life.

Sherri loved her family and friends and was beloved by them. Many people have told me about the profound impact Sherri had on their lives, how she encouraged them to do their best, and how her example continues to inspire them, even all these years later.

Jackie Robinson once said, “A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives.” By this measure, it makes perfect sense that Sherri is remembered so fondly by so many.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Robert Durst Pretrial Hearing 3

UPDATE 1:00 pm
February 17, 2016
Today will be my fourth day at the Airport Courthouse, attending a pretrial hearing in the Robert Durst murder case.

There was a preconceived notion that the hearing would only last three days.  I'm not placing any bets that by 4:30 pm today direct and cross examination of the "secret witness" will be completed. The hearings are to question witnesses the prosecution plans to call at trial just in case these witnesses might not be available by the time the trial takes place. This is conditional testimony and that questioning comes with wider latitudes. There has been testimony that in a regular trial would be considered hearsay, and has not been offered for the truth of the matter. If the witnesses are available for trial, then this conditional testimony is moot. However, if for some reason these witnesses are unavailable, some of this testimony taken today will be admitted at trial. The DA has also taken the step of video taping the witnesses.

I am days behind in posting my detail notes on the last few days of the hearing. Having a recovering husband means my writing time at home is limited.  Until I get those notes published, I will give a short synopsis on what each witness has testified to so far.

On Tuesday the first witness was Dr. Kuperman. He testified about his duties at Albert Einstein Medical College, what the curriculum, assignments and responsibilities were for med students during each year back in late 1978-1982.

Dr. Kuperman stated that he remembered Kathy Durst, the defendant's first wife, how attractive she was, that she was bright and a "sharp dresser" and that in four years he had two conversations with her. He testified the total time he had spoken to her in those four years was about 15 minutes.

Kathy disappeared February 1, 1982, months away from graduating. Dr. Kuperman stated that based on her school records, he saw no reason that she wouldn't have graduated. Dr. Kuperman also testified that he had never spoken to her on the phone before he received a phone call from a female voice on February 1, 1982 who identified themselves as Kathy Durst. Today, Dr. Kuperman cannot be certain that the voice he heard on the phone was Kathy Durst.

On Wednesday, Susan Giordano, a close personal friend of the defendant, testified that Durst was her best friend. She said she loved Durst and that their relationship was strictly platonic. She also testified that she did not give police permission to remove over 60 boxes of Durst's personal effects that were stored in her basement.

On Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday, the prosecution's "secret witness" Nathan "Nick" Chavin took the stand. He testified that he met the defendant, a long-time close friend over 30 years ago through their mutual friend, victim Susan Berman.

Chavin testified that in December 2014, he had dinner with the defendant. After the dinner when they were walking away from the restaurant, Chavin and Durst had a talk about the murder of Susan Berman. Chavin testified, "Bob said I had to. It was either her or me. I had no choice." Chavin then asked about Kathy but "... he continued to walk away."

Chavin's direct testimony continues today.

1:00 PM
Defense cross examination of Nathan Chavin by lead counsel Dick DeGuerin began around 10:40 am and continued to the lunch break. At one point, DeGuerin raided his voice and appeared to be yelling at the witness. The prosecution objected to this.

Chavin was confronted via transcripts with conflicting statements he made in his various interviews with the prosecution team, about what he said the defendant told him regarding Berman's murder at their dinner meeting in 2014.

Right before the lunch break was called, DeGuerin informed the court that when they resume, they will be playing the entire 60 minute audio of a July 24, 2015 interview Chavin had with prosecutors.

It's doubtful at this point this hearing will be concluded today. On Thursday we learned that Judge Windham has a trial that is scheduled to start on Tuesday. Monday, President's Day is a court holiday.

Correction, DeGuerin states the recording is from July 23, 2015.

4:30 PM
Amazing we finished today. Next hearing is for motions on April 25.

More to come.....

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Robert Durst Pretrial Hearing 2 & Mr. Sprocket Update

spelling of Det. Bengtson's name, further additions

UPDATE 12:00 AM added more notes from today's hearing
minor spelling corrections and (?) notations about name spellings
February 14, 2017
8:40 AM
Testimony from two prosecution witnesses is expected today in order to memorialize their statements for trial. For one witness, this is due to age. For a second witness the prosecution has shared with the court their concerns about the witnesses' safety. The identity of this witness has been kept from the public. I believe at the last hearing the court ordered the people to share the name with the defense team at the end of January.

At the last pretrial hearing, I live-blogged from the courtroom. The consequences of that meant that when I later went into edit, I did not have a back-up copy of my notes and I lost a good portion of my data. So for today's hearing my notes will be posted later. If there are breaks, I may post to Twitter during the hearing.

The courtroom is a nice modern courtroom but the number of seats in the gallery are very few. For the last hearing, most of the seats were taken up by the mainstream media.

Mr. Sprocket Update

It is unknown how long this hearing will take. It could take all day, which will definitely put a damper on Mr. Sprocket's plans for or day. For those of you wondering how Mr. Sprocket is doing, he's slowly recovering.

Last December, the day he was cleared to drive again we learned that he had a broken/ separated rib in his upper right chest, a common byproduct of open heart surgery. It explained why he still had so much pain in one localized spot. It also delayed his recovery and ability to exercise these past two months.

However, he's doing much better now. He's started exercising and working to build his strength back. Sadly, we learned yesterday that his job will not be waiting for him when he is able to return to work.

Last week, I mailed out 'Thank You' gifts to everyone who made a donation to T&T to help us out financially. We can't thank or friends and readers enough, or tell you how much your donation has helped us through this difficult time.

A note to new readers. T&T is 100% reader funded. T&T does not receive any financial backing other than what our readers donate. If you appreciate the public service that T&T provides, consider making a donation to cover T&T's court costs. Thank you.

8:54 AM
Robert Durst Defense Team

Dick DeGuerin arrives with Donald Re and the rest of his team. Donald Re defended German Nationalist Gerhard Becker on involuntary manslaughter in the death of firefighter Glenn Allan. Attorney David Chesnoff arrived in the cafeteria a little after I did.

9:29 AM
On the 8th floor. Several familiar faces among the media. Terri Keith from City News, Marisa Gerber with LA Times, Robert Dean & Andrew Blankstein from Dateline, People Magazine's Christine Pelesik, 48 Hours' Greg Fisher, Brian Melly from the Associated Press. There are other faces that I recognize but I cannot for the life of me place a name with the face. We have two sketch artists today. Bill Blais and Mona Edwards Shaffer.

