Results tagged “Simi Valley” from The Court Reporter

The Court Reporter's Notebook

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Deputy Dan is Packing It Up and Leaving for the Streets of T.O.


Dan McLaughlin is the kind of cop that you want to show up at your door after you call the 911-dispatcher.

Mr. McLaughlin, who works at the Ventura  County Sheriff's Department,  is the bailiff in Courtroom 23.

Tuesday, however, is his last day at the courthouse. Afterwards, he begins his new assignment, patrolling the streets of Thousand Oaks.

Mr. McLaughlin has been assigned to the courthouse for nearly five years, and has been a deputy for nearly a decade.

Mr. McLaughlin, who is the son of a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran, is courteous and friendly--firm, yet fair when he did his job as bailiff, which is to maintain order during court proceedings.

On his off hours, he puts in a lot of hours at the gym usually arriving there early in the morning. He one of the best candy dishes on his desk that jurors, lawyers and others dip  into.

Mr. McLaughlin spent nearly 10 years in the Air Force where he was a crew chief for experimental aircraft.  His courtroom desk and wall are filled with photographs and models of aircraft, and his knowledge and details of jets and experimental aircraft is impressive.

"I miss the smell of jet fuel in the morning," said McLaughlin and laughed.

But the northern California native said his dream has always been to be a police officer and is now looking forward to his new assignment.

"I'd like to think of it that I am no longer serving the county," he said. "It's more personal. I am serving my community."

The courthouse's loss is Thousand Oaks' gain.

 

Courthouse is in Stabilizing Mode After Austere Years

 

With a sluggish economy showing signs of improvements, including the state comptroller office saying that revenues are up 4 percent and home foreclosures down,  it's still going to be a while, however, before the courthouse lines to file legal papers gets shorter, say court officials.

 "I think right now we are just in a kind of stabilizing mode. We are not looking to increase staff at this point," said Robert Sherman, assistant executive director of the Ventura County Superior Court.

There were 20 layoffs at the end of June in addition to 16 voluntary separations and the elimination of 45 vacant positions.

That's slowed down, even more, the wheels of justice at the Hall of Justice in Ventura.

"Less (staff) people, longer waits, longer processing times, and that's the new normal of operating at this point," he said.  "We might see some improvement for the future. "

The courthouse at Simi Valley will continue to remain open two days a week until the end of this fiscal year, said Sherman.

 "We'll have to wait to see what happens next (fiscal ) year," said Sherman.

Sherman said the courthouse will be closed this Wednesday, the before Thanksgiving and for five days between Christmas and New Year's Day to save money.

Only emergency legal matters will be handled during those days, said Sherman.

The Ventura County courts have 29 judges with one judicial vacancy and a staff of 375 people, said Sherman.


More Than 100 Penny Pinching Ideas Surface to Save Money 

 

Aside from laying off 20 courthouse workers, giving others voluntary separations and eliminating 40 vacant positions at the courthouse, judges and courthouse staff came up with dozens of other ways to save nickels and dimes  during these last two years during this statewide financial chaos.

 "We've got maybe 100, 150 things that have been done over the last couple of years," said Robert Sherman, assistant executive director of the Ventura County Superior Court.

Some of these things including changing the color of the paper used by staff at the courthouse, said Sherman. White paper is cheaper than colored paper; therefore, colored paper is not used, according to Sherman.

Also court reporters, whose job is to record the courtroom proceedings, will now have to ride with judicial assistants to go to the mental facility instead of taking separate vehicles and submitting two separate mileage reimbursement requests for the same trip, according to Sherman.

In addition, there is better coordination of the court calendars allowing one court reporter to cover multiple courts, he said.

 

 

Court Reporter's Notebook

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Simi Valley Man Held to Answer in The Death of His Live-In Girlfriend


The victim's 15-year-old daughter came home and found her mother's badly beaten and bloody body on the bed, and her five-year-old step brother was missing along with her stepfather, according to a Simi Valley detective.

Detective Keith Eisenhour testified today during a preliminary hearing  for the girl's stepfather Jose Escobar Monterrozo who is accused of killing the girl's mother Claudia Menjivar, 33.

The couple lived together at a house where the slaying took place that is located in the 2100 block of Lupin Street in Simi Valley on Jan. 25.  The 5-year-old boy was the couple's son and the girl was Minjivar's daughter, according to court testimony.

The 36-year-old Escobar Monterrozo  is charged with murder and using a weapon, a club.

Attorney Justin Tuttle who is with the Public Defender's Office argued in court that this is a "classic" voluntary manslaughter case, saying that the slaying was committed in the heat of passion. He said his client was a peaceful and quiet man who snapped after the victim who demeaned and poked fun of him and kept seeing Alex Mendez.

 "The pain is building and building and building," said Tuttle.

Prosecutor Rameen Minoui told the judge that there was no surprise about Menjivar's affair, and the defendant had known that Mendez was having an affair with his wife.  The defendant told  Eisenhour and a family friend that if he couldn't have Menjivar nobody else could either.

Escobar Monterrozo probably told Menjivar  that as he "struck her over and over again," Minoui told the judge.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Matthew Gausco ruled that there was sufficient evidence to hold Escobar Monterrozo, for trial on murder charges.

