The Great Ketchup Caper Trial, Day Three

The defendant showed up for court today in the same outfit he was wearing last Wednesday: green pants, loose black loafers, a big bandage on his head and sunglasses clipped to his eyeglasses that were flipped up for indoor use. It was day three of the strange case of the People vs. Steve Rocco, the ex-Orange Unified School District trustee, also known, to readers of the Weekly's Rocco Loco archive at least, as the brave battler of the "Partnership" conspiracy, that pesky cabal made up of Albertsons, Kodak Film, Smokecraft sausage--and everyone else who has ever pissed off Rocco--that secretly controls OC government.

Rocco was arrested Sept. 27 for allegedly stealing a half-empty bottle of ketchup valued at $1.20. Although Rocco claims he was "recycling" the bottle, which, being that it was in a non-refrigerated state, was actually "garbage," the District Attorney's office insists on trying him for petty theft, possibly motivated by Rocco's prior shoplifting arrest, namely a 1981 conviction for pilfering several rolls of Kodak Film and a sausage from an Albertsons supermarket in Santa Ana.

In this case, after issuing dozens of subpoenas to everyone from next-door neighbors to college professors and journalists, including me, who Rocco views as relevant to his case, although none were anywhere near the scene of the crime, Rocco saw each subpoena quashed, but did succeed in having the last judge taken off the case because of his nefarious ties to Chapman University.

His new judge, Jacki Brown, (no relation to the Quentin Tarantino movie), declared late Thursday afternoon that she doubted whether Rocco, who's been acting as his own attorney, is mentally competent to represent himself. She appointed public defender Michele Bell, (no relation to the Beatles song on the band's Rubber Soul album) to meet with Rocco and determine if he's nuts. Bell did so, and at just after 9:30 this morning, told Brown that Rocco was not a nutbar but that he still wanted to be his own lawyer.

So Judge Brown asked Rocco a a series of questions aimed at seeing if he knew just how crazy his decision to represent himself really was. Call it a Catch 22 Q & A, because If Rocco answered by saying he knew what he was doing was crazy, he'd be admitting he was nuts, and if he said he didn't think what he was doing was nuts, that'd be tantamount to confessing craziness as well. After Brown asked each question, Rocco simply answered "Yes" or "I understand" in a distinctly non-crazy tone of voice.

Suddenly, Brown discovered she was dealing with a man who once described himself (on the cover of his own book, no less) as "America's premier legal technician." Rocco interrupted Brown and told her that in his expert legal mind, all these questions about whether he was capable of realizing how "unwise" and "ill-advised" his decision to act as his own attorney was, meant that she had already made up her mind about the case, and therefore she needed to recuse herself. Unfortunately, Brown refused to grant Rocco's request, because he hadn't put it in writing or cited any legal framework for her disqualification.

Rocco scratched his head a few moments, then told Brown that he'd had a change of heart: if Public Defender Bell wanted to represent him, that'd be just fine after all. The fact that Bell is what we experts in the collection of facts for the reporting of news stories for public consumption commonly refer to as "cute" or a "pretty lawyer lady" may have played some role in Rocco's decision to keep her around. Or maybe Rocco's not really crazy after all and he realized that unlike him, Bell is a competent attorney and his best shot at beating the rap and defeating the Partnership's latest attempt to silence, discredit and assassinate him. Either way, Bell doesn't have the slightest idea what the hell to do with Rocco now that he's her client, so the judge agreed to delay his trial until next month, so Bell can wade through Rocco's elaborate defense strategy involving the Partnership's plot.

The biggest waste of resources in our county's courtroom history will continue on April 6.
Stay tuned, comedy fans and taxpayers!


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