Sunday, February 4, 2018

Michael Thomas Gargiulo Case, Pretrial Hearing 40

Previous post on this case can be found HERE.

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, booking photo, 2008.

UPDATE: edited for clarity
February 2, 2018
I arrive in downtown LA around 8am. That's plenty of time to get on the 9th floor before 8:30am, when Dept. 106, Judge Fidler's court opens.

For those who don't know, the civic center area of downtown Los Angeles has several hills, some steep and some not so steep. My walk from the church parking to the court on Temple Street is an easy block and a half and downhill. The Clara Shortridge-Foltz criminal court building takes up the entire block on Temple between Broadway and N. Spring Street. As I cross Broadway, Temple takes a sharper dip to the front entrance of the court. Unfortunately, as I get closer to the door, I see that the security station at the front entrance is closed, just like it was yesterday.

Clara Shortridge-Foltz, Criminal Justice Center.
Southeast corner of Temple St. and Broadway Ave.
My photo archive.

I have two choices. Continue downhill on Temple to the corner of N. Spring, turn right and take a tall, almost two story set of stairs to the upper balcony and back entrance. Or, I can walk back up the incline to Broadway, turn left and go slightly downhill on Broadway towards the level access walkway at the back of the building. I reverse course, deciding to take the incline verses the stairs.

When I realized the front entrance was closed, a woman stopped me on the sidewalk and asked which way to go to get into the court building. I told her to follow me. She asked me if I was going to jury duty. I told her "No." She immediately turned around to go East on Temple to N. Spring. "Mam!" I called after her, "This way is easier into the building." She then turned back around and rushed passed me up Temple.

As I'm walking west on Temple, CBS 48 Hours producer Greg Fisher is coming towards me and asked where I was going. I explain to him the front entrance is closed and we have to go to the back entrance. Greg is half a foot taller than me, in much better shape and with much longer legs. I'm not moving fast enough for him. My bag is heavy with my laptop and I struggle to keep up.

As we reach the door, the woman whom I just directed is in front of me at the security scanner. But she's standing there, not moving at all, acting like she doesn't know what to do. The security station is much like those found in airports. It consists of a walk through scanner for people, and an x-ray type device where you put your belongings on the table with the moving belt. Your personal items then move through the device so the security personnel can see through your belongings to make sure you're not bringing anything into a court building that's illegal. It's not like security scanners were just invented yesterday. They've been around for a long time.

Full disclosure. I admit that I get impatient with people at the security stations who don't know how to put their belongings on the moving belt. They are often confused about the security officer's instructions to take everything out of their pockets and put them in the round trays before they walk through the scanner. Impatient at the court scanners? Guilty as charged. I do need to work on having more patience. The rest of the morning, Greg doesn't let me forget that I went past the woman in front of me.

When we reach the 9th floor, the CBS 48 Hours camera crew is already there waiting for the security station to open. History lesson. This is the only security station on a courtroom floor. It was built before the start of the O.J. Simpson trial. Greg introduces me to the CBS camera crew. Apparently, Judge Fidler approved filming today's hearing. 48 Hours wants to get video of any family members who make statements to the court under Marsy's Law

A few minutes later defense investigator Chris Nicely arrives. He's wearing a really nice blue suit. Chris is quite tall and very easy on the eyes. While we wait, it's clear the sheriff's deputies are having difficulty turning the scanner machine on. One of the camera guys points out to the deputies that there appears to be a plug that's unplugged under the machine.  The cord gets plugged in and the sheriffs test the scanner. I had put myself in front of the camera equipment so I could get to the ladies restroom quickly. Greg, who likes to razz me, doesn't let me forget that either.

