Thursday, June 28, 2018

Monica Sementilli & Robert Baker, Pretrial Hearing 4

Previous post can be found HERE.

Fabio Sementilli 

UPDATE 7/1: Update on notes about a video and the manila envelope. Removed notes that were not clear.
June 28, 2018
7:40 AM

I get to court early today. I hang out on the 5th floor waiting until 8 am when the security station will be open. When I get on the 9th floor, there is only one sheriff at the station. He tells me the security station won’t open until 8:30 am. That’s new. I can’t imagine that will work for long since quite a few judges open their courtrooms at 8:30 am. So I go back down to the 5th floor to wait.

8:25 AM
I head back to the 9th floor. There are three sheriff’s and the station is open. When I get down to the far end of the hall, DDA’s Beth Silverman and Melissa Opper are sitting on a bench. Beth is wearing a long, blue print flowing dress, black jacket and nice black sling heels with an open toe. I go over and congratulate DDA Silverman on getting a conviction in the Blake Leibel case.  Rounding out the DA’s team are three young, eager looking interns.

The people’s LAPD RHD detectives are not here yet. 

Over on the other side of the hallway, Baker’s defense attorney Michael Simmrin is sitting by himself. Blair Berk is sitting with an attractive, nicely dressed woman wearing thin, black rimmed glasses.  It’s a good guess that this is a family member or friend of Berk’s client, defendant, Monica Sementilli. The woman is about 5’4” tall. She’s wearing skin tight white pants, black ballet type slippers, a black blouse with white dots and a black jacket to finish off the look. A tall slender-man, one of the defense counsel support staff is with them, along with the young intern looking man I’ve seen before. Levine arrives a moment later and eventually goes over to chat with Simmrin.

8:30 AM
Inside Dept. 101

I take my favorite spot next to the aisle in the second bench row. Two Spanish women sit in the gallery directly behind me. The DDA’s interns sit in the first row, right behind the prosecution’s table area. The nicely dressed woman in the black ballet type slippers takes a seat to my right.

Now Levine, Berk and the tall slender-man are over at the clerk’s desk.

Over at the prosecution table, DDA’s Sliverman and Opper and going over a document with their interns. At the defense table, the sheriff deputies in the well are arranging the chairs for the defendants. Defendants must be seated in chairs that do not have rollers. Levine will be seated next to Sementilli today and Berk to his right. Over at the clerk’s desk, there is a male clerk. The court reporter is at her station in front of the bench and my eye is drawn to the really nice bouquet of flowers on her desk.

Levine gets up to chat for a moment with DDA Silverman. Baker is brought out first, and the deputy places him in the wrong seat. It’s quickly corrected. Baker’s hair is short and he has a mustache.

The tall slender-man, who is sitting in the well chairs directly behind the defense table says (to I don’t know who): “That’s my mistake. I apologize.” DDA Silverman answers, “You don’t have to apologize.”

The two LAPD Robbery Homicide Division detectives on the case enter Dept. 101 and take seats in the well directly in front of the jury box. They briefly speak to DDA Silverman.

We are still waiting for Sementilli to be brought out. Simmrin chats with the big burly Sheriff’s Deputy, Sargent Westphal (sp?).

Baker faces the gallery and looks in the direction behind me. I don’t know if he’s looking at the two Spanish women behind me, or at the clock. 

Simmrin, Levine and Berk chat for a moment in a huddle. Sargent Westphal goes over to DDA Silverman then speaks to the two LAPD RHD detectives. 

The bailiff goes over to the clerk’s counter to speak to the judge. Sargent Westphal also comes over and both officers chat with Judge Coen. It’s quickly over and the regular bailiff goes back to the custody area.

8:42 AM
We are still waiting on Sementilli to be brought out.

Levine was about to have the woman that came with the defense team leave the room when his client is brought out and we go on the record.

I believe I saw Sementilli smile at the ballet slipper woman in the gallery. 

Judge Coen informs the parties that a document came back from ATT, labeled “for court eyes only". Levine informs the court that this document is from his subpoena. He wants to see the document and not share it with the people.

Judge Coen responds, “That’s not the way it works.” 

Judge Coen then goes over to one of his index card file boxes and after a few seconds, pulls out a card and reads from a prior court ruling on just this issue. Judge Coen tells the parties, “As it stands now (the subpoenaed documents), it’s open to all sides.” I believe Levine argues that he wants to see it first to determine if it will be used as work product. Judge Coen argues with the defense on the merits of his argument and Levine submits to the court’s ruling. Levine agrees to turn over a copy of the documents to the people. The people ask the judge for control of the document, maybe not feeling that the defense will actually make them a copy (or maybe even a full copy) of what they subpoenaed. Judge Coen turns down that request reminding the people that they are all officers of the court.

