Results tagged “Gilbert Romero” from The Court Reporter

The Court Reporter's Notebook

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It's Family Law

During the swearing-in ceremony Friday for Judge Gilbert Romero, Presiding Judge Brian Back quipped and cautioned Romero when  Commissioner Rocky Baio, who presides over family law cases, helped him take of his coat to put on a black robe.

"He is family law. He might go through your pockets," Back told Romero.

The audience laughed.

Lawyers in Andrew Luster Hearing Get Two Thumbs Up

Retired Judge Kathryne Stoltz complimented Andrew Luster's lawyers Jay Leiderman and David Nick along with prosecutor Michelle Contois on the way their did their job during the habeas corpus hearing that lasted more than a week.

The judge said the lawyers did an outstanding job and her respect for them grew each day of the hearing. She said she "profusely" thanked all three attorneys.

Luster's Three Rape Victims Could Take the Stand Again 

Prosecutor Michelle Contois told the Judge Kathryne Stoltz that the victims  who Luster drugged and raped could take the stand again and testify against him if she rules that Luster will have a sentencing hearing.

Contois said the state constitution guarantees that victims of crime must be afford the opportunity to attend court during sentencing, and make victim impact statements against defendants.

Luther will also be allowed to admit mitigating evidence if he is granted a sentencing hearing by  Judge Kathryne Stoltz.

Defense lawyers said that if Luster gets a 20-year sentence, he will be immediately eligible for parole since he only has to serve 50 percent of the sentence on these kinds of nonviolent, sex crimes.

Luster has been behind bars since 2003.


From the Court Reporter's Notebook

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The Judge is "Hands On" in the Andrew Luster Case

When prosecutor Michelle Contois asked Luster whether he believed more harm was done to him than what he did to his victims, Judge Stoltz quickly jumped in and said: "Whooooooa!"

She told Contois that this was argumentative and that wouldn't be allowed, afterwards, she quipped that she had objected and sustained her own objection.

Stop Seeing My Sister, Andrew

Andrew Luster testified that a Sheriff's deputy at the jail had threatened him if he didn't stop seeing his sister. But Luster said he continued to see her.

The judge after listening to both defense attorneys and prosecutor Contois question Luster wanted to know why the deputy didn't want Luster to see his sister.

"Nobody is going to ask him why?" the judge asked the lawyers. "Okay, I'll ask him why."

She then turned to Luster who was on the stand and asked "Why?"

Luster said the deputy's sister visited him and he explained to her what happened.

"She still wanted to maintain a relationship with me and I with her," Luster told the judge.

They are not Experts, the Judge Ruled

The judge ruled that Attorney Ron "who represents the Star in First Amendment issues" Bamieh and Former Judge Arturo Gutierrez turned criminal lawyer could testify at Luster's trial but not as experts.

Gutierrez testified that sentences that of eight to 12 years that were offered to Luster were "average" for similar crimes during that time when he was on the bench.

Former Senior Deputy District Attorney John Blair testified that the plea bargain offer was made by Luster's lawyers and as with any plea offer at that time, he said he wrote a memo to his superiors on June 5, 2001 stating that Luster was willing to plead guilty to two counts of rape.

"They asked me to put something in writing, which I did," said Blair who is now a court commissioner in San Diego.

Bamieh, a veteran prosecutor, was brought in to impeach Blair's credibility and the District Attorney's Office claim that they never offered Luster a plea-bargain offer.

Bamieh testified on the policies and procedures of the district attorney during the time Michael Bradbury was the county's chief prosecutor.

 Bamieh testified that there was no way a memo would have been written until after defense lawyers had agreed to take a deal and the prosecutor  "pitched the deal" to Bradbury who was sometimes at the "ranch" or out golfing.

Bamieh testified that he was paid a $5,000 retainer fee by the defense for his agreement to testify as an expert. He said he did more than eight hours of legal work at $350 an  hour.

As he left the courtroom after his testimony, I asked him: "Hey Ron, how much did you get in total?"

"Lots of money, just do math," he replied and walked out.

Attorney Richard Sherman and Investigator Bill Pavelic Were Also Getting  "Lots of Money."