When I exit the restroom, the 9th floor hallway is mostly empty except for a group gathered in the center. It's CBS 48 Hours host Maureen Maher standing with the two cameramen I met at the security station. With her is another 48 Hours producer Doug Longhini. I walk toward the group and wait for a moment to introduce myself.  Maureen beats me to it and introduces herself first. Maureen is petite and just as pretty in person as she is on camera. She's wearing a sleeveless A-line black dress with a matching jacket. The cameramen are miking her up for interviews later.

Retired LAPD Hollywood Homicide Detective Tom Small and his wife Laurie (sp?) are also with the group. Detective Small investigated victim Ashley Ellerin's murder. His wife Laurie is a court reporter in Dept. 109, Judge Kennedy's court. Detective Small is in a complicated brace that is holding his right arm in a fixed position out from his body. With all that Mr. Sprocket has gone through, I'm guessing it's a good bet Detective Small had surgery to repair an injury on his right shoulder. I'm asked if I know Detective Small. I know him from several court appearances in this case and one other. I remember being in the elevator with him well over a year ago when he announced to a companion that he was retiring from the LAPD that day. After a few minutes I step away to sit down on a bench seat near Dept. 106 and jot down some notes.

8:30 AM
A bailiff opens Dept. 106 and Greg gets their approved filming order into the court. Across the hall from Dept. 106, Judge Lomeli's court clerk opens his courtroom, Dept 107. He stands with the door open for a minute, watching the group in the center of the hall. It looks like defense attorney Daniel Nardoni has arrived and joins the center hallway group. Other people headed for other courtrooms stop by to say hello to Maureen and the group.

Inside Dept. 106

When the courtroom opens, the camera crew gets right to work setting up their equipment in the jury box. Wendy, Judge Fidler's court clerk is telling the cameramen which podium to get in the back corner and where to place it in the well.

Like I noted in my post yesterday, Judge Fidler is in the middle of a death penalty trial with two separate juries. I can see the second jury's notebooks on the benches in the first and second rows of the gallery. There is a sign on the third bench row, not to sit there. This is to have some space between these jurors and members of the public. Since there are no jurors here today, I ask Wendy if it's okay to sit in the third row. She says that's fine today. A trick I learned from the late Dominick Dunne, I always try to sit directly in line with the witness box, or in this case, as close to the podium where the victims family members will stand. The camera crew quickly gets to work setting up wireless microphones at the bench, counsel tables and the podium.

Maureen enters the courtroom with Detective Small. Small takes a seat near the bailiff sitting on a chair in the well and Maureen sits with the other CBS crew in the far last row of the gallery.  Small's wife joins him a bit later. Defense attorney Nardoni arrives in the courtroom.

8:35 AM
There are several conversations going on at once all around the gallery. Detective Small and seated the bailiff chat. Another bailiff comes out of the custody area and calls out for Gargiulo's counsel. Mr. Nardoni asks, "Is he back [there]?" The deputy answers, "Yes." Nardoni goes back to see his client in the custody area.

8:37 AM
Retired Detective Mark Lillienfeld arrives. I believe Detective Lillienfeld investigated the murder of Maria Bruno and attempted murder of Michelle Murphy. I give him a smile and he is kind enough to sit beside me and say hello. We chat about what retirement is like from a long career as a detective. The bailiff who is chatting with Detective Small gets up from his seat to come over and shake Detective Lillienfeld's hand.

DDA Garrett Dameron enters Dept. 106 and checks in with the court clerk. There is a tall slender man with him I don't recognize. Nardoni, out of the custody area, leaves the courtroom with his investigator Nicely to chat. Det. Lillienfeld leaves me and joins the group chatting with Det. Small. Greg and Maureen are chatting in the far corner of the last gallery row.

Tracy, the DA's victim support staff who works with the Major Crimes Division arrives and checks in with the bailiff. She wants to be sure which path the deputy wants the victim's family to take when they approach the podium. She then exits the courtroom.

