In an unusual court brief, a fellow judge has asked that a liberal Los Angeles judge be removed from the resentencing of a convicted cop killer because of his lefty Facebook remarks.
Judicial colleague Patrick Connolly has taken the extraordinary step of filing a motion to disqualify Judge Daniel Lowenthal from presiding over the case, claiming in a 186-page court document that Judge Lowenthal is “biased” in favor of the criminal defendant.
In this case, Lowenthal is the offspring of a former U.S. California Democrat Alan Lowenthal and the judge who last year ruled a mistrial for a robbery defendant who claimed he could not take good notes in court because he was sleep deprived.
That resulted in a very public argument with then-Sheriff Alex Villanueva of Los Angeles. Now, he’s dealing with a resentencing petition filed by Justin Flint, who was previously convicted of felony murder in 2007 for his role in the robbery that resulted in the death of Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Maria Rosa in her Long Beach driveway. Connolly, then a deputy district attorney, handled the prosecution of the case.
“The Application is made on the grounds that Judge Lowenthal is biased in favor of Petitioner Justin Flint and against the People and Judge Connolly, based on a purported Brady violation during Petitioner’s trial more than 15 years ago,” Connolly’s lawyer wrote. “Judge Connolly was lead trial counsel for the People.”
According to the evidence presented in court, 30-year-old Rosa was shot and killed by co-defendant Flint after the two saw her gun and badge during the heist. Flint sang Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” when he was being held in jail after his arrest, despite the fact that his accomplice had really fired the gun.
Several screenshots from Lowenthal’s personal Facebook page are included in Connolly’s petition to demonstrate the alleged bias in Lowenthal’s critique of “policing culture” and the American criminal justice system.
“As a lawyer, I represented police officer unions, served as a prosecutor, and defended the LAPD in employment litigation,” one Facebook post attributed to Lowenthal reads. “Now, as a judge, I evaluate the testimony of officers who testify in criminal cases, and I frequently am asked to review their personnel files.”
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He went on to explain how his negative views of the police force were formed when he had access to such sensitive information.
“Our paramilitary, aggressive policing culture, that often results in excessive force being used, should be replaced by one that emphasizes community-based policing focused on regular and positive community interaction,” he wrote.
“A police department’s recruitment and training should be focused on more civil rights, civil liberties, and understanding the past inequities and oppression endured by members of the community that the department serves.”
He also complained about the overcrowding of American prisons and boasted about giving probation to a middle-aged guy with “the cognitive functioning level of a 2nd grader” who threatened two children with a machete in a public restroom.
Angela Davis, a Marxist philosopher and fugitive from justice, was a subject of discussion in additional posts not included in the court files. Instead of an outright dismissal, Flint’s lawyers asked for a resentencing that could lead to his early release from jail.
Connolly claims in his submission that Lowenthal mistook a legal brief submitted in connection with the case for a habeas corpus petition seeking dismissal of the case.
The emergency motion disputes what appears to be Lowenthal’s argument that Flint’s prosecutor, Connolly, engaged in “severe misconduct” by concealing evidence from Flint’s defense team. But, the trial judge apparently ruled that it was not required to be disclosed, as stated in the document.
Another convicted criminal testified that Flint was down the street from the crime scene, but the prosecution countered that lookouts don’t need to be physically present at the time of the crime because Flint admitted to being one.
Although both Connolly and Lowenthal sit on the same court, Connolly has asked that a judge from a separate county make a final decision. After the filing on Monday, Lowenthal has had 10 days to respond.
The California Examiner is a must-read for everyone who wants to stay on top of the latest developments and insightful commentary.