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.

 

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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.