Thursday, February 27, 2020

Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker Trial Update

Fabio Sementilli Source: HairTalk.com

February 27, 2020
I was unable to attend the pretrial hearing in the Sementilli/Baker murder trial on February 18. Monica Sementilli and Robert Baker are charged with murder in the death of Monica's husband, Fabio Sementilli. The next pretrial hearing in this case is set for March 16, 2020 in Dept 101 at the Clara Shortridge-Foltz Criminal Justice Center. The July 7, 2020 trial date is still on the court calendar.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker Pretrial Hearing 15

Fabio Sementilli Source: HairTalk.com


UPDATE 01-12: edited for grammar, spelling, Sprocket.
January 9, 2020
Happy New Year everyone.

Judge Coen's clerk opened the door to Dept. 101 around 8:25am. Not long after it opened the courtroom started filling with attorneys. There would be more than just the Sementilli/Baker hearing this morning. Out in the hallway Baker's attorney Michael Simmrin is chatting with another gentleman. Also waiting for Dept. 101 to open was defense attorney Donald Re, who defended German nationalist Gerhard Becker on involuntary manslaughter charges back in 2013.

When I enter, there was a new face at the court reporter's desk. Several attorneys stop by her desk to give her their card. There were several attorneys who entered and checked in with the court clerk. There is a pretty female reporter sitting in the gallery in the row behind me. I believe we are the only media people in the room.

I overhear Simmirin mentioning something to the clerk that he has a court order he's filing. The clerk tells him, "Why don't we do that on the record?"

8:27am
DDA's Beth Silverman and Melissa Opper arrive and greet Mr. Simmrin. Simmrin and Silverman chat discovery. I believe I hear Silverman tell him, "I still have a drive for you. ... more evidence along with reports from Orange County lab..." Silverman says she can turn over to Simmrin later today. Silverman and Simmrin talk about a trial date but since Simmrin is just getting started on his DNA testing Silverman says -in relation to a trial date- "You're not ready yet."

Some attorneys take seats in the well of the court that are in front of the jury box. Others are moving around the well, chatting with this group or that group. More attorneys keep entering and a few people from the public that are most likely here for the other pretrial hearings.

We are waiting on the Sementilli defense team and the defendants. More attorneys enter, check in with the clerk. One stops to chat with the Deputy DA's in the room. Eight suited gentlemen enter and sit in the very back row.


8:36am
Sementilli's lead counsel Leonard Levine arrives along with Hans J. Allhoff and the gray haired gentleman who usually chats with Judge Coen at the clerk's desk. 

It's so noisy in the courtroom, I'm having trouble following any one conversation. DDA Opper, Levine and the court clerk chat trial dates. DDA Silverman chats evidence/discovery with Levine.  More people from the public arrive. One woman has a cast on her arm.


8:42am
Judge Coen comes out from the back area. He's not put on his robe yet.  A few minutes later DDA Paul Pzrelomiec arrives, shakes DDA Opper's hand, big smiles for everyone and then takes a seat in front of the jury box.

8:45am
Judge Coen has put on his robe and takes to the bench. A silver haired gentleman, possibly a Deputy DA shakes his hand. Still more people enter Dept. 101. There are so many attorneys here, it's hard to keep track, or even follow just one conversation. Levine chats with Re and Simmrin in the well.

8:48am
Baker is brought out. He takes a seat at the table with his back to the gallery. A few moments later, Sementilli is brought out and Judge Coen immediately goes on the record for pretrial and trial setting in the Sementill/Baker case.

The date July 7 is set -I heard a defense attorney add the word "tentatively"- for trial with the case court calendar set on that date as 0/10. The next pretrial date is set at February 18.

Judge Coen addresses DDA Silverman on the length of the trial. He wants to hear on the record how long she thinks the trial will take. DDA Silverman still keeps with her two month estimate for trial.

Simmrin's court order issue is discussed. It's a list of prosecution evidence items, biological evidence he wants turned over to him for testing. There is a bit of back and forth. DDA Silverman states this is not the usual way this is handled. She hasn't seen the document Simmrin wants to file; what it is Simmrin wants and she needs to go over everything and to ensure they can have what Simmrin's team wants to test. Coen asks if they can settle this at the next court hearing. Simmrin agrees it can.

Coen gets the defendants to agree on the record to the proposed trial date.  And that's it. The hearing is over. Sementilli is quickly taken back into custody and DDA'a Silverman and Opper start packing up their files. I wait until Baker is brought back into custody and then head out.

Next pretrial hearing is February 18.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Moncia Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial Hearing 14

Fabio Sementilli
Source: HairTalk.com

November 13, 2019
I almost didn't make it to the hearing on time. I was held up at the 9th floor Los Angeles County Sheriff's security station. I'll talk about the ever changing security policy for the 9th Floor in a new post next week.

