Thursday, February 21, 2019

Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker Pretrial Hearing 9

Previous post can be found HERE.

Fabio Sementilli, murdered January 23, 2017.
Photo Credit:

UPDATE 2/27: edited for spelling errors
February 21, 2019
8:28 AM
I arrive at the elevator bay of the Clara Shortridge-Foltz Criminal Justice Center at the same time as DDA's Beth Silverman, Melissa Opper and their clerk-interns. The two clerks working with the DDA's are young and bright looking. They have that sharp, aware look in their eyes.

We take an elevator up to the 9th floor together. DDA Silverman always says hello when she sees me. DDA Opper is wearing a sleek light chocolate coat. I want that coat. Not specifically her coat, since she is a tiny, petite person, but one just like it once I lose the rest of the weight I put on when I was with my ex. I'm envious of the sharp looking heels that Beth and Melissa are wearing. I've not been able to wear heels since I broke my left ankle in four places about 30 years ago.

8:30 AM Inside Dept 101, Judge Coen's Courtroom

DDA'sa Silverman and Opper take their places at the people's table and start arranging their files. I take a seat in the second bench row. The interns sit in the front row, near the people's table. Defense attorney Leonard Levine arrives with the gray haired man whose name I still don't know. Mr. Levine goes to DDA Opper and documents are exchanged. Blair Berk has not arrived yet.

There is a different court reporter at the reporter's desk that DDA Silverman knows and they start to chat like old friends. Over at the clerk's desk, Judge Coen's clerk asks Mr. Levine if they are still waiting for Ms. Berk. I do not hear his answer. Ms. Berk does not come to the hearing today.

8:34 AM
Judge Coen comes out from his chamber to chat with his clerk. We are waiting on Mr. Simmrin, Baker's defense attorney. DDA Opper hands several pages to DDA Silverman and Beth asks, "Whose is this? I can't read it." She then says, "This is Lenny," referring to Mr. Levine. I'm guessing it's something Levine has filed on behalf of his client.

The gray haired man who arrived with Mr. Levine chats with Judge Coen at the clerks desk like he often does. It's clear the men know each other well. I note that Beth's necklace today is several, long fine strands of gold chain. The two DA interns chat while Beth talks about her new puppy. Beth and I both love animals but she is a dog person and I'm a cat person. I'm still not completely settled in my new place yet. Once I am I will be shopping shelters and rescue organizations for my next feline companion.

8:45 AM
We are still waiting on Mr. Simmrin, Baker's defense attorney to arrive.

8:47 AM

Judge Coen goes back to his chambers and puts on his robe. He then takes the bench and waits on the bench. Judge Coen has some papers in his hand that he appears to read. He appears contemplative. He gives out a heavy sigh that I can hear.

An Asian man enters and takes a seat in the far corner of the back row.  DDA Silverman reads a motion paper. The courtroom bailiff gets chairs ready at the defense table. Defendant Robert Louis Baker is brought out and placed in the chair he usually sits in at the end of the defense table. His attorney is still missing.

Judge Coen and his female clerk chat. It appears to be about the case that is currently in trial in Judge Coen's court. The defendant is Francisco Cardenaz Guzman a hotel owner charged with murder. The handsome DDA John McKinney is prosecuting the case.

8:52 AM

Defense attorney Michael Simmrin arrives and apologizes to the court for his tardiness. Simmrin is in the transition stage of leaving the Alternate Public Defender's Office and (I believe) entering private practice.

Judge Coen goes on the record in this case. He states that defendant Sementilli missed the first bus. The court expects that there will be a motion to sever the two cases but nothing has been filed yet. Discovery is discussed. Mr. Simmrin states he is waiting on another batch of discovery from the people. DDA Opper holds up a drive indicating she has what he is expecting in her hands. DDA Silverman states that what is on this drive is "... a lot of potential evidence."

Mr. Simmrin is pushing to move the already set trial date forward because he has no idea how much information is on the discovery drive he has not seen yet.  The court states that there is nothing that you (Mr. Simmrin?) can do at this time. The court will leave the trial date to stand for now.

DDA Silverman informs the court that they have over 100 witnesses the people are going to have subpoena on this case. My understanding is she is indicating the current trial date is not nearly enough time to prepare for that. Mr. Simmrin states he does not know what is on the discovery he hasn't seen yet but he could not be ready for trial by the original trial date.

Judge Coen speaks quickly about Mr. Baker's six amendment rights. He knows that Mr. Simmrin has a lot of discovery to still review. He tells him, "I won't have an attorney unprepared for trial."

Then there is a back and forth discussion between the court, the people and the defense about the next court date. Several dates are thrown out until they finally settle on March 27th. The court states the matter is continued to that date for pretrial. The court adds that the trial date still remains.

DDA Silverman tells the court that they have subpoenas for multiple records for various financial institutions. The court clerk indicates that one subpoena did come in, from Proctor & Gamble.

DDA Silverman asks for permission to take the documents, copy and disburse copies to the defense. That's agreed. She then asks for a continuing stipulation that the people can come in and pick up these documents as they come in and make copies for disbursement. Mr. Levine is agreeable as long as the people tell them where the documents are from. Mr. Simmrin has no objection either. The amendment is agreeable.

8:57 AM

And that's it. They are off the record.

There is a bit of banter between the court and counsel off the record on unrelated subjects. Judge Coen asks Mr. Simmrin if he is out yet because his name has been removed off the website. Mr. Simmrin states that his last day is tomorrow, Friday.  DDA Silverman tell the defense attorneys that she will need another drive from each of them. Mr. Simmrin walks over to the DDA's interns and introduces himself.

An attorney enters Dept. 101 with files and a rolling cart. He's probably one of the counsel in trial at the moment in front of Judge Coen. Judge Coen tells the counsel that [?] is sick today and he's not sure if they will be in trial tomorrow.

As counsel start to gather up their things Judge Coen states he's getting an "...eighth box today..."  Judge Coen when he is in trial, or making rulings, has these long black boxes on his bench filled with index cards that hold all the Superior Court decisions. I've seen Judge Coen reach into one of these boxes and pull out a ruling to quote from it. DDA Silverman states that Judge Coen must get these boxes custom made.  There's more banter between DDA Silverman and the court and then everyone slowly heads out. As I leave I note that DDA John McKinney is in the well of the court -somehow I missed seeing him come in- speaking with the other attorney and Judge Coen.

I have a debate with myself on staying to listen to a bit of the current trial but ultimately decide to head over to the old Federal Building on Spring street for breakfast. The cafeteria in the criminal court, the line for service is out the door.