The State's Conspiracy - Part II
“The detectives told me that they might be involved with it. That’s all I know.”
–- Plaintiff attorney Eric Dubin and witness Rocky Dickerson
Shortly after Dianne Mattson came forward publicly in July 2003 with information about a phone call she overheard where Christian Brando, Bonny Lee Bakley’s lover, told a stuntman named Jerry Lee Petty, a man named Duffy, and some homeless men that “somebody ought to put a bullet in that bitch’s head,” the LAPD began an investigation of Petty’s associates. They canvassed Willow Glen Road in Los Angeles and the surrounding neighborhood where Petty lived, asking neighbors about transients who had lived with Petty.
Brian Allan Fiebelkorn, who also lived on Willow Glen, first found out about the police inquiries from a neighbor in April 2004, almost nine months after Mattson’s statement. That neighbor said she referred the police to Fiebelkorn, telling them that Fiebelkorn was a long-time resident and knew about the transients. The LAPD never contacted him.
It was then that Fiebelkorn starting putting things together – Mark Jones with the Walther P38, the night visits of Ronald Duffy Hambleton, William Jay Smith’s $10,000 check, the Christian Brando sightings, the secret use of the Fiebelkorns’ Lincoln (The State’s Conspiracy – Part I). At first, he believed that these events were coincidental or unconnected to the Robert Blake case.
He spoke with Bert Boeckmann, a former member of the Los Angeles Police Commission, about what he knew. Boeckmann advised him to think about what he wanted to do and to consider that he might be putting himself in danger by coming forward. Fiebelkorn also consulted Alan Skobin, vice president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, who thought Fiebelkorn had valuable information.
On April 21, 2004, Fiebelkorn met with lead detective Ronald Ito, lead detective Brian Tyndall and Lt. Don Hartwell for about an hour and a half. According to Fiebelkorn, Ito seemed irritated, asked few questions, and took even fewer notes. The sum of Ito’s notes was about the length of a page.
Fiebelkorn began researching the case on the internet. He also posted messages on Court TV’s message board under the name Apollo. Some of his posts were true, some false. Only the true ones, he said, got responses. Because of his postings, Gerald Schwartzbach, Blake’s defense attorney, found him and contacted him through a private investigator. Schwartzbach interviewed Fiebelkorn for about four hours on May 15, 2004.
In June, 2004, Schwartzbach filed a motion that Prosecutor Shellie Samuels had not turned over critical evidence. Samuels countered that after three years, it was likely that some of the evidence might have been “misplaced.”
About a month after this hearing, Fiebelkorn unexpectedly received another call from Ito, who wanted to review his notes with him. Fiebelkorn told Ito he would not meet with him again without his attorney present. Ito began accusing Fiebelkorn of somehow being involved.
At one point in the conversation, Ito brought up the subject of the Court TV message boards, demanding to know “what the hell” he was doing and “what the fuck is this about Apollo.” Apparently, Ito had been following Fiebelkorn’s postings.
Ito and the LAPD seemed to be going through the motions to investigate Fiebelkorn’s claims. He faxed Fiebelkorn a picture which Fiebelkorn identified as Smith, one of the transients who had lived with Petty. It was an arrest picture and Smith appeared to be beaten up. Ito said that he was unable to find Smith, although Fiebelkorn told him where Smith panhandled. According to the defense’s Third Party Culpability motion (Third Party Motion) which detailed Fiebelkorn’s, Mattson’s and others’ statements, LAPD Robbery-Homicide Captain Al Michelena sent a letter to the U. S. Postal Inspector inquiring about a physical address for Smith. The letter, sent June 2, 2004, stated that Smith was a “person of interest” in a murder investigation in Los Angeles, and asked the Inspector to rush the request. Smith had a long arrest record: assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, battery on a police officer, carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a loaded firearm, drug charges, driving under the influence with injury, receiving stolen property, and other offenses. He was cited twice for drinking in public on May 9, 2004 and June 27, 2004 – both citations issued after Fiebelkorn gave his first interview to police.
