|Uwaydah Case Continued To Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Head Deputy DA John Nantroup Could Take The Stand. |
By Lonce Lamonte - December 3, 2018
On Thursday, November 29th 2018, further court proceedings for the Criminal Organization Munir Uwaydah case in downtown Los Angeles were supposed to take place. The prosecution had already been granted a continuance from Monday, November 26th. And before that they were granted a continuance from November 5th.
Now, at 10 am last Thursday, the scheduled time for the hearing, there was a sign on the door of Department 106 on the ninth floor of Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center that read “Closed Hearing”. The defendants and defense attorneys had to wait outside the court room.
About twenty minutes after ten, John Nantroup, the Head Prosecutor of the Organized Crime Unit, came out the door appearing agitated and swiftly left down the hall. Now the door was unlocked and the lawyers, defendants, and court room observers could go in.
The prosecution had been talking to Judge Larry Fidler “in camera”, which means they were talking privately off the record in the judge’s chambers. Clearly John Nantroup wasn’t happy. But it was odd that he left the court room while the other prosecutors stayed and listened to the on-the-record ruling.
Catherine Chon, Karen Nishita, Dayan Mathai, Kennes Ma, and Craig Hom—all on the prosecution team—all remained in the court room. Judge Fidler came out from his chambers and stated on-the-record he had found good cause to continue the hearing to Tuesday, December 4th.
The court room emptied. Dayan Mathai, the lead prosecutor, in a grey suit would not answer this writer when questioned as to why he had demanded another continuance. He simply shook his head very slightly as he walked in the direction of the elevators. He would not respond.
Yes, why all the continuances? They have been all requested by the prosecution, not the defense. The defense has been arguing against them.
On November 5th, Benjamin Gluck, counsel for defendant Paul Turley, argued vociferously to be allowed to move the Evidentiary Hearing forward, focused on his motion of alleged attorney-client privilege violations. He indicated that his next witness would be John Nantroup. Then he’d move down the line of prosecutors as witnesses, depending upon the testimony of Nantroup.
It can be speculated this is the reason Nantroup took off after the in-camera in Fidler’s chambers. He’s under subpoena as a witness and he’s not happy about that. The judge wouldn’t give him his way.
Judge Fidler has previously stated on the record that he will require the prosecution to testify, as they are under subpoena. Perhaps John Nantroup argued with Judge Fidler in camera not to be required to take the witness stand. Don’t know. If Nantroup and the prosecution team don’t want to testify, it could be that they are afraid.
The prosecution team has been working hard to avoid testifying. They clearly do not want to be cross examined as witnesses. Now, for the past month, it can be conjectured they’ve been begging and pleading with the judge. The judge is giving what he can, and has a pattern and practice of being generous and fair to both sides.
The prosecution may be afraid that if they are put on the stand under oath they will have to admit that they looked at attorney-client privileged documents and knew what they were doing while they were doing it. That’s an educated guess and a possibility. They are afraid their true confessions could inspire a ruling against them and this case could be pulled out from under them and assigned to the California attorney general’s office.
The lawyer from the attorney general’s office, Steven Matthews, has been a full participant in this Evidentiary Hearing since it started in the beginning of April 2018. I’ve nicknamed him the “Asked and Answered Man” as he remembers every question that’s already been asked by the examiners and objects to repetitions in court. Matthews doesn’t miss anything.
It’s clear he’s ensconced in the proceedings now in case his office takes over this case. If that happens, he knows the case.
Sergeant Tim McCrillis, until May of 2018 the lead investigator on this case, testified for four months. At one point he testified he was on the “Dirty Team”.
What that means is he’s been exposed to attorney-client privileged material. But on another day, when questioned about another set of evidence and another meeting with prosecutors, he said he was on the “Clean Team”. So, he flip-flopped. He was on the Dirty Team and then on the Clean Team. Then he may have gone back again.
Sergeant McCrillis wasn’t cordoned off as dirty team members are supposed to be isolated. He continued to hob nob, fully participate in meetings, and communicate with the prosecutors.
The other DA investigators did the same thing. They were not aware of any hard boundaries of clean teams and dirty teams. Their answers from the witness stand were invariably that they were not aware of any divisions.
