By Melanie Camp
A second preliminary hearing is set for tomorrow morning for Francisco Guzman and Venice Beach hotel owner Sris Sinnathamby, both are charged in connection with a transient’s shooting death during a disturbance on the Venice Boardwalk.
On Wednesday October 14th, a preliminary hearing date was set for Francisco Guzman, and owner of the Cadillac Hotel, Sris Sinnathamby.
Both Guzman and Sinnathamby have been charged with murder following the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Jascent Warren during a disturbance outside the hotel in the early hours of Sunday morning, Aug. 30.
Before Guzman could be brought into the courtroom, Judge Lauren Weis Birnstein first established that there were no percipient witnesses in the room, due to an identity issue in the case.
The morning’s hearing was intended to be short. However, Guzman’s Attorney Garrett Zelen had requests including that Judge Weis Birnstein order video evidence be suppressed. Zelen said he worried that it contained identifying evidence which if released by LAPD would jeopardized his client’s chance of a fair trial.
A heated discussion over the matter ensued.
Deputy District Attorney John McKinney was reluctant to accept the video’s suppression saying it would “prohibit LAPD from sending it out to third party vendors for video enhancement.”
McKinney pointed out that as the LAPD had not released the video during the manhunt for suspect Guzman there was little chance they would have a need to release the video now he was in custody.
The video, McKinney said in court, shows Guzman firing multiple times into a crowd of people.
Sinnathamby’s attorney, Alan Jackson, remained quiet throughout the discussion of the security footage. Speaking only to agree with McKinney on the video’s content, saying it “absolutely exonerates my client. Establishing with 100 percent certainty that he is not guilty.”
Zelen however persisted, insisting the video be suppressed while Judge Weis Birnstein grew more impatient.
“There is nothing a court can do in this day and age of cell phone videos to stop the dissemination of evidence like this,” Birnstein said.
Birnstein argued that already so many people had had access to the video any order to suppress it had to be “severely modified” as it was “way over broad.”
At one point Zelen attacked LAPD saying they had known of Guzman’s whereabouts long before they arrested him and questioned their motive behind this.
As the hearing continued two woman in the courtroom, friends of Warren, sat with cell phones in hand recording video and taking still shots of the co-defendants. At one point one woman appeared to Snapchat a photo of Sinnathamby.
After the hearing finished her companion followed Sinnathamby out of the courtroom filming as she walked behind him expressing anger over her friend’s death.
Those who witnessed the women filming reported the incident to the bailiff who confronted them both as they were leaving the court, asking they return to the courtroom and appear before the Judge.
Back in the courtroom Jackson said, “There were individuals taking still photos while there was a discussion of identity issues.”
Both women, Scarlett Singleton and Ashley McKeller, denied knowing that recording video and taking pictures was forbidden in court.
Judge Birnstein made both Singleton and McKeller swear on oath before asking if they had shared any of the videos or still pictures on social media.
She then had the phones confiscated, returning them only after all attorneys were satisfied the images in question had been deleted.
“You are ordered to never, ever do this again,” Birnstein said. “I understand how you feel. You want to be here to support your friend, but you can’t record in court.”
Outside the courtroom, McKeller said Singleton had been “trying to record for his (Warren’s) Dad” who lived in Chicago. She said they had wanted to show him that they were there to support his son.
Known as Shakespeare to his friends, Warren was homeless by choice said Paul Goldstein. Goldstein had played in a band with Warren. Since his passing friends have created a Soundcloud account and uploaded songs by Warren.
Goldstein says the reason there has been so much anger directed at Venice local Sinnathamby over Warren’s death is because, ‘his words led to a direct action.”
Witnesses had told CBS2 that the hotel owner was with a gunman at the time of the shooting. Witnesses also told the station the unidentified gunman was operating under orders from the hotel owner.
“Memory conformity,” says Jackson, also known as social contagion is when one person’s report on an event influences another’s memory of what happened.
“This is exactly what has happened in this case,” says Jackson. “All I can say is thank God there’s a video. The video establishes that the things said did not happen.”
Goldstein says he was not in Venice at the time of Warren’s death but that, “Every account I’ve heard was that Sinnathamby ordered the shooting.”
So far the only witness statements that have been made public were taken from the men responsible for the attack on Sinnathamby, sources tell Yo! Venice.
Sinnathamby still showed signs of the attack, including a black eye. Sources said he obtained serious injuries, including a broken collarbone, a broken eye-socket that had required surgery, and stitches across his head.
Outside the courtroom McKinney said that Guzman was an alleged gang member and that gang affiliation while not “soul motivation” for a crime can be “part of the motivation” and would be something they would look into.
McKinney said Zelen’s accusation in court that LAPD had held off arresting Guzman was the first time he’d heard of it. McKinney questioned what Zelen had said saying it was “not usual for police officers to allow a dangerous gang member to exist in the community.”
When asked if the friends of Warren were happy that LAPD had caught Guzman, the man they believed to be the gunman, they replied, “it’s nice to know that justice has a chance but it doesn’t make you feel better. It doesn’t bring Shakes back.”