The defense team also arrived on the 8th floor.

9:40 AM
Mary Hearn of the PIO is here. Her assistant just took role call for the press. But we are learning now that some at the bottom of the list might not get a seat.

10:00 AM
I have a seat! Some seats have been reserved for defense team support staff. They are directly in front of me. I am on the far left of the courtroom and an older, colorful gentleman has the end chair on my left. Greg Fisher is to my right.  Earlier, Bill Blais won the coin toss for sketch artist. Durst is not in the courtroom yet. The Judge is not on the bench yet. I hate this directed, you must sit here seating.

DDA Lewin chatting with Donald Re. I overhear Lewin say something about getting a waiver. It was real quick. There are about eight support staff, possibly more for the defense team. At least five or more for the prosecution. I cannot see over heads.

10:07 AM
More last minute people are being given the final empty seats. I will be switching to draft mode in a few minutes.

10:09 AM
Durst comes out. slowly walking, a back and forth gait.  Fine, Box stripe shirt glasses hanging on for his shirt gray pants. He slowly takes his seat. He turns around to look at the gallery.

[Judge Mark Windham takes the bench. The gallery is called to stand. The bailiff continues his announcement. The court asks the gallery to be seated.]

DeGuerin introduces people to the court. His wife, and I think his son. Stacey (sp?) Manilla.
David Chesnoff. Chip Lewis, Donald Re, (Kathie?) Bane (sp?).

People introduce themselves. Habib Balian, Evan Miller. For the people John Lewin, More people from the prosecution introduced. Lewin also tells the court that there are staff from the crime lab here and other investigative officers are here. George Shamlyan, Elizabeth Camacho, Richard Bengtson, (also miss a name). Another DDA states his name for the record.

Judge allows sketch artist only if image is not definitive.

12:45 PM
I raced down to the cafeteria to get some lunch. I then headed back upstairs to the 8th floor to sit on the floor and use the power outlet. In the entire cafeteria, there were only two power outlets and they were being used by people sitting at the tables next to them.

Before the first witness took the stand,  DeGuerin had an objection to a reporter, Charles Bagli with the New York Times being in the courtroom during testimony. DeGuerin tells the court, "We only found out the name of the witness two weeks ago. There is some. indication I can't say that is [a] credible witness, that's some indicate that Mr. Bagli and this witness are collaborating on a book about the case. ... I have not asked Mr. Bagli about that but there is that fact."

The court rules that Bagli can stay in the courtroom during the first witness testimony. He will wait to make a ruling on the secret witness. DDA Lewin argues to the court the unprecedented step of barring a member of the media from the courtroom. He adds,

"... in many cases you have reporters who have long standing interest in cases and I'm [not] aware, ... no authority as an offer of proof ... they're saying they have suspcion of conflicts .. I’m [confident] you have the authority out there, if you take that step  you [will] have a due process issue. ... I would just ask to a hearing prior to that so we can litigate it."

Judge Windham responds to counsel. "Thank you. That’s why I didn't rule on that.  Ofcourse  I’ll entertain any motion from any side and that motion ..."

The first witness is called, Dr. Albert Kuperman. DDA Balian presents the witness.


Dr. Kuperman lives in New York City and is 85 years old.

Several basic themes are presented to the witness about memory and to let the DA know if he doesn't remember, or if his memory might be from something he read or a personal memory.

Dr. Kuperman gives an abbreviated CV. Before he retired, for 40 years he was the Associate Dean of Education at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. [Interview with Dr. Kuperman before he retired.] Dr. Kuperman has obtained his degree at Cornell Medical School of Sciences. He also has a Ph.D. in
pharmacology. He was responsible fore the management and development of the educational program for medical students. Under him were the heads, directors and various assistant deans.

DDA: The Albert Einstein medical school, how difficult is it for someone to become a med student there?
AK: In the 1980's we would get eight to ten thousand applications for a class of 176. They would screen out all but 1100 and interview 500 or 600 of those 1100 and then choose a class of 176.
DDA: You would take the brightest of the brightest?
AK: Yes.
DDA: If someone could not undergo the curriculum, they would not be there?
AK: Yes.

DDA Balian comments that he went to law school and it was a lot easier.

Dr. Kuperman states that the program is four years. The first year, 95% of the students time would be spent in various biomedical courses, lab and small group sessions as well. The other 5% clinical type teaching.  The first two years is the classroom like work that occurs in a large lecture hall. In the 3rd year, the clerkship rotations in every specialty, psychiatry, surgery, medicine, etc. And the fourth year, there are also a few clerk-ships, neurology being one, some internship in medicine and pediatrics and an ambulatory program. Dr. Kuperman also mentions there are various electives in clinic specialties or research or community based work programs. In the third and fourth year, there are rarely courses that take place in a classroom setting. The clerk-ships take place off campus, so the students get to work in the hospital with patients leaning their craft. They are a minimum of four weeks, maximum eight weeks.

The supervisory structure of these programs are explained. The student either passes or fails. There's no middle ground. The students are given responsibilities where they are located at month in a clerk- ship. The school places the student in a hospital and the doctors will train that student. The supervision is left to those doctors.

During the 1982, there were approximately 700 to 899 students at Albert Einstein Medical School. In his 40 year career, he was responsible for the education of almost 7,000 students.

DDA: Do you remember them all?
AK: No.
DDA: Do you remember some of them?
AK: yes.

Dr. Kuperman explains that most of his interaction was with students who were taking his pharmacology course. Occasionally, students would come to him to discuss special programs the school offered beyond the clerk ships, beyond the required courses. Occasionally he would interact with other students but mostly, issues with students were handled by the Dean of Students. The interaction between student and teacher was formal. In his role, he didn't have much time interacting with students.

The Dean of Students in 1982 was John Cook. His first name was really Jean but he liked to be called John. When Dr. Kuperman arrived Dr. Cook was already dean of students and he remained there until 1988. Dr. Cook's duties are explained. After medical school, a student has an MD degree but not licensed to practice. They must go through three years residency before they can practice. He explains the school matching program.  Dr. Cook was in charge of matching students to the hospital they would do their residency in.

I note that DeGuerin's blond wife, sitting in the row in front of me beside DeGuerin's son has a casual polished look about her.

DDA Balian shifts to asking Dr. Kuperman about a "particular student" that happened in the late 70's to early 80's. Dr. Kupperman is familiar with this particular case and had read media accounts over the years.

DDA: Have you watched the documentary The Jinx?
AK: No.