I ran into Deputy DA Beth Silverman on the 9th floor elevator bay She was in front of me at the scanner. She appeared quite rushed and not her usually cheerful self.

Inside Dept 101 8:36 AM
When I enter Judge Coen's court he is already on the bench. There is a pretty prosecutor at the people's table I don't know. Two of the defense attorneys, Michael Simmrin and Hans J. Allhoff are chatting with the court off the record. Deputy DA Beth Silverman is nowhere in sight.

I'm not certain, but I believe it is the court who asks where Ms. Silverman is. There is some speculation chatter that maybe Deputy DA Melissa Opper will be here and not Silverman. Then I believe one of Judge Coen's clerks informs him that Deputy DA Silverman went to Department 104 first.

Checking the DA's daily court calendar, there is a hearing in Dept. 104 where Deputy DA Tannaz Mokayef  of the Major Crimes Unit is prosecuting defendant Patrick Watkins, charged with capitol murder and two dozen attempted murders. It's a good bet Deputy DA Beth Silverman is co-counsel on that case.

When the parties in the well of the court hear that Deputy DA Silverman went to her hearing in Dept. 104 before her hearing before this case, Judge Coen has a look on his face and I hear this multi-voiced "oooooooooooooooh" coming from the well of the court. I'm not sure if Judge Coen's cryptic response was related to the news or not.

Defense counsel and the court chat off the record about potential trial month dates in 2020. Judge Coen states he has two death penalty cases and that ".... Beth says this case will take eight weeks." I believe it's Mr. Simmrin who states he can't believe the trial will take that long.

Judge Coen's clerk indicates the court does have some time in January 2020, but not the full 8 weeks. One of the defense attorneys asks if Judge Coen has anything in April. The court responds to the April request, "That's also a death case." There's also a trial in mid May that's a death penalty case. Judge Coen tells the parties, "It looks like I have June and July open ... that's how it looks now."  Mr. Simmirin tells the court, "You're a popular judge." Then there is a change in what I'm understanding about April. Now I hear that as April stands now, there's no more that six weeks available. [I'm taking that to mean April and then two weeks in May, since a death case starts mid May.]

Sprocket Note: Understand that cases are fluid and things can change at the last minute. A defendant can take a plea or a case with multiple defendants can successfully argue to sever their cases. These are the things that make judges court calendars change. Attorney's sometimes take their chances when juggling their own case load to get a favorable trial start date.

We are waiting for Deputy DA Silverman. The pretty prosecutor at the table approaches me and asks if I am "... on the Raymond case." I tell her, "No, I'm sorry. I'm not."  The court is waiting for the defendants in the other prosecutor's case and the sheriff's have no news on when they will arrive. The last news was the defendants were ten minutes out.

Judge Coen addresses the pretty prosecutor. "The job as Assistant Head Deputy is really hard." He then tells her that he read that a new "DA" has come into the race. District Attorney Jackie Lacey is running for reelection in 2020 and there are a few challengers.

I believe Judge Coen is talking about former defense attorney Rachel Rossi, who is joining former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, and two Los Angeles County Deputy DA's, Richard Ceballos and Joseph Iniguez in their bid to take over the coveted LA County DA spot. The prosecutor is cautious since press are in the room. She asks the court, "Your honor, may I approach?" He grants the request and she goes to the bench to talk to the court privately.

8:48 AM
Deputy DA Beth Silverman arrives, greeting Judge Coen's staff and opposing counsel. There is a bit of small talk between counsel about hard drives and when they will be ready.

Very quickly, Sementilli is brought into court. She doesn't look to cheery today. She takes her seat and Mr. Allhoff leans in to whisper to her.

Daniel Nardoni, one of Michael Gargiulo's defense attorneys, enters Dept. 101 and takes a seat in the gallery.

The court asks off the record about a return date for the Baker/Sementilli case. A date of January 9, 2020 is proposed. Deputy DA Silverman quickly agrees. The deputies bring Baker out. He sits in his usual spot on the end. 
8:51 AM
The court goes on the record for the next pretrial setting. Mr. Simmirin speaks for the record to set the case for January 9 and the case calendar for zero of 90 with the "reasonable people's continuance." Counsel agrees.

Judge Coen then asks each defendant if they agree to put their case over until January 9th. Both defendants respond yes. And that's it. Over in less than two minutes max. It looks like as Sementilli is getting out of her seat to return to the custody area, she quickly looks back to the gallery. After Sementilli, Baker is taken back into custody.

As I leave Dept. 101, I stop to ask Mr. Nardoni if he and co-counsel Dale Rubin will be representing Gargiulo through his appeal. Mr. Nardoni says they will not.

Next court date is January 9, 2020.