Category Archives: California

Pity the Attorney with a Difficult Client

As you may have seen, trial got underway in New York City for producer Harvey Weinstein, charged with several sexual offenses in one of the landmark cases of the #metoo movement. Today, Mr. Weinstein was excoriated by the judge for using his cell phone in court, in spite of the judge’s strict rule against it, and repeated orders not to do so. His poor attorneys end up apologizing to the judge for their client’s behavior, only for the judge to “snarl” at them as well. Apparently, they had made Weinstein turn over his cellphone earlier, but he had multiple additional cell phones and continued to access them in court. He’s literally pulling tricks to confound his own attorneys as they were trying to keep him out of trouble. The judge threatened to revoke his bond for disobeying the order, which he would have been in his power to do.

Weinstein picked a particularly bad day to disobey the judge, because new charges had been filed against him in California, and the prosecution on this case was already arguing to the court for his bond to be revoked. I think the State shot itself in the foot suggesting that they had not been in contact with the Los Angeles prosecution when the indictment was conveniently unveiled to coincide with the start of his New York trial… and that the L.A. prosecutor indicated that they certainly had been in contact with the New York D.A. The defense asked for a continuance and the judge smartly resolved everything to avoid conflict: denying the request for continuance, denying the request to revoke bail on the New York case, and ultimately setting identical bail on the California case so the court can get down to the business of conducting the trial at hand, which is expected to last around two months.

Harvey Weinstein being assisted to court

The challenge for Weinstein’s lawyers, beyond the legal challenge of defending him from the charges, will be to rein in his behavior so he doesn’t end up shooting himself in the foot. He started showing up to court with a walker, and when commentators suggested he was trying to garner sympathy, he had an extensive interview with Page Six without consulting his attorney.  He’s trying to win in the court of public opinion while his attorneys are trying to win in actual court, where the potential penalty is life in prison. He has already gone through multiple prior attorneys, before settling on this team.

The predatory rape charges included in the New York case create a huge challenge for Weinstein’s defense team as they allow the state to introduce evidence of other offenses. This includes offenses that were not charged and that may not have been brought up until after the statute of limitations, and none for which Mr. Weinstein has admitted or been convicted of. He categorically denies all charges, and says that any sexual contact was consensual. However, the State being able to bring in a string of additional accusers presents a damning fact pattern and suggestion of guilt that will be difficult for the defense to overcome, particularly coupled with some potentially humiliating evidence. Compare the case against Bill Cosby, who’s first trial ended in a hung jury. During the second trial, the court permitted evidence from additional accusers and the jury in that case convicted Cosby. On the other hand, the charges only came about after a very public campaign creating political pressure for the prosecutors to bring charges, and one of the lead NYPD investigators was prevented from testifying due to suggestions of witness coaching and withholding evidence. The case will be a hard-fought battle for the next eight weeks. The attorneys have their work cut out for them, but at least they are being well paid.

Kellen Winslow II’s Rape Trial is Underway

Former NFL player Kellen Winslow is on trial in California for a dozen charges related to alleged sexual assaults, lewd conduct, and indecent exposure: he faces up to life in prison. The first of five accusers testified yesterday, and it did not go well for the prosecution. The victim’s credibility was attacked thoroughly on the stand: her testimony was “shaking and baffling” according to USA Today and she was “caught in a web of lies and contradiction” according to Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel. Wetzel reports that her story changed while she was on the stand, contradicted her prior testimony, and only her word can overcome Winslow’s claim that the encounter was consensual. The state has four more alleged victims with several different claims. It will be hard for Winslow to overcome that many allegations presented to the same jury, but the outcome is far from a forgone conclusion.

Dozens Indicted in College Entrance Scam, Including Celebrities and College Coaches

Federal prosecutors unveiled 40 indictments today in an extensive scheme for wealthy parents to assist getting their children into elite schools. Essentially, well-off parents were using a college preparation business, run by William”Rick” Singer, as a go between to cheat and bribe their children’s entrance into schools. Singer’s company was called Edge College & Career Network, also known as “the Key”, a for-profit prep business out of Newport Beach, California.