DeGuerin objects to the word "documentary" to describe Andrew Jarecki's film. The witness testifies he has not watched any film or video related to the Durst situation. He has not seen the movie, All Good Things but has read articles over the years. He acknowledges that it might be difficult to delineate what he has read from what he remembers. He remembers Kathleen Durst. He would see her around campus. He could not give an exact number of times he saw her on campus, but states, "I would say about a dozen times." He remembers what Kathy Durst looked like.

DDA: Was there ever any other med student at your school that ever disappeared that just suddenly disappeared?
AK: No.

Dr. Kuperman remembers he had a couple informal setting discussions with her. He remembers her as a very bright, attractive young woman who "... looked very good in terms of her dress. Things were different then. Students were very rebellious in dress. She was very smart looking is how I would describe it. And that's how I would describe it for the two informal meetings I had with her."

The interactions Dr. Kuperman had with Kathy were very quick, no more than five to ten minutes each.

DDA: What is the best amount of time you would estimate over the three or four years of [meeting her]?
AK: Fifteen minutes.
DDA: And have you previously said it was 10 minutes.
AK: I might have stated that, yeah.
DDA: Your best estimation, as you sit here today, what was the time as to the length of it?
AK: Probably 10 to fifteen minutes.
DDA: And how certain of you are that?
AK: Reasonably certain.
DDA: Did you think that perhaps that you had hours of interaction with Kathy?
AK: Definitley not.
DDA: How certain are you that your interactions with her were brief?
AK: I'm certain it was very brief.
DDA: Who knew Kathy Durst better, you or Jean Cook? ... Who had more contact with Kathy Durst?
Defense: Objection!
Court: Sustained.

And the changing questions about who had more contact with Kathy keep coming the defense keeps objecting and the court continues to sustain them.

DDA Balian asks to be heard on the issue. The court tells him he must lay a foundation. DDA Balian confers with DDA Lewin. The people switch to another line of questioning.

Dr. Kuperman testifies that regarding to Kathy's background, he knew that she was a nurse. He had no knowledge of her personal life or was aware of any family problems.

DDA: If someone were to say, if Dr. Cook were to say, if anyone talked to Kathy on a daily basis, it would be Dr. Kuperman?
AK: That would be incorrect.
DDA: If Dr. Cook were to say [Kathy Durst's] immediate contact was Dr. Kuperman...
AK: That would be incorrect.
DDA: If someone were to say that Kathy spoke directly with [you] were her [advisor] ...
AK: That would be incorrect.
Defense: Objection!
Court: Sustained.
DDA: If Dr. Cook were to say, very infrequently, a student were to work with you rather than Dr. Cook?
AK: That would be incorrect.
DDA: If Dr. Cook were to say, that Kathy dealt with you directly what would you say?
AK: [That's] incorrect.

More hypothetical questions along the same line of 'if Dr. Cook would say.' Dr. Kuperman testifies that he is "very certain" that he did not have more contact with Kathy than Dr. Cook. There are more objections by the defense.

More to come.....

Monday, February 13, 2017

Jerry Sandusky's son Jeffrey Charged with Child Sexual Abuse

UPDATE 2:20 PM - added more news links
February 13, 2017

Talking Points Memo is reporting:
One of Jerry Sandusky's adult sons faces multiple charges of sexual offenses involving children, more than five years after the former Penn State assistant coach was himself first arrested.
Court records filed Monday say 41-year-old Jeffrey S. Sandusky was charged with 14 counts, including criminal solicitation and corruption of minors.
Bail was set at $200,00. Read the entire article HERE.

ABC News Report
CNN Report

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Robert Durst Case - Motions Filed by the People

February 8, 2016

T&T recently obtained motions filed by the people in the Robert Durst Case. You can read the documents through the embedded links below. They have been added to the Robert Durst Quick Links Page. When I am able to obtain copies of the defense motions, I will upload them.

The next pretrial hearing at the Airport Courthouse is scheduled for February 14, 2017, 10am.

Note added 2/10/17 - I highly recommend reading the People's Supplemental Declaration. It has the complete transcript of DDA John Lewin's interview with the defendant. Great read.

3/16/15 Robert Durst Criminal Complaint

12/5/16 People's Motion to Admit Special Master

12/16/16 People's Supplemental Declaration

12/19/16 People's Special Master Reply

12/29/16 People's Opposition to Defense Motion

1/5/17 People's Motion to Admit Defendant's Mirandized Statements

1/17/17 People's Motion Collateral Estoppel

Friday, February 3, 2017

Remembering Lana: 4/5/1962 - 2/3/2003

Lana's niche at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Photo courtesy Lana's friend, Cathy Byrd

Fourteen years ago today Lana Clarkson was murdered in the foyer of music producer Phil Spector's Alhambra, California home.

After two trials, Spector was convicted of second degree murder in her death on April 13, 2009. He was sentenced to 19 years to life about six weeks later. Spector's first trial in 2007 that ended in a mistrial, was the first case covered on Trials & Tribulations.

Today I'm remembering Lana Clarkson on the anniversary of her tragic murder. Beautiful, talented, funny, she was adored by her mother Donna, extended family and friends.

Lana is interned at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the columbarium. During the first trial, Vanity Fair writer Dominick Dunne encouraged me to visit Lana's niche. I wrote about my visit in September 2007.

Lana's Website

Wikipedia on Lana
 Lana at iMDB

Friday, January 6, 2017

Robert Durst Case, Pretrial Hearing 1

UPDATE 1/11/17 11:30 AM - Continued edits for spelling, clarity
UPDATE 1/7/17 12:15 PM -
Continued edits for spelling, clarity
UPDATE 1/7/17 11:15 AM -
Minor editing
Editing of entry for spelling/clarity later tonight. Sprocket.

Friday January 6, 2017

8:25 AM

I'm here at the Airport Courthouse for a pretrial hearing in the Robert Durst case. Robert Durst is charged with the December 2000 murder of his long time friend, Susan Berman. Berman was found dead in her Benedict Canyon home from a single gunshot wound to the back of her head. Durst was charged in her murder in March 2015 after the final episode of the HBO documentary, The Jinx.

Although I sent notice that I planned on attending the hearing, there is no guarantee I will get a seat.

8:33 AM
Security station has changed at the courthouse.

I see local radio station KFI's Eric Leonard enter the cafeteria and get a coffee or tea before he heads out.

10:03 AM
Waiting in the media line.

Lead defense attorney Dick DeGuerin arrived earlier. Huge prosecution team arrived at the last minute. We are waiting on Judge Mark Windham to finish his morning calendar. There are 20 reporters in line. We've been ordered by the PIO to fill the first two rows with no empty seats.