What happened in Orange County with the Scott Dekraai case being taken away from the Orange County District Attorney’s office and reassigned to the California Attorney General could happen to these prosecutors on this Dr. Uwaydah case in Los Angeles. In the Scott Dekraai case, withholding of evidence was found to have been practiced by the prosecution by Judge Thomas Goethals, who found the prosecutors had improperly used jail informants and then not properly submitted the discovery. In this Uwaydah case, attorney Benjamin Gluck has screamed out accusations of discovery violations ad nauseum against the prosecution for almost three years.
With a ruling of obstruction of justice because of discovery violations, plus violations of the attorney client privilege, this prosecution could get recused.
So, perhaps the prosecution members are feeling at their peril.
On October 9th 2018, Alex Campbell, the present lead investigator on this Uwaydah case, took the stand as a witness. He has grey-auburn hair and appears older than Sergeant McCrillis whom he assisted on the investigation since January of 2014.
Gary Kaufman, defendant Tatiana Arnold’s defense attorney, came on strong. He dove into Alex Campbell.
Gary Kaufman: When did you first become aware Ms. Arnold is an attorney?
Alex Campbell replied that it was sometime during the investigation. He then soon thereafter stated that if there was privileged material in the evidence he was reviewing, he would not go through it.
Alex Campbell: As far as I know, she was a suspect in this case.
Gary Kaufman: What led you to believe Ms. Arnold was a suspect?
Kaufman went on further to ask Alex Campbell if the fact that he saw Mrs. Arnold as a suspect, that meant he thought it was perfectly okay to read her correspondence without restraint.
Alex Campbell: She was a suspect. A judge had signed off. There was no expectation of privacy.
Gary Kaufman: How did you come to that understanding?
Alex Campbell: Because I’ve written search warrants.
Alex Campbell went on to further explain that the status he and his team were operating under at that time was he could investigate without restraint.
Alex Campbell: Solely because she’s a suspect. There was a signing. There was no privilege.
Gary Kaufman: Because she was a suspect?
Alex Campbell: That is correct?
The fraud exception was in effect, Alex Campbell felt. This was strongly suggested by his answers.
Gary Kaufman: This is one of the biggest cases in the DA’s office for the last five years; right?
Alex Campbell: Eight years.
Gary Kaufman: You are not telling us that you DA investigators did not talk about this case; right?
Alex Campbell: I’m not telling you that.
Gary Kaufman: It’s an important case, you talked about it?
Alex Campbell: We talked about what a pain it was, yes.
Judge Larry Fidler: I’ll take judicial notice.
Laughter burst out in the court room.
Gary Kaufman then asked Campbell if there ever was a time when a DA investigator said he couldn’t talk to him because he was on the dirty team. Campbell said no, not to his recollection. Kaufman asked if he recalled any D.A. investigator saying to another investigator that he couldn’t talk to him because he was on the clean team. Campbell said no, not to his recollection.
Judge Larry Fidler: What was your understanding or belief as to Sergeant McCrillis?
Gary Kaufman: That was my next question.
Judge Larry Fidler: Sure. Go ahead.
Gary Kaufman: Did you ever give that question any thought as to whether you considered, or did you ever consider as to whether Sergeant McCrillis was on a clean team or dirty team?
Alex Campbell: I thought we were both sort of dirty. I mean, we had gone through the boxes, so that was my, I guess, belief.
Campbell went on to testify, somewhat equivocally, that he considered Karen Nishita, Kennes Ma, Dayan Mathai, and Catherine Chon all to be on the dirty team. The only one he didn’t consider to be dirty was Head Deputy John Nantroup.
Judge Fidler had said in open court just a few months ago that he doesn’t care if DA investigators considered themselves to be on the dirty team. All he cares about is if privileged information was used by the prosecution to write and file the charges.
That’s the million dollar question. That’s why the defense wants to put the prosecution team on the witness stand.
This case is now scheduled to be heard tomorrow, December 4th 2018, at 10 am. We’ll see if Head Deputy John Nantroup takes the stand.
Lonce Lamonte, journalist, email@example.com