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Attorneys challenge evidence in identity theft case

Miranda rights may not have been read

Posted: February 24, 2009 1:31 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2009 4:30 a.m.
Defense attorneys challenged evidence deputies gathered during a local raid while a key witness kept pleading the Fifth Amendment during eight pretrial hearings Monday in Santa Clarita Superior Court.

Los Angeles County Deputy Public Defender Anne Goldin hammered away at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's deputies on whether the defendants were read their Miranda rights before interrogation during the L&M Optical West raid on Feb. 5.

"The evidence collected is the fruit of that interrogation. And if the interrogation happened before (the suspects) were read their Miranda rights they were denied due process," Goldin said.

Judge Graciela Freixes said arguments about due process are better suited for the trial not the pretrial hearing. "This hearing is for discovery," she said.

Santa Clarita Valley sheriff's deputies raided L&M Optical West, after receiving tips that employees were using stolen Social Security numbers and fake alien resident cards. Deputies arrested 55 suspects in the raid.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney brought charges against 54 suspects arrested during the raid.

Questions arose prior to Friday's pretrial hearings about whether sheriff's deputies read the defendants their Miranda rights. Sgt. James Anderson declined to comment Friday on when a suspect's Miranda rights must be read.

"After reviewing all the reports of all of my clients I never saw the word Miranda in any of their reports," said an L.A. County Deputy Public Defender. "They absolutely should have had their rights read to them under the circumstances."

Key witness for the prosecution, Rosa Gutierrez, continued to duck behind the Fifth Amendment on direct questioning by L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Louis Morin and cross examination by Goldin on Monday.

"I refuse to answer the question based on my right against self-incrimination," Gutierrez said when asked about her role in L&M Optical West's personnel record keeping.

The line echoed through the court room 12 times during Friday's proceedings in the ID theft case. Gutierrez stuck with the same line during Monday's proceedings.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states that a person shall not be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, according to the Cornell University Law School Web site.

Freixes met with Gutierrez's lawyer Anthony Pullara just before noon Monday. Freixes returned from chambers and forced Gutierrez to answer questions about whether the witness recognized employee verification forms.

Gutierrez said she recognized the personnel form. She returned to her evasive tactics on the next question.

"Do you attempt to verify employee records at L&M?" Morin asked.

"I refuse to answer the question based on my right against self-incrimination," Gutierrez said.

Judges Freixes and Lloyd Nash held over eight defendants for arraignment on March 9 in San Fernando Superior Court.

Pretrial hearings for 44 defendants are scheduled during the next two days, Freixes said.


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