Terri Keith is here Miriam Hernandez is here from local ABC. Marisa Gerber from the LA Times, Andrew Blanksiein and Robert Dean from Dateline. There are reporters from Reuters, Daily News, CNN, TMZ and others.

I believe the reporter from Fox News is from the local channel 11. Almost forgot, People Magazine's  Christine Pelisek, who broke the Grim Sleeper case is here. She's writing the book on that case.

The court's Public Information Officer is counting heads. The media cameras are already being set up inside. I think the LA Times has the pool still camera.

Inside Dept. 81 West. Judge Mark Windham is on the bench. We are crammed into tight folding down seats. There are about 22 reporters or more. We fill up every seat in the first and second rows.

The layout of the courtrooms at the Airport courthouse is not a typical layout. The Judge's bench is in the far left corner, the witness box is in the center and the jury box is on the right. Exactly like the courtroom in the Dawn DaLuise case that was held in this courthouse.

DeGuerin is at the defense table with co-counsel David Chesnoff. On the prosecution team is DDA John Lewin, DDA Habib Balian, and another prosecutor I recognize but I don't know his name.

Clerk asks, "Counsel ready?"  I hear "Yes."

The bailiff goes to retrieve Durst.

10:23 AM
The back row in the gallery is filled with young fresh faces, most likely interns with the DA's office. I did not see anyone here that looked like relatives of Durst or the victim.

Case is called. Durst is wheeled in backwards in a wheelchair. Now turned around . He's in a suit.

Appearances please.
David Chesnoff
Durst is wheeled into the courtroom.

Lewin is naming his team. DDA Dave Yaroslavsky. I miss the name of the second deputy DA.

The court explains the hearing. We're today to discuss conditional examinations. People have asked that for two examinations on Feb 14 and two more [later].

The court want's to focus discussion today. The court reads into the record California statues regarding what the people are requesting.

[California law] allows either party to have conditional examination if witness is 65 years of age or if the witnesses life is in jeopardy. Law requires the name of the witness and address.  There may be other circumstances but those are the ones [here?]..

Penal code calls for three days notice of the hearing. Court must set time and place. Court reads the law governing conditional testimony.

The people have field a single application for just one witness and that is Dr. Albert Cooperman (sp?) and the application states that Dr. Cooperman is over the age of 65. People provided discovery for this sometime in November.

Defense is objecting to any conditional examinations. Court has read all moving papers.

DeGuerin gets up to address the court.
Your honor, the court has said that ... I think that the prosecution has misinterpreted  the statute. ... DeGuerin recognizes that the court only wants one counsel to speak, but he asks the court if his  co-counsel Chesnoff can address the court. Mr. Chesnoff is capable of speaking on his own.

Chesnoff addresses the court.
As experienced counsel, we are not in the habit of trying to create issues that don't exist. This is a unique situation and that's ..... Just going to add a few things. in essence, the State of California has had over a decade to prosecute this case. The initial statements of this case... the investigation was not done very well.

Chesnoff mentions the HBO documentary The Jinx. We've had all these years and all the discovery ... and we've only recently received discovery in this case and it's voluminous.

These are provisional witnesses for trial and we haven't even had a preliminary hearing yet.
Why should we have a trial [of these witnesses] when we haven't even had a preliminary hearing yet?

Mentions the big media interest of the case balanced against the rights of the defendant. They [the defense] don't understand the state's theory. They have a idea they are going to try three murder cases ... one which he's been acquitted of and one he's never been charged with.

Talks about witnesses being taken out of order... and bias. Suggest to the court that prelim be set and that we do preliminary hearing that we not have secret witnesses and secret hearings. We know that the witnesses are over 65 but we don't know what the alleged threat is.

Mentions the defense experience with Federal work and Federal judges and how things go on in Federal court. Only ask this proceeding [be conducted?] in a orderly way, so that we can examine these witnesses in an orderly way.  Now talking about future events and the potential make up of the jury.

Complains about inflammatory things being said in the pleadings. Complains about ex parte meetings with the judge. "If the purpose of the ex parte was to keep something secret, ...."
Mr. Durst is in custody .Mr Durst is in a wheelchair. All his conversations have been listened to, and that somehow he poses a thread, without knowing what it is that was ... a threat makes it imperative that you approach most cautiously.

John Lewin counters Chesnoff's oral argument.
Hope the court will indulge me me. I don't know what steps can we take. That the court ...

I can barely hear Lewin. I'm not close and he's speaking somewhat softly.

We are here to ... for one reason, to set the conditional examination. We're not here to bring up my interview with Mr. Durst. We/re not here to talk about other issues. We're here for one issue only.

Defense said let's set up preliminary hearing.  I have emailed them no less than 30 times. I've asked for dates for preliminary hearing when they will be ready and the response I've gotten is, I don't know.

Lewin continues.
A lot of logistics, a lot of information. If they can't be prepared in one month for one witness, how are they going to be prepared for a complete preliinary hearing?

Defense has talked about the rules of application. I'm not aware of any case that says when discovery is to be provided. ...

[Penal Code?] 1335 would require that these intentional examinations could not be done prior to preliminary hearing. That's completely wrong. It can.

The defense is taking the approach that [they] can't be ready for anybody. Lewin argues for conditional examination.

Durst is wearing a blue striped shirt.

Dr. Cooperman. is basically talking about one issue in this case. They are well aware of Dr. Cooperman. The case in Galveston in 2003 .... The defense were intimately aware of the points of Kathey Durst's death. Dr. Cooperman allegedly received a phone call from Kathy Durst. That phone call took place in 1982.

We believe that call was made by Susan Berman. "That man kills witnesses. ... That's what he does." That's what he did with Morris Black.  Back to Dr. Cooperman. That was his sole involvement in [this?] case.

Lewin talks about Durst's defense team.
We have five, well paid, nationally known lawyers in this case. There are others that are working on this case that are not coming to court.

Lewin goes over the amount of material that the defense would have to go over, to prepare for Dr. Cooperman. He mentions a few documents. A one hour interview which was taped and the transcript [turned over]. That's approximately the complete discovery. And we are told that they cannot be prepared. I'm going to describe this very charitably. The defense arguments ... have a distant relationship with the facts.

