U.S. District Court Judge Florence Marie Cooper died Friday.
I had the distinct honor of seeing her courage in doing the right thing when I was defense investigator for Gyula Tamas Zubovicz (aka Dracula) when the LAPD and the District Attorney’s office were dead set on framing him. It’s not that Zubovicz was an upstanding example of morality, but when the authorities couldn’t get him for anything real, they just invented a case.
Zubovicz was accused to conspiracy to possess explosives in a residential area. The evidence came down to the word of a notorious snitch, Gregory James Bartole. Bartole is still on the scene and still as delusional as he was before: he recently convinced some other ex-con that he was the head of the Sicilian Mafia on the West Coast, as though LCN would have anybody in its ranks that had ever testified as state’s evidence before.
The LAPD didn’t put the detective on the witness stand who’d taken certain evidentiary photos of where dynamite wrappers had supposedly been burned in a fire place and the ashes supposedly recovered. Maybe they were worried that his having been sued by his wife for divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty would come out, or maybe the D.A. — John C. Spence III — was worried that the photos he’d taken clearly showed the electrical cord that went to the fire place which had long since been cleaned out and converted to a faux electrically lit up fireplace.
Long story short, there had been a motion in limine granted by Judge Cooper before the trial even began precluding the prosecution from referring to the Hungarian Mafia, the Jewish Defense League or the initials JDL or introducing any evidence about those entities. Spence had claimed that he’d given us his entire file during discovery and there was nothing in any of that evidence that he was introducing — or so he claimed — that had anything to do with the Hungarian Mafia.
At the last minute of the trial, literally, he showed us (the defense team at counsel table) a two page document without showing us the second page which he wanted to introduce to prove Zubovicz’s co-defendant’s address at a certain point in time. The second page he didn’t show us, which the jury saw, contained the claim that the co-defendant was a purported hit-man for the Hungarian Mafia.
The jury hung on Zubovicz but convicted the co-defendant. I spoke with one of the jurors who’d held out for Zubovicz acquittal and found out that the reference to the Hungarian Mafia was why the jury convicted the co-defendant.\
I filed an affidavit with Judge Cooper alleging violation of her order on the motion in limine by the prosecutor, Spence. I asked her to jail him for contempt of court.
She didn’t do that but she went one step better: she declared a mistrial and threw out the jury’s verdict against the co-defendant. Judge Cooper was a courageous woman and an honorable judge of the highest order.