Bay City News Service--A criminal defense lawyer who had faced the prospect of spending five days in jail for not being ready to begin a trial in Alameda County for a client accused of two counts of murder was given a reprieve today (Thursday).
The state Court of Appeal issued a stay that prevents Tim Pori, who has offices in San Francisco and Vallejo, from having to surrender at 10 a.m. Friday in the courtroom of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta and pay a $2,500 fine.
"This is a big relief to him and his family," said Vallejo attorney Daniel Russo, who represents Pori in his clash with Panetta, who is the daughter-in-law of U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Panetta found Pori in contempt of court on Monday, when he was supposed to be ready to begin a second trial for his client Andrew Toon Wong, 23, the former assistant night manager of an Alameda Safeway store.
Wong is charged with two counts of murder plus the special circumstance of committing multiple murder for allegedly killing two men to whom he owed money for gambling debts more than three years ago.
The charges stem from the July 31, 2008, shooting death of cookie deliveryman David Wells, 62, of Oakdale, and the April 3, 2009, shooting death of Quang "John" Quach, 36, Rogers said.
Wong was the assistant night manager at the Safeway store at the South Shore shopping Center (then called Alameda Towne Centre), where Quach worked the overnight shift. His first trial, which had nearly been completed, was suddenly halted last Sept. 13 when a judge declared a mistrial because prosecutors found new evidence in the case and the defense needed time to review it.
Panetta said on Monday that Pori should have been ready for Wong's new trial to begin because he has been representing Wong for 16 months. But Pori said he had a scheduling conflict because he's also representing a client accused of murder in Solano County. That client recently refused to waive his right to a speedy trial, which means that the client's April 30 trial date can't be changed.
Pori's client in that case is Jesus Vidrio, who is one of three men charged with murder for the alleged gang-related fatal shooting of 17-year-old Vacaville High School student Humberto Padilla and with the attempted murder of a 15-year-old boy in March 2010.
Speaking on Pori's behalf at the hearing on Monday, Russo said Pori's request to delay Wong's trial shouldn't be a problem because Wong is willing to waive his right to a speedy trial.
Panetta, who oversees a busy court calendar in Alameda County that includes many long-delayed murder cases, was unsympathetic to Pori's plight, saying, "No one else comes in here and prioritizes their trials."
Panetta found Pori in contempt but agreed to a short delay to allow him time to get his affairs in order.
Pori told Panetta, "I'm prepared to do jail time" but asked that he be allowed time to explain his situation to his family, including his two young children.
Panetta rescheduled Wong's trial for June 18.
Russo said Thrusday that now that the stay has been issued, he hopes that Pori can go ahead and represent Vidrio in his case at the end of the month and represent Wong in June.
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