Lewin reads from a defense Email about questioning Dr. Cooperman. Lewin documents his communication with the defense about witness Dr. Cooperman. In December, he got a call from one of the defense lawyers, asking where the interview transcript of Dr. Cooperman was in discovery. The idea that we are hiding discovery ... "They've been given 150,000 pages of discovery. The idea that we are somehow not turning over discovery, doesn't even pass a cursory review of the facts."

Dr. Cooperman is 85 or 86 years old. The defense is in no hurry to protect damaging discovery in this case.

In their motion they mention that there are numerous "secret witnesses." There are two. The court knows of both. We made an ex parte motion to the court, where we detailed the reasons why in the process and the manner reviewing it. The court found good cause and approved of what we were doing. Lewin states, I cannot tell them who the secret witnesses are but I can at least tell them the dates. We have bent over backwards in every way possible.

Lewin tells the court about helping the defense getting into the jail to see their client on a weekend.

Lewin continues.
We originally filed our motion regarding our special master, I only put in the transcript, the limited part, that Mr. Durst unequivocally waived. The defense responded to that, accusing me of improper and deceptive tactics. They did that, knowing they had that tape and transcript for months.

Lewin goes over the timeline of events of defense motions filed and the claims that the defense has made against Durst's frailty and not a threat to anyone.

Numerous conversations with defense about the admissibility of the Morris Black case and the standard for admissibility. Lewin states that they have evidence contrary to the [fact?] that it was murder and not self defense.

Lewin explains more.
The defense is well aware of all these issues with respect to what we put in our motion because they know why he was arrested in the Galveston case. They knew before they filed their motion, they knew exactly why Robert Durst was a danger. They come back with, well, he's frail. I talk about Susan Berman, I talk about Morris Black.

And this was chilling. Lewin goes over the events where Durst was arrested for Black's murder. He [Durst] tells the security guard that he has to go to his car to get money. Durst makes another request to go to his car. Worried, [the security guard] she calls the local police. When the local police get there, Mr. Durst asks to be taken to his car, so he could get his ID from the glove compartment. This was very suspicious. They would not do it. That was a good thing. What was waiting in the glove compartment, was loaded 38.

Lewin argues, why, did Durst, who had money on him, continually ask to be taken to his vehicle where there was a loaded gun. Now discussions about another witness who testified, now deceased, where Durst showed up on her street dressed as a woman. ... Vernon Lajame, is a person he hold responsible for pushing the investigation into his missing wife.

When the defense said that Durst wasn't a danger, the defense did not address any of these issues in their motion. This is a man who has shown the ability and the desire to harm any witness in his way. We have two secret witnesses. The court has heart this information. The idea that the defendant's rights is being infringed, is absurd. It doesn't become relevant until one of those witnesses doesn't become available.

Lewin continues to argue to get the witnesses statements on the record before preliminary hearing.  Lewin adds that they got the defendant's last motion, and he had to laugh, and it's talking about his interview with the defendant and that it was improper. That interview does need to be litigated as to be a part of the attorney client privilege. We filed our motion yesterday as to why that intervew was legal and proper. Need hearing dates for when those issues will be litigated.

Lewin states that the defense has everything regarding all witnesses that will testify at the preliminary hearing. Lewin then tells the court that they Miriam Barnes ... This was a witness they found out about when they read the article in the NY Times. they are also possibly wanting to conditionally interview her as well.

Rafael Prado, they are also requesting to conditionally interview him also. He is not 65, but he is being treated for cancer. His testimony is relevant as to whether Kathy Durst ever made it back to her [condo] in 1982. Lewin states they will disclose on January 31, on secret witnesses. After these witnesses testify, then if defense wants to set case for prelim, then we could do witnesses at preliminary hearing.

And I said this to the court when I asked ex parte. I never said they should be ready in two months. What I do expect, if you aren't ready and you know that you're not going to be ready, then notify the court and the defense.

Lewin states that if defense is ready by a particular date, then they would not need to do the conditional examinations. We need to calendar the attorney client waiver motion.

Lewin wraps up his arguments.

Mr. Cheznoff, you can reply.

We have 150,000 pages in documents, we can't possibly be ready for trial, we have secret witnesses, and that Mr. Lewin says his interview with Mr. Durst is okay. He's disparaged the Galveston law enforcement and DA ... Mr. Lewin's constant request that we fit his schedule or as to how he things things should go along ... except that we need to do this and this on this date.

Complains that they will go into the disappearance of his first wife. It's whether or not that Ms. Berman was going to be a witness or not. We can't be ... when I said Alice in Woderland, when we go down one rabbit hole we [come out another place]. ... You're honor I ask you, let's proceed in an orderly pace. He told you that they most likely will be available for trial.

Continues to argue for Durst for due process. There must be order. We have to be able to have time to share ideas and to study. Now asks that Mr. Deguerin to address the Galveston accusations.

DeGurein, I will try to address this without any ad hominen comments. I was there. We have something close to your 1101b. And that is, if you can't prove something, you can't present it. Prosecution conceeded that Mr. Durst had anything to do with the disappearance of Kathy Durst, much less that she had been killed. The prosecution also conceded, .... [explains who the prosecution atorneys were] ... They also conceeded there was absolutely no evidence that Robert Durst had anything to do with the disappearance of Kathy Durst. We actually went into that. We explain why Mr. Durst ended up in Galveston in disguise.  ... The other part about Galveston that I was there for, ....  is Mr. Durst's arrest in Pennsylvania at the Wegman's store. .... And that testimony doesn't amount to much.  We went through a hotly contested trial and 12 jurors ...  [concluded] that Mr. Durst was not guilty.

DeGuerin argues the 1101b compared to Texas 404 law. DeGuerin talks about conditionally examination of witnesses, when the purpose is to use that testimony at trial. ... Apparently they have everything in regards to Dr. Cooperman ... it's the other conditional, secret witnesses. They have withheld ... we don't know how much ... a number of files on these conditional witnesses.

And not to [?] another ad hominen, and we've been told, there are eight to ten, not two secret, conditional witnesses. So that's why we are opposing.

I can see a smile on Balian's face as DeGuerin argues to the court. He now brings up the three hour interview of Mr. Durst. It happened when he was in the air, flying to meet with Mr. Durst. Mr. Durst called his lawyers from the jail, before that interview. The prosecuiton had copies of the telephone calls, to his lawyers, before they went to talk to him in the jail .We think that needs to be litigated. One party should not go talk to the other side when they know he's being represented. We think that needs to be litigated. ... That was also improper. ... But that doesn't need to be spread in the public before hand. It was filed and it was available. The video and audio were filed. The media had it immediately. ... What we learned and they disclosed it to it. The media office made copies of those videos and audio and supplied it to the media. And that's what happened. I don't think that needs to happen in the future. There's a lot of things that are very favorable to Mr. Durst, that's in the discovery. And we could do that. [But we refrain from doing that.] We don't think that what's out there in discovery should be spread out there. .... before we ever get to trial.

