Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Wesley Says He Had Nothing to Do With Suspect’s Release
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Wesley, who is being challenged for his seat on the court by opponents who claim he is responsible for the release of an accused carjacker now alleged to have committed murder after getting out of jail, said Monday he had nothing to do with the man being set free.
In an interview with the MetNews, Wesley described as “absolutely not true” the claim that he and Judge Daniel T. Oki deliberately ordered the release of Jerrell Patrick and other dangerous defendants in order to punish the District Attorney’s Office.
Association of Deputy District Attorneys President Steven Ipsen charged at a press conference last week that the May 28 releases were part of “an intentionally engineered plan to send some kind of warped message to the DA’s office.”
In fact, Wesley said, the decision to close Commissioner Jeffrey Harkavy’s arraignment court at the end of the normal court day, even though dozens of defendants had to be ordered to return the next day, was made entirely by Oki.
Oki was the supervising judge of the criminal courts at the time; Wesley was the assistant supervising judge. Oki has since moved to a civil department, while Wesley is now the supervising judge.
Limited Role Cited
Wesley said his role in the whole process was limited to communicating Oki’s order to Harkavy. At the time, Wesley said, he was on his way out of the courthouse to preside over a Teen Court session at a local high school, which he does every other Wednesday afternoon.
Wesley provided the MetNews with a copy of a letter from Harkavy to Ipsen, dated Nov. 4, the day that a newspaper ad blaming Oki and Wesley for Patrick’s release appeared in a local newspaper.
Harkavy said the ad contained “a misstatement of fact”—that “Judges Oki and Wesley gave orders to close the court at 4:30 p.m. in order to save money.” The order came from Oki, Harkavy said, with Wesley having “made a very brief appearance...for the limited purpose of relaying Judge Oki’s orders.”
Ipsen said yesterday he has still not received Harkavy’s letter.
Wesley said that while he had nothing to do with the decision, Oki’s actions were not based on malice, but on the administrative needs of the court.
There had, prior to May 28, been an ongoing problem with new felony cases being filed so late in the day that defendants could not be arraigned, Wesley said. This was particularly true when cases piled up after holiday weekends, he added.
The policy of cases being filed by the district attorney no later than 2 p.m. was never consistently adhered to, the judge said. May 28 was the Wednesday after Memorial Day, he noted, and there were 190 cases to be arraigned that day.
The carjacking case against Patrick, for example, was not filed until 3:30 p.m., according to court records.
Had every defendant been arraigned, Wesley said, the court would have been kept open until 10 or 11 p.m. that night, necessitating substantial overtime pay for the court interpreter, court reporter, and bailiff. (Bailiffs are deputy sheriffs, but their pay comes out of the court’s budget, not the Sheriff’s Department’s, the judge explained.)
Instead, the decision was made to order every defendant to return the next day. The court was kept open until 6 p.m. to do this, Wesley explained.
It was not until much later that Wesley learned that suspects had been released, he said.
Patrick, he added, should not have been released because he was the subject of a misdemeanor arrest warrant—information that could not have been known to the court but would have been available to the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office, Wesley said.
He also said the Los Angeles Police Department could have rearrested Patrick on the spot, since a magistrate had already made a non-adversary probable cause determination.
Wesley also said that as a result of May 28, the court, the LAPD, the District Attorney’s Office, and the Sheriff’s Department have all made administrative changes that should avoid a similar situation from arising in the future.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company