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The Forgotten Years

Judges Fred Gabourie and Gilbert Alston

Posted on | March 15, 2010 | 382 Comments

Governor Jerry Brown appointed Fred Gabourie to the Los Angeles County Municipal Court in January of 1976.

Gabourie had an interesting past, including helping to negotiate an end to the violent occupation at Wounded Knee in South Dakota by radical Indian activist Dennis Banks.  The two were to become friends.

As a result of that violence at Wounded Knee, Dennis Banks was convicted by a South Dakota jury of assault with a deadly weapon.  Two days before he was to be sentenced, Banks fled to California.  South Dakota requested extradition of Banks by Governor Brown.  After nearly a year of waiting, South Dakota filed suit to force Brown to extradite Banks.

The California State Supreme Court ruled that Governor Brown could grant asylum to Banks for the conviction in South Dakota.  Brown granted the asylum on April 20, 1978.  Following the Supreme Court decision, it was learned that at the time the case was being heard by the California Supreme Court, Bank’s attorney, Karen Spelke, was also employed on the staff of California Supreme Court Justice Wiley Manuel (a Jerry Brown appointee).

On January 14, 1980, Judge Gabourie was indicted along with three others for conspiracy to pervert or obstruct justice and for the removal and altering of government documents.  Two others were Harry Weiss and Sammy Weiss who were Brown campaign donors.

A key issue in the case was Gabourie’s handling of Los Angeles Municipal Court cases, specifically two drunk driving cases that vanished from the West Los Angeles Municipal Court chambers of Judge Gabourie.  Since Court procedures were an issue in the case, an Orange County Judge and Brown appointee Joanna Herald was selected.

The Weisses objected to Judge Herald who had a reputation as a no nonsense judge who started court on time and kept it moving. They filed an affidavit with the court to remove her from the case.  The California Judicial Council, with Chief Justice Rose Bird concurring, then appointed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gilbert Alston to act as the preliminary hearing judge in the Municipal Court proceedings.  Presumably the selection of a Superior Court judge ensured that the case would be heard by someone in the area who was not part of the Los Angeles Municipal Court System.  However, in selecting Alston the judicial Council overlooked that Alston had served on the Los Angeles Municipal Court and at the same time as Gabourie.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office filed a motion alleging that Alston should be disqualified from hearing the case due to his bias or prejudice.

Alston not only denied bias but said he didn’t even remember meeting Gabourie when they were judges in the same building.

The Orange County Judge assigned to hear the appeal, Judge Rickles denied the DA’s motion without even a hearing on the facts or the arguments.

Not contained in the DA’s motion was the fact that Judge Alston had attended a fundraiser for Judge Gabourie at General Lee’s restaurant in Chinatown after Gabourie had been indicted.

The Pasadena DA’s office would regularly file affidavits of bias against Judge Alston because they felt that he was hostile to law enforcement.

To understand why, we need only look at cases in the motion that Judge Rickles dismissed.

On July 13, 1977, a car driven by Alston’s wife reportedly failed to stop at a stop sign in Altadena and struck another car causing heavy damage to both cars and “visible injuries” to the driver of the second car.

When the police arrived Mrs Alston was phoning her husband and the officer “observed her eyes to be red and watery, her speech to be slurred and smelled a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from her breath.”

When Judge Alston arrived with his court bailiff he asked that his wife be questioned no further until she was seen by a doctor.  The officer agreed.

Alston’s wife went to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.

When the officers arrived at the hospital, they checked with the hospital’s medical staff and receiving their authorization to interview Mrs. Alston the officers headed for her room.

Judge Alston stopped the officers outside the room and refused to allow them to enter her room to interview his wife.

The officer says that Alston stood in the doorway with outstretched arms blocking their entrance.  Alston says that he merely stood in the doorway without outstretched arms.

No further effort was made to interview Mrs. Alston, nor was she given a sobriety test.

Judge Alston dismissed all charges against Gabourie and his three co-defendants.  In his decision, Judge Alston could not explain the disappearance of two court cases files from one court and their reappearance in Judge Gabourie’s court.  Nor, did he explain how one of the drunk driving defendants paid their “fine” to their attorney before the case was settled nor why one of the drunk driving defendants testified that his attorney, Weiss, had said that they were waiting for his case to get before a friendly judge.  These and other questions about the case will never be answered.

Probably afraid of the controversy that his decision would cause, Judge Alston issued a controversial (and probably unconstitutional) gag order.  Alton ordered “all of the attorneys, defendants, and their staff” not to discuss the case.  This was after he had decided the case.

Comments

382 Responses to “Judges Fred Gabourie and Gilbert Alston”

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