We've gone way beyond what we are here today which is conditional witnesses. We need to know the identity of those witnesses .... before we go to trial. .... And the discovery that goes with those witnesses. ... We don't want to be shadow boxed. We don't what to know without knowing the prosecutions position is.

To follow the prosecution's theory ... the danger here. ... The first presumption is Kathy Durst, and there's no evidence [Durst had anything to do with that]. Talks about what happened in Galveston when that was put to the court.

Next presumption is if Kathy Durst is dead and or he had anything to do with that, then he killed Susan Berman. Ther'es no evidence of that. Then next presumption of that is ... that he covered up. ... When Kathy Durst first disappeared, ... Susan, being a writer, took responsibility for answering press inquiries. .... Then the presumption that Susan Berman covered up something. Then the next presumption is that Susan Berman contacted authorities [regarding Kathy's disappearance] and covered up something. .... This is when the investigation heated up again. ... There's no one from [the NY investigation] ... no one contacted Susan Berman. That's a fact.

DeGuerin, continues with his list of presumptions of the prosecution's case. Now mention's Susan Berman's father and his supposed Mafia connections.

DeGuerin talks about the secret witnesses and the [objectie?] of fear.

Thank you so much for providing so much context. First let's talk about the application that's pending, conditonal examination of Dr. Cooperman. People have demonstrated that witness is over 65. Discovery was provided in November. Not unreasonalbe to sechedule examination for him.

As for the second, unidentified for him. I have no applicaiton regarding this witness. I think the suggesiton may be this witness may be in jeopardy. Although I don't have three days notive for that, it's in substantial compliance. It's a witness is a material informaiton about the case. And the people state that he is also over 65, and that Mr. Lewin states he is also over 65, won't get into whether his life in si jeopardy, he is over 65.

There is no case law on discovery, mentions case law People v. Herado, conditional exam done 2.5 years before trial. Reason for that was interragatory appeal. Court approved delay of discovery until seven days before that hearing.

People there argues the defense has not right to discovery.  Assumes there is a right ot discovery, and also assumes there should be limitations under 10.4.7. Here, I'm concerned with this idea of "secret" witnesses. Court mentions another case Alvarez, where witnesses remained secret throughout the trial. Mentions US vs. Edwards, witnesses could not remain unidentified throughout trial, but discovery was limited. ... I did receive a showing, exparte, of two additional witnesses. It's similar to what was described to people's the opposition. If you look at pages 3-7 and the declaration ... it all applies to other witnesses. That was the supplemental in camera.

The standard of 1054.7 is to possible danger to witnesses. Court mentions another statute regarding life in jeopardy, danger.

The problem is that the defense ability to contest [the evidence]. I don't easily allow a showing ex parte, I don't automatically accept it. There was a showing prima facia, .... the standard is possible danger, and it seems that it's only reasonable that there is a danger as described by Mr. Lewin in his moving papers.  ... there was evidence presented and there is evidence of a possibility of danger. And I need to balance the defendant's right ... with the safety of witnesses. And it's twofold. ...

The court continues to argue the weighing factor and cites the rulings he's relying on in his ruling.  Mentions one case as well as Alvarado.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


This page was last updated on 02/27/20 at 5:28am PT. Sprocket

CASE #BA452975

Murder of Fabio Sementilli, 49, on 1/23/2017

JUDGE: Ronald Coen, Dept. 101, as of 02/27/18
DEFENDANT: Robert Louis Baker dob 5/2/1962 (01) (5016213 LASD booking#)
DEFENDANT: Monica Sementilli  dob 01/10/72 (02) (5016191 LASD booking#)
DEPUTY DA: Beth Silverman
DEPUTY DA: Melissa Opper
DEFENSE BAKER: Michael Semmrin, Alternate Public Defender
DEFENSE SEMENTILLI: Leonard Levine & Blair Berk

People's complaint alleges Sementilli and her lover, Baker, were having an affair for over a year before her husband's death. Prosecution alleges Sementilli conspired with Baker to murder her husband, Fabio Sementilli for financial gain (special circumstance); 1.6 million insurance policy on Fabio's life. People also allege the special circumstance of lying in wait. Fabio was stabbed to death in his home January 23, 2017. Baker and an unknown co-conspirator were seen on surveillance video approaching the Sementilli residence on foot.

NOTE: Full case docket (clerk minute notes) from 06/16/17 to 04/19/18 can be found HERE.


04/19/2018 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial 1
05/09/2018 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial 2
06/05/2018 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial 3
06/28/2018 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial 4
07/30/2018 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial 5
10/02/2018 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial 6
12/13/2018 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial 7
01/17/2019 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial 8
02/21/2019 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker Pretrial 9
05/21/2019 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker Pretrial 10
07/16/2019 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker Pretrial 11

09/042019 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker Pretrial 12

10/16/2019 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker Pretrial 13
11/13/2019 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker Pretrial 14

01/09/2020 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker Pretrial 15
02/27/2020 Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker Trial Update

08/18/2017 Indictment 
08/31/2017 Defense Motion To Seal Grand Jury Transcript
08/31/2017 People's Response Motion To Seal Grand Jury Transcript
02/05/2018 Defense Opposition To Media Request To Broadcast Court Proceedings
04/10/2018 Defense Reply to Opposition Motion to Seal Grand Jury Transcript

06/16/2017 LA Times -Wife of slain hairdresser charged with capital murder along with her boyfriend
08/07/2017 Daily News -Conspiracy charged added against wife and alleged lover
03/02/2018 Toronto Sun -Black Widow, boyfriend allegedly plotted Toronto stylist's murder
03/02/2018 Crime Watch Daily -Video
03/10/2018 CBS 48 Hours Episode 
04/29/2018 Toronto Sun- Fabio Sementilli Murder: Sex Packet Indictment Ordered Unsealed
Monder Criminal Law Group - case analysis

Social Media & Media Links
Modern Salon.com posthumus bio
Picsbu Instagram viewer
Fabio Twitter
Fabio Facebook (Last post 1/22/2017, the day before his murder)
Fabio LinkedIn
Hairbrained Archive - Sementilli page
Fabio Obituary

Relatives & Friends of Victim (mentioned in CBS 48 Hours episode)

Mirella Rota Sementilli, sister of deceased
Luigi Sementilli, son
Isabella Sementilli, (daughter, 16; found father)
Gessica Sementilli (daughter, age unknown)
Maria Sementilli (mother of victim)
Davide Verre (stepfather of victim?)
Lorendana Picillo (sister of victim)
Joe Mercurio, Fabio friend
Kristin Woolever, Fabio colleague
Pete Castellanos, Fabio colleague

Elyse Bleuel, friend of Monica

ROBERT LOUIS BAKER & MONICA SEMENTILLI - Case Docket 06/16/17 to 04/19/18

This page was last updated 04/28/18 at 11:30am PT. Sprocket 
Main Quick Links Page can be found HERE.