Luster testified that he paid Attorney Richard Sherman, who he said charmed and bamboozled him, $5,000 a month, and he paid Pavelic $15,000 a month.

Sherman who is dead told Luster that the prosecutors who he called the "evil minions" and Judge Ken Riley were running a rigged game in the courtroom and convinced him go to Mexico with Patrick Campbell who could help him hatch a plan, Luster testified.

Luster said he first met Campbell who, Luster testified, was dressed all in black at Sherman's house. Campbell told him that he was a mercenary, running guns and helped over throw some countries and talked about diamonds in Sri Lanka.

(Yeah, and, I am a Walrus)

 Anyway, Campbell, still dressed in all black, took Luster into a bedroom and had him strip down to his underwear to see if he was wearing a wire.

Campbell told him about how he could help him flee to Mexico for $200,000 and a small fee of this (I would assume a finder's fee) would go to Sherman who often employed Campbell.

Also Campbell said he needed an additional $80,000 for an East Coast buddy but promised Luster that he would get this fee back, Luster testified.

Luster went to Mexico and never saw a dime of the $80,000, and defense lawyers say that Campbell is nowhere to be found.

Back on the Planet Earth

Former season prosecutor Bill Haney recently joined criminal attorney Philip Dunn's law firm as a full-fledged partner.

Dunn who had a wide grin when I bumped into him in the courthouse said he was very happy to hire Haney. He said there was a lot of work to do at his office, and Haney with all his experience would be a good fit.

Newly Appointed Judge to be Sworn into Office on Friday

Former prosecutor Gilbert Romero will be sworn into office at 4:00 p.m. on Friday in Courtroom 22 at the Hall of Justice in Ventura.

The oath office will be administered by Judge Patricia Murphy.


Woman Who Pleaded Guilty to Insurance Fraud Could Go To Jail

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By Raul Hernandez

A judge today postponed a decision on whether a Camarillo woman who pleaded guilty to insurance fraud should get jail time along with probation because he has to determine how much in restitution she owes to the insurance company.

Mona Alberti, 52, claimed she suffered a back  injury in 1997 after she bent down and picked up a pencil during a training session for her job with an insurance company , said prosecutor Gilbert Romero.

Romero told Ventura County Superior Court  Judge Charles Campbell that Alberti should pay $356,000 for more than a decade of insurance payments for such things as doctors, limousine service and medication.

In April, Alberti pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and is facing up to a year in jail after she is examined to find out the extent of her disability.

The judge said he will determine how much jail time, if any, Alberti should get based amount of fraud she committed.  Meanwhile, the judge put Alberti on probation.

Alberti is scheduled to return to court in March.

State workers compensation workers have filed a civil lawsuit to collect some of the payments made to Alberti,  a case that is pending, according to Romero.

Alberti's lawyer Brett Greenfield of Encino told the judge that his client is penniless.

"This is a woman who is broke," he said, adding that she has three children who attend college and a husband with three jobs.

Greenfield said Alberti has had surgery and  takes  "medication beyond belief that you can almost drug an elephant with."

Romero said in an interview that the insurance company paid for limousine service so Alberti could go to the doctors because she said she couldn't drive. He said Alberti went to doctor's appointment using a walker and later that day, she is caught on video shopping at the mall, holding bags and driving away.

Outside the courtroom,  Greenfield said his client still has a 48 percent disability rating and that was lowered from 100 percent after the video recording.

Greenfield called the state's workers compensation "flawed," saying that there are a lot of people who are disabled like his client who has "multi-faceted" impairments.

"In her case,  very frustrated by seeing 50 to 60 to 70 doctors over a period of 13 years," said Greenfield. "These doctors flagged physical and psychological issues."

He said he explained the secret video recording as an attempt to "embellish" her injury and a cry for help to get a doctor to pinpoint her disability.

"In her mind, she was trying to cry out because she didn't feel anybody was recognizing what was wrong,"  said Greenfield. "You can explain it to a jury but it is the same result that we have here today. Ms. Alberti is not backing away from the fact that she embellished."



The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at