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Judge Slams Lindsay Lohan’s Attorney, Orders Her To Stand Trial

Omar Shamout |
March 1, 2013 | 4:49 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Lohan's attorney, Mark Heller, faces reporters outside the Airport Courthouse on Friday.
Lohan's attorney, Mark Heller, faces reporters outside the Airport Courthouse on Friday.
A judge ruled Friday that Lindsay Lohan must stand trial March 18 on charges of lying to Santa Monica police following a car crash on Pacific Coast Highway last June in which her Porsche rear-ended a truck.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Dabney expressed serious doubts about Lohan attorney Mark Heller’s knowledge of California law, mandating that a local attorney accompany Heller the next time he appears in court.

The 26-year-old Lohan, who was not in court Friday, would have to waive her right to competent counsel if Heller doesn’t bring in someone else.

“I am somewhat concerned,” Dabney said, “that you have sufficient guidance from local counsel.”

He chastised Heller, a veteran New York lawyer, for submitting motions that did not conform to California law and procedure in “a number of respects.”

Out-of-state attorneys are required to be sponsored by a California lawyer in order to practice within the state. While Heller is sponsored, the attorney did not appear in court Friday.

Heller said his motion was based on what he described as confusion in the filed charges surrounding where Lohan’s statements were given and to whom. He suggested Lohan’s constitutional rights might have been violated in the process.

Lohan allegedly told officers that she was not driving the car during the accident. She is also accused of reckless driving, and willfully resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer.

Dabney explained to Heller that his motion needed to be filed during arraignment rather than at a pre-trial hearing. He also said the format in which Heller presented the motion was not valid in California. Dabney did tell Heller he would have the chance to revisit the matter with the trial judge.

Los Angeles lawyer Shawn Holley represented Lohan until last month when a different judge agreed to let her out of the case.

Minutes after refusing Heller’s first motion, Dabney denied Heller’s request to delay the trial two weeks beyond the scheduled March 18 start date. Santa Monica prosecutor Terry White said his office did not want to postpone, and Dabney said he found no reason to put things off any longer. 

Heller pleaded with the judge to show “mercy and compassion” on his client. Dabney’s eyes bulged in shock, responding that the defense attorney seemed to misunderstand the purpose of Friday’s hearing.

“I’m a master calendar,” Dabney said, “not a trial judge.”

The 15-minute hearing couldn’t have gone any worse for the defendant said Troy Slaten, a criminal defense attorney who was in the courtroom audience.

“This was disastrous for Lindsay Lohan,” Slaten said. “It was clear Mr. Heller has no clue what’s going on with regard to California criminal procedure.”

Prosecutors are currently negotiating a potential plea bargain with Heller that could allow Lohan to avoid jail time in favor of treatment at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.

However, the L.A. Times reported Thursday that Los Angeles city attorneys would not agree to any deal that includes less than 90 days spent in rehab.

L.A. prosecutors claim Lohan is in violation of a 2011 settlement in which she pleaded no contest to misdemeanor grand theft in connection with a necklace stolen from a Venice, Calif. jewelry store.

Lohan previously served stints in rehab following a drunk driving conviction in 2007. She violated the terms of her probation on multiple occasions, including failed drug tests. The Times also reported police found a bottle of alcohol near the scene of the car crash in question, though authorities were unable to link it to Lohan.

Heller told reporters after the hearing that Lohan is “drug and alcohol free” at this point in time and claimed his client does not need rehab. He added Lohan is currently receiving one-on-one treatment from a psychotherapist in New York.

Heller said he hoped both district attorneys would be receptive to “creative, out-of-the-box solutions” in the settlement.

Slaten said the probation violation is a bigger problem for Lohan than the new criminal charges because the prosecution’s burden of proof is lower. City attorneys would only need to show it’s “more likely than not” the terms of her 2011 deal were broken rather than meeting the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required in criminal cases.

“Any settlement not involving jail in this case would be a gift to Ms. Lohan,” Slaten said.

Lohan could face up to one year in prison if she’s found to be in violation of her probation, minus time served. The three misdemeanor charges related to the crash each carry maximum one-year sentences.

Reach staff reporter Omar Shamout via email or follow him on Twitter.



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