Baker LASD Booking #5016213
Sementilli LASD Booking #5016191

NOTE: I have received copies of the case docket for Baker & Sementilli from their arrest under LA086223 and continuing with the superceding indictment BA452975. I have copies of  Baker's docket under BA452975. Next trip to court, I will get Sementilli's. Rather than publish the docket pages, I have put the docket information into a readable format. Sprocket

SUMMARY of Clerk Docket for LA086223 & from 06/16/17 to 08/18/17
Case #LA086223 [I have copies of Baker & Sementilli's docket. I have combined the information in the two dockets into one stream. Sprocket]

06/16/17 Van Nuys Dept. 100. Complaint Filed LA086223. Case called for arraignment; DA Brenda Christine Lee. Baker represented by Max A. Fantozzi, Public Defender (PD). Sementilli represented by Leonard Levine, private counsel. Arraignment and plea for both continued to 06/29/17.

Van Nuys Dept. 100. Media Request Granted.

Van Nuys Dept. 100. DA Beth Silverman. Sementilli represented by Jill M. Janotta, private counsel. Baker is represented by Max A. Fantozzi, PD. Both defendants waive arraignment, reading of complaint and statement of constitutional and statutory rights. Both defendants plead not guilty to count 01, 187(a). Court orders pre-plea report; both defendant's counsel do not consent to a pre-plea interview. Orders defendants to next court date, preliminary hearing setting for 08/07/2017, Dept. 120.

Van Nuys. Matter is called in Dept. 112 for Dept. 120. Amended complaint is filed adding Count 02, PC 182(a)(1). DA Beth Silverman. Baker represented by Robert Kayne, PD. Sementilli represented by Leonard Levine, private counsel. Both defendants waive arraignment, reading of complaint, & statement of constitutional and statutory rights. Both defendants plead not guilty to Count 02 182(a)(1). Baker's counsel files motion to continue. Sementilli's counsel does not waive 60 calendar days for arraignment. Next court date is 08/14/17 for prelim setting/resetting in Dept 120, Van Nuys.

Baker's notice of motion and motion to continue filed.

Defendant's continued opposition to motion to continue on behalf of co-defendant Robert Baker filed.

Van Nuys Dept. 120. Case called for prelim setting/resetting. DA Tannaz Mokayef standing in for Beth Silverman. Baker represented by Robert Kayne, PD. Sementilli represented by Leonard Levine, private counsel. Media request filed. Order on media request signed and filed.
Next scheduled event, 08/17/17.

08/17/17 Van Nuys Dept. 120. Case called for prelim setting/resetting. DA Beth Silverman. Baker represented by Robert Kayne, PD. Sementilli represented by Leonard Levine, private counsel. Over [both] defendants objection, camera will be allowed for today's proceedings.
Baker's docket states next pretrial hearing 09/28/17. Sementilli's docket states next pretrial hearing 08/28/17.

Case #BA452975 [NOTE:
I have a copy of Baker's docket. I will get Sementilli's docket on next trip into downtown LA. Sprocket]

08/18/17 Central District Dept 100. Case called for initial filing. DA Beth Silverman. Defendant (Baker) is not present in court and not represented by counsel. Valerie Aenlle-Rocha DDA is present as Grand Jury Advisor.

At 11:45 AM, the Grand Jury returns into court with 18 members present. The foreperson presents the following indictment to the court and states that fourteen or more grand jurors were present and concurred in the return of the indictment. The court finds the indictment to be true bill.

Arrest warrant in the amount of "no bail" is ordered issued and held until date and time indicated below. On people's motion, the arraignment is set on calendar for date and time indicated below. The DA states this is a superceding indictment of case number LA086223. The prosecutor is directed to give notice to defense counsel of the arraignment date and time. Next scheduled event 08/25/17.

08/25/17 Central District Dept 100. Case called for arraignment. DA Beth Silverman. Defendant in court and represented by Robert Kayne, PD. John Neiderman, Grand Jury Advisor appears from the DA's office. On people's motion, the indictment is unsealed. A copy of the indictment is given to defense counsel. People request the defendant be arraigned. At request of co-defendant, arraignment and plea is continued to 8/30/17 in this department. Defendant waives time for trial plus 60 days. Later: Matter is recalled at the request of the people. People renew request for arraignment and no change is made in the courts order. At request of defense, date of 8/30/17 is vacated and the matter is continued to 8/31/17 in this department for arraignment and plea.

08/31/17 In Central District 100. DA Beth Silverman. Baker represented by Robert Kayne, PD. Defendant is arraigned. Defendant pleads not guilty to count 01 187(a). Defendant pleads not guilty to count 02 182(a)(1). Court orders defendant to appear on next court date. Court addresses media requests. Over the defense objection, court permits camera coverage, but the defendant may not be filmed. People state the decision for penalty is still pending. Defendant is arraigned, pleads not guilty and denies all allegations. Matter is set for pretrial conference and trial setting on November 2, 2017. Co-defendant has filed a motion to seal the grand jury transcripts. Motion is set for September 7, 2017.

09/07/17 In Central District 100. DA Beth Silverman. Public Defender Robert Kayne is present. Mr. Kayne, declares a conflict. Alternate Public Defender, by Rick Sternfeld, is appointed. Motion to seal Grand Jury transcripts filed 08/31/17. Case continued to 11/02/17. Media request has been filed. Court denies said motion.

10/31/17 People's response to motion to seal grand jury transcripts is received and filed this date.

11/02/17 In Central District 100. DA Beth Silverman. Defendant is present in court and represented by Brock Hammond, Alternate Public Defender. Second Alternate Public Defender Michael Simmrin. People state the penalty decision is still pending.

Defendant Sementilli will be requesting the pre trial date of December 12, 2017 and orally notices 995 and discover motions for said date.