Rick Singer, per SacBee.com

The first step was often to have Singer cheat on the tests. It appears this would be accomplished in several steps: Singer and his cohorts, some of which are cooperating witnesses, would have the parents claim a learning difference that would allow their children more time and to take the test at a different location. Singer would use a testing location that he “controlled” to then improve the children’s performance on the test, getting higher scores and making the children more attractive to elite schools. The children would not even know about the adjusted tests, leaving them to believe they had just performed well.

There was a second approach that involved bribing the schools. In some instances, Singer’s connections would designate the students as recruits for college athletics teams to facilitate their admission. Singer also ran a charitable organization through which he would funnel the money to coaches, such as Yale women’s soccer coach Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith, who had coached there for more than 20 years. Nine coaches and sports administrators have been indicated, including those from schools such as Stanford, USC, Texas and Yale.

Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin

The operation involved more than two hundred FBI agents, multiple cooperating witnesses, and has ensnared rich and powerful people such as actresses Felicity Huffman & Lori Loughlin, as well as CEOs and prominent lawyers. Some payments were in the thousands, while others paid up to $6 million to get their children into competitive elite schools.

DUI on a Scooter in L.A.

Los Angeles had their first successful prosecution of DUI on a scooterscooter. And not like a Vespa, but one of those little motorized scooters. It sounds like California has a law written similar to Florida’s that prohibits operating any VEHICLE under the influence. Nicholas Kauffroath plead to one count of DUI, and another count of hit and run, after he struck an elderly gentleman and sped off on his scooter. I’ve seen DUIs on bikes, and even a motorized cooler, so keep that in mind that you don’t drink and drive/ride/roll!

Could OJ Simpson get out of Prison this Summer

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OJ Simpson via NV DOC

OJ Simpson is coming up for parole this year, and might actually be able to get out this fall. He’s in prison in Nevada for his role in a robbery since 2008, when he was sentenced to up to 33 years. He came up for parole on some of those charges in 2013, and was granted parole to those charges, but was not eligible for every count for which he is imprisoned. The other charges will be parole-eligible in October and they will likely hold the hearing on eligibility this summer. It’s completely within the discretion of the parole board, but in light of his being granted parole earlier on the other charges, and due to his advancing age, I expect he will be able to get parole later this year. I am far from an expert on it, since I don’t practice in Nevada, but Sports Illustrated does a great job looking into the process.

Web Page Publishers Charged with Pimping

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Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

Backpage.com is known among the criminal bar as a webpage that carries personal ads targeting ‘adult services’, like the old back pages of tabloid papers. It’s not unusual for that to be the source leading to prostitution arrests. California Attorney General Kamala Harris initiated these charges as part of a crackdown on human trafficking. As far as I know, it’s the first time a webpage publisher has faced criminal charges for a hosting-type situation. It will be interesting if these charges will hold up, and for the First Amendment ramifications for charging a publisher. Some of the facts cited by the LA Times are damning, as these men were making millions from the website, and there are shocking numbers of minors being trafficked by pimps on Backpage.

Former Harvard Law Attorney Pleads Guilty to Bizarre Kidnapping Plot

Matthew Muller

Frmr. Atty. Matthew Muller

Matthew Muller was admitted to practice law in California in 2011 after graduating Harvard Law. A decorated former Marine, he could have accomplished anything with his life, and now he is facing life behind bars. Muller pled guilty on Thursday to a kidnapping and ransom plot, and his attorney is concerned that he could be sentenced to life in prison. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend no more than 40 years in prison, but the ultimate sentence will be up to the judge.

When Denise Huskins and her boyfriend Aaron Quinn reported that they had been kidnapped, investigators did not believe them, and developed a theory that the report was a hoax. That was finally shot down when Muller was caught in another home invasion/attempted robbery and discovery the trappings of this offense. He had demanded $17,000 in ransom payments that he never collected, and Ms. Huskins was ultimately dropped off safely at her family home.

Huskins and Quinn have filed a lawsuit against the Vallejo police department for their mishandling of the case, and claim that they had to move our of town after the department’s allegations of a bogus kidnapping. Police doubted Ms. Huskins because they thought she didn’t act like a kidnapping victim: going as far to require Mr. Quinn to provide DNA samples. The whole case is crazy: I look forward to seeing it on ’48 Hours’ or even in a movie.