8:48 AM
DDA Daniel Akemon arrives. He's chatting with Mr. Nardoni just outside the courtroom in the ante chamber. On Judge Fidler's bench, there are several reference books in a desktop book-holder to the right and a huge reference book directly in the center of his bench. On the wall behind the bench to the left, is a large TV screen. To the right of the bench is the clerks desk and counter area. Directly in front of the clerks walled-off counter area, there are several file boxes stacked up, three or four high. I'm guessing these files relate to the death penalty case.

A pretty petite woman from the DA's office I've seen in other cases arrives. I think she's with the DA's JSID unit (Justice System Integrity Division). There are handshakes all around with the group over by Detective Small.  I look behind me to the chairs near the door where Chris Nicely usually sits. He's concentrating on his notepad, taking notes.

I'm wondering what the hold-up is. Maybe we are waiting for lead defense attorney Dale Rubin.  Detective Lillienfeld joins Greg and Maureen in the back left corner of the gallery. There are conversations still going on in several groups around me. Nardoni and Nicely go back into the custody area to speak with Gargiulo.

New York Magazine Editor and author Carolyn Murnick arrives with a male friend. She immediately recognized me but again, I didn't recognize her at first. I'm starting to wonder if I'm developing face blindness, or it's my age. Carolyn takes a seat to my left to chat and say hello. Carolyn then reaches into her bag and signs for me a copy of her book, The Hot One, about her childhood friend and murder victim Ashley Ellerin. I'm touched. Due to my husband's health, I wasn't able to make it to her book signings in Los Angeles, so this is a nice surprise.

9:00 AM
The family of victim Tricia Pacaccio arrive along with the DA's victim support staff.  DDA Akemon is conferring with Mrs. Pacaccio and her sons. Detective Small introduces himself to the Pacaccio family. Carolyn and I scoot down to make room for Mrs. Pacaccio and her sons, Douglas and Thomas at the far left end of our row.

The court clerk asks if counsel are ready. Dale Rubin is still not here.

9:06 AM
People Magazine reporter Christine Pelisek arrives. She greets Detective Lillienfeld and takes a seat in the back row.

9:08 AM
The court clerk calls for counsel over at her counter. Wendy also asks for one of the cameramen. 48 Hours producer Doug comes over to the other cameraman in the jury box to chat. Lots of conversations going on at once. The camera was taken down. There will be no video taping today, just audio of the impact statements. (After the hearing I learn that the Pacaccio family did not wish to be filmed so the court reversed the filming order but let 48 Hours record the audio.)

The court clerk tells the bailiff. "I think we're ready now."

9:14 AM
Gargiulo is brought out. Since defense counsel Dale Rubin is not here, Gargiulo doesn't sit at the end of the table where everyone can see his face. He sits directly beside Nardoni so his back is to the gallery. When he entered, he looks exactly the same as the January hearing. He's wearing the orange jumpsuit with the white long-johns type shirt underneath. His head is completely bald except for his eyebrows and mustache. It's clear Gargiulo looks about 10 years older than his booking photo at the top of this post. His face is much leaner, thinner.

9:15 AM
Judge Fidler takes the bench. DDA Akemon tells the court they have the Picaccio family from Illinois. He introduces Tricia Pacaccio's mother, Diane (sp?). Tricia was murdered in Illinois in 1993. Her case is pending in that state. Mrs. Picaccio reads a prepared statement. One of her sons stands beside her at the podium. She speaks so fast, I get very few complete sentences of her statement. As she starts to talk about her daughter, her voice breaks and I feel her pain. The anguish in her voice at the loss of her daughter affects me. My friend Matthew McGough is always telling me I need to maintain a distant professionalism, but I still struggle with that. I've silently wiped tears many times in the gallery, listening to a family member sob during testimony or give an impact statement.

Mrs. Pacaccio thanks the court. "We ask that ... why this had to happen to our wonderful loving Tricia. .. Twenty-four years later ... hard time suffering ... cannot understand ... [We are] fundamentally different people down to our soul since this happened.  ... When someone who is indispensable to your happiness is gone ..." Mrs. Pacaccio weeps as she speaks to the court. Toward the end of her statement she's crying and my eyes start to well up.