Motion to unseal the grand jury transcripts is pending. Defendant Baker requests the motion be continued. Defendant Sementilli has filed a 1050 penal code motion for this motion.

Pre trial conference and motion to unseal the Grand Jury transcripts are continued to December 12, 2017.

Defendant Baker voices concerns over location of holding cells while in the courthouse. The court states this is a Sheriff's Department issue, and suggests counsel discuss it with the Sheriff's Department.

12/04/17 Confidential motion under seal is filed and order for face to face visitation is signed and filed under seal.

12/12/17 In Central District 100. DA Tannaz Mokayeff.  Defendant is present in court and represented by Brock Hammond Alternate Public Defender.  Penalty decision still pending. DA Tanazz Mokayeff is specially appearing on behalf of the people. Beth Silverman is not present.

Defense's motion for release two laptop computers belonging to Gessica and Isabella Sementilli is heard and granted. The order is signed and filed this date.

The pretrial conference/trial setting is continued within the time period for January 4, 2018, in Dept. 100 as day 23 of 90. Court orders the defendant to appear on the next court date.

01/03/18 At 3:00 pm Notice of motion to set aside the indictment is received, filed and given to the court to review. Matter prev set/remain on calender.

01/04/18 In Central District 100. DA Beth Silverman. Defendant is present in court and represented by Michael Simmrin, Alternate Public Defender. Hearing on the media request is heard and argued. The defense state their objection to the media request. The people have no objection to the media request. Defense objection is sustained. Media coverage is not allowed this date.

The people of the State of California are no longer seeking the death penalty as punishment for the above named defendant. [Baker.]

Waiver and agreement form is not filed. Defense counsel is ordered to file said document on or before next court date.  Notice that the death penalty is no longer being sought is signed, filed and forward to the appropriate parties this date.

Matter is continued in Dept. 100 for pretrial conference/trial setting on 02/08/18.

01/04/18 at 2:00pm. Booking #5016213 / Penalty decision still pending.

********** Without Legal File ***********
Motion for appointment of expert under evidence code 730 and 952 is filed this date. Order for appointing expert under evidence code 730 and 952 and appointment order professional appointee court expense are signed and filed this date.

01/22/18 at 4pm. Booking #5016213 / L.W.O.P. Media request for proceedings of 02/08/18 is filed. Counsel are notified as follows:

Tanazz Mokayeff, DDA
Beth Silverman, DDA
Michael Simmrin, DAPD
Leonard Levine, Pvt Counsel
Blair Berk, Pvt Counsel

02/05/18 at 4pm. Booking #5016213 / L.W.O.P.
DDA: Beth Silverman & Melissa Opper. People's response to motion to set aside the indictment is filed.

02/08/18 In Central District 100. DA Beth Silverman. Defendant is present in court and represented by Michael Simmrin, Alternate Public Defender. Matter is called for opposition to media request; motion to set aside the indictment; request to seal the motion to set aside the indictment; and response to motion to set aside the indictment.

All motions are continued to Feb. 27, 2018, in this department. Next scheduled event 02/27/18 995 PC motion.

02/27/18 In Central District 100. Case called for 995 motion. DA Beth Silverman. Defendant is present in court, and represented by Michael Simmrin, Alternate Public Defender. The matter is called for motion pursuant to PC section 995. After argument from counsel, the court denies the motion as to counts 01 and 02.

The case is ordered transferred to Department 103 forthwith for all further proceedings, so ordered by the judge supervising the master calendar.

The defense having filed a declaration pursuant to Civil Code of Procedure section 170.6 as to the honerable Curtis Rappe, the case is ordered to re-assigned to Department 101, the honorable Ronald Coen, Judge presiding.

02/2718 In Central District Dept. 101. Case called for pretrial conference. DA Beth Silverman. Defendant is present in court, and represented by Michael Simmrin, Alternate Public Defender.  DDA Beth Silverman / Melissa Opper present.

Peremptory challenge having been filed as to the honorable Curtis Rappe, the matter has been transferred to Department 101, the Honorable Ronald Coen for all further purposes.

Media request to permit coverage denied.

As more fully reflected in the notes of the official court reporter, the court discloses to all parties that Deputy District Attorney Melissa Opper was a former extern for Judge Ronald Coen and that Judge Coen attended the wedding of Melissa Opper.

Good cause having been shown, on stipulation of all parties the court orders the pretrial conference continued to the date of March 27, 2018 in Dept. 101.

03/27/18 Central District Dept. 101. DA Beth Silverman. Defendant is present in court, and represented by Michael Simmrin, Alternate Public Defender.

The court has read and considered defense counsel's motion for appointment of expert.

The motion is granted and the order appointing Suzanna Ryan of Ryan Forensic DNA Consulting is signed and filed this date.

Court and counsel confer regarding co-defendant Monica Sementilli's outstanding discovery request.

The people address co-defendant Monica Sementilli's motion to seal Grand Jury Transcript filed on August 31, 2017.

Good cause shown and there being no opposition by the people on defendant's joint motion, hearing on the motion re sealing of the grand jury transcript and outstanding discovery issues is ordered set for the date of April 19, 2018 in Dept. 101.

04/11/18 at 8:00am. In camera hearing set on the non-appearance calendar for date and time indicated below: 04/12/18.

04/12/18 Case called for in camera hearing. DA Beth Silverman. Defendant is not present in court and not represented by counsel. DDA: Beth Silverman/Melissa Opper. DDA Melissa Opper not present this date. In camera hearing held. Reporter's transcript sealed. Further proceedings remain set for April 19, 2018 in Dept. 101.

04/19/18 Case called for pretrial and motion. DA Beth Silverman. Defendant is present in court, and represented by Michael Simmrin, Alternate Public Defender. Deputy DA Melissa Opper is present in court.

Defense counsel joins in the motion to seal Grand Jury transcript, and motion to compel discovery.

Defense written motion to seal the Grand Jury transcript is heard, argued and denied.  The court orders the Grand Jury transcript unsealed. The court orders the defense reply be unsealed. The court's rulings are more fully reflected in the notes of the official court reporter.

Defense written motion to compel discovery is heard and argued. The court orders the search warrant unsealed. Court orders portions of the search warrant redacted as more fully reflected in the notes of the official court reporter.

The people concede at "6" of defense motion, and will perform phone extraction.

The people have received sealed records from "Sunlife" Insurance and will keep possession of the records, copy them for defense and return the originals to the court.

Defense stipulate to the chain of custody. Matter is continued to May 9, 2018 in Dept. 101.