Only two prosecution witnesses,  Eisenhour and Dr. Ronald Halloran, the county's former chief medical examiner, testified during  the entire hearing.

Most of today's testimony was given by Eisenhour who described the violent and bloody crime scene where brain matter was found on the floor as a result of multiple blows to the back of the head with a car steering wheel lock

Eisenhour told the court that Escobar Monterrozo told him that Menjivar struck him in the bridge of the nose with the lock.  He took it away and began repeatedly striking her with it, telling Eisenhour she posed a threat to him after he grabbed the weapon, according to Eisenhour.

The five-year-old was in another room yelling "mommy, mommy" but his mother was dead by that time, according to Eisenhour.

"If she wasn't going to be with him, she wasn't going to be with anyone," Eisenhour said Escobar Monterrozo told him.

Escobar Monterrozo left with the child after he killed Menjivar.  A short time later, the boy was dropped off at a neighbor's house after Escobar Monterrozo bought him a toy. Escobar Monterrozo was arrested around  7:20 p.m. after he was spotted by an officer.

During cross examination, Tuttle questioned the detective about the relationship between Minjivar and her lover Alex Mendez who lived in Maryland.  The two knew each other when they were young and lived in El Salvador, and she contacted him through Facebook in February 2011.

Eisenhour gave details of Menjivar's secret rendezvous with Mendez including trips to Universal Studios when he flew into Los Angeles on August  2011.  Eisenhour said Menjivar also spent Christmas with Mendez in Las Vegas in 2011, and her 15-year-old daughter who was in Ventura County tracked them down through her cell phone using a GPS program. 

On numerous times, Escobar Monterrozo confronted his wife about the affair and even called Mendez dozens of times to get him to stop, according to Eisenhour.   

Eisenhour  said the victim's daughter blamed Mendez for her mother's death.

Ronald O'Halloran, who was the county's chief medical examiner, testified that the victim had multiple blows to the back of the head along with a number of lacerations, bruises and abrasions throughout her body.

"In the vicinity of 10 (blows),  is my best estimate," said O'Halloran.

 

 

 

Man Accused of Attacking Friend with a Skateboard is on Trial

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The 21-year-old defendant had been friends with the victim for about four months before he approached him from behind and smacked him in the back of head with a skateboard, causing a serious head trauma, according to court testimony.

The trial of  Kevin Cunningham got underway today in Courtroom 24 with Ventura County Superior Court Judge Ryan Wright presiding.

Cunningham is charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon and causing great bodily injury in an attack that occurred May 18, 2011.

The 22-year-old victim, Jonathan Hill Kennedy, testified that he woke up 10 to 15 seconds after being struck, was driven to the hospital and ended up staying there for a week.

The Simi Valley resident said his skull was fractured in several places.  He suffered bleeding of the brain, and it took 53 staples to close up the laceration, Kennedy testified

During his testimony, Kennedy walked in front of jurors and showed them the permanent scar on his head.

Earlier, prosecutor Richard Simon told jurors during opening statements in the trial that Cunningham accused Kennedy of "forcing" himself on Cunningham's girlfriend and "bashed" him in the head with the skateboard.

Simon told jurors that Cunningham will deny that he struck Kennedy with his skateboard inside Kennedy's garage where the defendant, the victim and two others had been smoking marijuana.

"It was too dark inside the garage. The lights were off and nobody knows who did it," Simon said the defense will claim.

Cunningham's lawyer David Lehr suggested to jurors that Kennedy had marijuana and cocaine in his system before he was struck, questioning what drugs can do to a person's ability to perceive things.

Lehr cautioned the jurors against immediately jumping to conclusions before all the evidence is heard.

Kennedy testified that he met Cunningham about four months before the incident and knew his girlfriend about two months before he met Cunningham.

On the day of the incident, Kennedy said he was inside his garage with two friends smoking marijuana. Cunningham arrived later in the evening with "a serious look" on his face, Kennedy testified.

Cunningham accused Kennedy of forcing himself on Cunningham's girlfriend.

Kennedy admitted on the stand that they both kissed while they were in an empty classroom at Moorpark College. He said he might have inappropriately touched her. However, he adamantly denied "forcing" himself on Cunningham's girlfriend.

"I would never push myself on a girl," he said, adding that he didn't know why Cunningham's girlfriend would say that.

Adding that he told Cunningham, "Come on, dude. You know me. You know I wouldn't do that."

Kennedy said he shook hands with Cunningham. Forty-five minutes later, Kennedy said he went to change the station on his radio when he was struck.

"I was sitting on my couch and my head was ringing," Kennedy testified.

He said his two friends who had been inside the garage told him that Cunningham "smacked" him on the head with the skateboard and left.

On the stand, Kennedy said he sold small quantities of drugs and uses medical marijuana because it relieves his anxiety and stress and when he doesn't use marijuana, he gets "restless leg syndrome."

Kennedy admitted having sex with Cunningham's girlfriend five or seven times, and twice when Cunningham was there.

"They just started and invited me in," Kennedy testified.

Kennedy said he still uses drugs, including marijuana.

"I feel normal when I smoke. I feel abnormal when I don't smoke," he testified.

The trial resumes this afternoon.

 

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 rhernandez@vcstar.com.