Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine Trial: Judge Recuses Himself For Alleged Bias

Looks likes sentencing will have to wait for Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine, who were convicted last month of marijuana sales in relation to a pair of marijuana dispensaries in Long Beach as well as Garden Grove's Unit D collective. Instead, Long Beach Superior Court Judge Charles D. Sheldon removed himself from the case this morning, citing allegations of his biased behavior in the courtroom which have been extensively reported by the Weekly both in print and online.

Sheldon denied those allegations. “The court is not biased in favor of any party or counsel,” he asserted, in response to a recusal motion by defense attorneys Christopher Glew and Allison, which included a laundry list of his objectionable statements. However, Sheldon acknowledged that he hadn't helped his case by sending a Jan. 4 letter to Sally Thomas, head deputy of the Long Bech branch of the Los Angeles district attorneys office, in which he offered glowing praise for prosecutor  Jody Castano.

“Frankly, I made a mistake,” Sheldon observed. “I wasn't thinking when I sent a commendatory letter to the district attorney.” That said, Sheldon quickly added, “I meant what I said in the letter.”
In the letter, Sheldon stated that he couldn't remember the last time he was “moved to writing a letter commending” a prosecutor but that he was “moved to do so” in this case. “Ms. Castano, despite operating in the courtroom, often full or almost full of persons overtly favoring the defense side,  was unflappable, composed, steady, organized, and totally professional from beginning to end,” Sheldon wrote. Her “extraordinary preparation and excellent meticulous and painstaking presentation of evidence was a pleasure to observe . . . In short, I just want you to know you chose the right lawyer to handle this difficult case.”

Glew and Margolin had already prepared a motion to disqualify Sheldon before they got wind of his letter. After Sheldon recused himself, Glew asked if this meant that Sheldon's previous gag order against speaking to the media was now lifted. “I'm not making any other orders because of what I just said,” Sheldon responded. “I'm off the case.”


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