I believe it's Douglas, Tricia's other brother who reads a letter from his father. Mr. Pacaccio was unable to travel due to health issues. "I am here to represent my daughter's rights and the right for a speedy trial. The defendant needs to be brought to trial in the murder of Tricia. ... If you give one thought ... [we?] who have been waiting 25 years. ... We are very angry, disgusted and surprised ... the delays and extensions."

Douglas speaks fast and I'm having trouble keeping up. "Please do not delay this case any longer. ... Know that we will have another long case, once it gets to Chicago, Illinois."

Judge Fidler addresses the victim's family. "I do hear you. I've been doing this for 35 years. ... I have to be general. I can't speak to prior delays, because I don't know what happened."

Judge Fidler then speaks to them hypothetically, as to what happens after a California case that receives a death penalty verdict. It is first reviewed by the California Supreme Court. After California, it goes to the Federal system. "If they [California Supreme Court] affirm, then 12-15 years, it goes to the Federal side. ... Then habeas corpus." Judge Fidler says something about the Federal system [here in the west] taking a dim view of the death penalty, so California death penalty cases lose.

Judge Fidler goes onto explain that they can't have any mistakes in a death penalty case. When he tries a case, he tries to make no mistakes.  "We had a new plea. That will delay [the case] as a matter of law. ... I promise both sides that I will move this case as expeditiously ... and still follow the law. ... Because of the new plea, there are going to be delays. ... I will keep you in mind. You're not nameless to me. ... You didn't come out here [for nothing]. "

DDA Akemon addresses the court. They have picked a name from the court's approved list for a doctor to evaluate Gargiulo for the people. Dr. Robert Schug. DDA Akmon states, "He is ready to start his evaluation almost immediately. ... He is asking for face to face meetings and an ability to bring a laptop [into the jail]."

Judge Fidler rules, "If you give me an order I will sign it." 

DDA Akemon tells the court they have the next pretrial date in mind, April 20, 2018. By that time, they may have a good status on where they are.  Judge Fidler sets the case calendar at zero of 90 on April 20th. Defense attorney Nardoni tells the court they have given discovery to the DA. Their hope is to start the case this summer.

And that's it. Judge Fidler is off the bench and Gargiulo is taken back into the custody area. Out in the hallway I learn that lead defense attorney Dale Rubin is under the weather, so that's why he wasn't in court today.

I was really hoping that 48 Hours was going to get images of Gargiulo today. I have been unable to find any photos taken of Gargiulo beyond his various booking photos. It doesn't appear that Gargiulo has been photographed during any court proceeding since he was arrested in 2008.

Next hearing can be found HERE.


Trench Reynolds said...

I hope you don't mind I've become a born again fan of your blog. Your penchant for detail is astounding. I'm hanging on the edge of my seat now for more updates.

Sprocket said...

Thank you Trench. I know you've worked hard on your blog, too.

For Gargiulo updates, it will be a while. I might attend some more pretrial hearings in the Suge Knight case while waiting for Gargiulo, as well as see what happens to the crime spree guy in Master Calendar Court in two weeks.

{BD}creamysbrianna said...

I am hoping the pretrial hearings will work towards a trial sooner than later. Many of us are anxious for this trial to be over so we can get justice for tricia.

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

Hi, great blog. I was wondering if the April 20th date happened? Or it’s been rescheduled? I can’t find anything about it online. Thanks.

Sprocket said...


At the bottom of this story, there is a link that says, Next hearing can be found HERE. the word "HERE" is a link to the April 20th story. At the end of the 4/20 story, there is a link to the April 26th post.

The QUICK LINKS page for the Gargiulo case can be found on the top right of the blog. Click on that and you will see a summary of the case, list of all the players as well as links to every post covering pretrial hearings.