The motion by Sementilli's counsel to have property seized by the LAPD during the search warrant returned is addressed. Also attached to the motion is an “errata” page. The court asks, “Any objection by the people?” Initially, the people say no, but then DDA Silverman raises several objections to issues with the motion and order Judge Coen will sign. The motion is not within the LAPD guidelines. The motion must specifically state the item number of the property to be released. Additionally, DDA Silverman states the motion is requesting items #12 and #13. She informs the court and defense counsel that those items, laptop computers, were already released to the defense months ago.  DDA Silverman has one last item. The order must show the items are released to a particular person.

Levine states he will provide the correct numbers of the items and make the needed adjustments. Judge Coen states he will sign the original order and adjustments will be made to it. He is not going to sign several orders.

Then Simmrin addresses the court. My notes are not clear, but I believe Mr. Simmrin was speaking to the court for the following. When Mr. Baker came to court with him today, he had an envelope with personal writings in it. It was confiscated by the sheriff’s deputies.  Upon reviewing the tape of the last hearing ..

[I believe Simmrin is referencing video tapes from the jail custody area.]

[7/1: I believe Simmrin is referring to the Sheriff's review of the video tape. Sprocket]

Ms. Sementilli may have passed a yellow envelope to his client, Baker. Simmrin is not sure of the basics. He is not sure if that is the envelope that was passed (at the last hearing). 

Right after that I have a note that Judge Coen addresses the parties and states he “... knows very little ... Sargent Westphal seized the items.” 

Levine addresses the court and states he wants to see what was confiscated. Judge Coen rules, “I’m not going to order that. ... This is Mr. Simmrin’s game.” Judge Coen adds that it’s up to Mr. Simmrin if he wants to share the contents with Mr. Levine.

Simmrin asks the court, “How do we know that these are the items?” Judge Coen tells Simmrin, “You’re allowed to look at the items. ... It’s a sheriff’s issue.”

Judge Coen goes onto explain that there are certain procedures for clearing defendant documents that are brought to the courthouse. 

Levine brings up a discovery issue. Levine informs the court that the people turned over new discovery documents to the defense today. They want to come back in 30 days to set a trial date and urge the people to turn over all their discovery.  Levine appears to be pushing the court to force the people to turn over all discovery immediately.

Judge Coen reminds Levine that this is a two defendant case and that his concern’s are with Mr. Baker. Baker’s counsel may not be ready. Simmrin addresses the court and states he’s not even through all of his discovery. He has DNA analysis, phone evidence. Simmrin tells the court, “I don’t expect to be ready within a month.”

I believe Levine at some point mentions severing the cases (so his client can get to trial faster) and Judge Coen reminds counsel that we are far from that at this point. 

Then the parties try to come up with a return date that works for everyone, including the court. They will return on July 30, 2018 at 8:30 am.

That’s it for the court. Judge Coen leaves the bench. Both defendants are brought back into custody. However, all the counsel stay at their tables. No one is getting up. The prosecution team and the detectives are in conversation. 

I’m concentrating on the prosecution team, and I believe I hear DDA Silverman say, She’s in a whole ‘nother world. I’m not positive that’s correct, but I believe that’s what I heard her say.

Judge Coen is out of his robes and is standing at his clerk’s desk.  Levine comes over to DDA Silverman and says something. I hear DDA Silverman respond, “Absolutely.”

A few minutes later, the regular bailiff and Sargent Westphal come back into the courtroom. The regular bailiff is holding several blue latex gloves. Sargent Westphal and Simmrin both put on a pair of gloves. Afterwards, Sargent Westphal, properly gloved, I believe, pulls out an envelope from the bailiff’s desk. It’s a large 9x12 manila envelope that looks like it’s bulging a bit in the middle. It’s something much larger than I had originally envisioned. I was thinking of a simple, #10 letter envelope that may have been passed.

Simmrin starts to pull out whatever is in the manila envelope. As he does that, the prosecution team and their interns get up and leave the courtroom. I follow them out.  The form a huddle on the other side of the hallway. I sit across the hall, a polite distance away. I cannot hear what they are discussing.

Both defense teams leave the courtroom. Not long after, Sargent Westphal and the two LAPD detectives exit the courtroom. Sargent Westphal still has his hands gloved and is holding the envelope in one hand. The officers and the prosecution team leave together for the elevator bay.

Just as we are entering the elevator bay, DDA Silverman is stopped by a young Dateline reporter. DDA Silverman tells her she has no time to talk. I believe I hear DDA Silverman state to Sargent Westphal: I want to know how this went down and why. I believe that is what I heard. The wait for an elevator is long so Sargent Westphal takes the detectives and both deputy DA’s down the stairwell. The interns are left behind. 

And that’s it for today’s hearing.

Next hearing is July 30, 2018 at 8:30 AM

The next post on this case can be found HERE.