There were more defendants and defense lawyers in court than there were people in the audience this afternoon.
The six defendants involved in a chop shop operation being run at a residence in Santa Paula and their six lawyers were so packed near the defense table that two defendants and a defense attorney had to sit inside the jury box.
The six defendants are Joseph Banuelo Bracamontes, 41;Justin Tyler Steele, 25; David Martinez Jr., 25; Aaron Alexander Morua, 26; Ryan Anthony Ramos, 23; David Jesus Velazquez, 25, are accused of being involved in a chop shop located at the 400 block of Grant Line Street in an unicorporated area of Santa Paula.
Initially, some of the defense lawyers complained that they didn't have all the discovery from the District Attorney's Office, and prosecutor Anthony Sabo said he gave everybody what he had from the investigation.
Defense Attorney Bill Haney who is representing Morua, said the DA must give lawyers exculpatory evidence if they have it.
Attorney Donna Forry who is representing Bracamontes, said she was ready to proceed with the preliminary hearing.
Judge David Hirsch said he would allow defense lawyers to discuss among themselves whether they want to continue the preliminary hearing.
"The preliminary doesn't look like its ready to be held," said Hirsch.
The judge, who has the patience of Job, left the courtroom.
More discussions in court by the defense lawyers for about 10 minutes before they decided to go outside the courtroom for more talks.
Courtroom observer Mickey Schlein, who has been sitting in Ventura County's courtrooms for nearly 13 years, said this is a waste of the court's resources and time.
"All of this should be resolved before they hold a preliminary hearing," the 85-year-old Schlein complains.
Ten minutes later, all the defense lawyers agree that the preliminary hearing can proceed.
The judge comes back on the bench and the preliminary hearing starts..
The first prosecution witness, Detective Christopher Martin, who is with the California Highway Patrol and was assigned to the Ventura County Auto Theft Task Force, was hammered by defense attorneys with objections.
Some of the objections come in two and threes and others in unison: hearsay, lack of foundation, lack of personal knowledge so on and so forth.
Martin, who has a shaved head, beard and an earring, isn't rattled.
Soon it was raining objections with the judge swatting down some, sustaining others or telling prosecutor Anthony Sabo to fine tune his questions.
Then, it got slow.
After 15 minutes of Martin testifying about the make and model of each car that was brought into the chop shop along with giving precise details on how he found out the vehicle had been stolen, the court proceeding got very slow.
A well-behaved little girl about eight years old who is the daughter of one of the defendants curled up on a second-row seat and fell asleep next to her mother.
Across the aisle and about 10 minutes into Martin's testimony, Mr. Schlein, whose quick mind and memory are incredible and who sometimes drives like a bat out of hell, is also asleep.
Twenty minutes later, both the girl and Mr. Schlein are awake.
The judge has the defense objections down to a drizzle when Martin shifts into his testimony on the fifth or sixth car.
It is late in the afternoon, Mr. Schlein calls it a day and leaves.
A few minutes later, the judge, who goes on vacation on Friday, mercifully announces a short court break.
I head down to Courtroom 12 where all the lawyers of the 16 defendants named in the Mexican Mafia conspiracy indictment handed down in November converge along with prosecutor Joann Roth.
More legal housekeeping and more discovery is handed over.
One by one, the defense lawyers and their clients take turns going going before Judge Kevin McGee.
Defense lawyer Jay Leiderman, who is representing Edwin Mora who has been described as the shot caller in Ventura County, stated attorneys have received 8,000 pages of discovery along with 20 to 25 CDs and DVDs so far.
"You know they aren't paying us? Apparently the county was not told to budget for a big case," he texted. "I've been paid $874 since November. And that was just a few weeks ago that I finally got the check."
"Have you cashed the check? :)" I texted back.