Another court status hearing was held on August 20, 2004, where Schwartzbach again complained that Samuels had not turned over critical evidence. He told the court that Samuels had just released an April interview in which a witness gave police information supporting the defense’s contention that an associate of Brando murdered Bakley. He called the four-month delay “startling.” Samuels admitted she had just turned over Ito’s notes of Fiebelkorn’s interview, stating these had been “lost on her desk.” The notes, which had only been one page in the first interview, had now become six pages. It appeared Ito had rewritten them once he was forced to turn them over to the court. Fiebelkorn said that there were “tremendous” omissions in the notes.
In late September 2004, Fiebelkorn and Skobin attended the Armand Arabian Awards, which honor law enforcement and other community leaders for outstanding service in the San Fernando Valley. Among the VIPs in attendance were LAPD Chief of Police William Bratton and Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley.
Fiebelkorn took the opportunity to meet privately with Cooley. He told him about his police and defense interviews, detailing his concerns that the prosecution had a witness, Hambleton, who was misleading them. He told Cooley about Schwartzbach’s Third Party Culpability motion. Cooley appeared to have no knowledge of the document or Fiebelkorn’s information. He assured Fiebelkorn that Samuels or someone from her office would schedule a formal interview.
That interview never happened.
On November 2, 2005, the court and the civil jurors heard shocking evidence of police and prosecutor misconduct in the form of a secret tape recording made by Ito of his last conversation with Fiebelkorn. There were no press reports issued about it, and so far the transcript hasn’t made its way to the public.
Eric Dubin, plaintiff for the Bakley estate, had called Ito as a rebuttal witness. Judge Schacter permitted Fiebelkorn in the courtroom and allowed him to sit next to the jury master. It is highly unusual for a judge to allow a witness to sit in on another’s testimony. Was this a sign Schacter had suspected Ito might lie about the events previously detailed?
For some unknown reason, Dubin decided to prove to the jury that Ito had never cursed when speaking with Fiebelkorn. The recording did prove Dubin’s point – there was no swearing at least on that call – but it also confirmed Fiebelkorn’s testimony that LAPD and the District Attorney were suppressing evidence.
On the call, which was placed about a half hour after Fiebelkorn met with Cooley, Ito demanded to know why Fiebelkorn had talked to Cooley. Ito said “the trial was going forward as is,” and said Cooley had read the Third Party Culpability Motion filed by Schwartzbach. He told Fiebelkorn that Cooley didn’t want him speaking with Samuels. He also said that Samuels would decide what witnesses she wanted to see. “We have all your information,” Ito said, “but we don’t need it.”
Fiebelkorn pleaded with Ito, telling him that Hambleton would ruin his case and embarrass the police department. Ito then accused Fiebelkorn of being a co-conspirator in the murder, because Fiebelkorn insisted he wanted a meeting with Samuels, and wanted his own attorney present. Fiebelkorn would never speak to Samuels, Ito said, and added that he’d see Fiebelkorn in court if he ever got on the stand.
According to courtroom observers, the judge shook his head in disgust and put his hands in his face. Blake and Earle Caldwell heard proof of their allegations of misconduct that they had silently endured for four years. Dubin turned pale when he realized what he had done. He looked over at Fiebelkorn, then looked down at the floor. He dropped his line of questioning. There were tears in the gallery.
Neither the criminal nor the civil defense attorneys had ever received the tape in discovery – further proof that the LAPD and the District Attorney’s office had withheld evidence.
It was clear that although Ito and the LAPD claimed to have investigated all leads, they had deliberately chosen not to confront Smith or anyone else mentioned by Fiebelkorn or Mattson.
Robert Blake spent 11 months in solitary confinement and another two years under house arrest. He lost his home, was taken from his family, and suffered malicious indignities from the police and the media.
Blake was the prime suspect from the beginning – understandable, given the circumstances. But there came a point where the State knew he and Caldwell were innocent men -- the point where the physical evidence didn’t add up, despite test after test after test, and the witnesses were known to be lying. That point came long before Fiebelkorn and Mattson came forward.
In this story are men of no conscience and men of great conscience. Let’s hope that the latter prevails.
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