For eons, Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank F. Fasel has run his courtroom with military precision and zero tolerance for cheap antics or insubordination.
Who knew Fasel–who has an ideal, stern poker face and the demeanor of an overworked mortician–is also a rule breaker?
This month, a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana slammed the veteran criminal judge for lazy conduct.
According to a three-justice appellate panel, Fasel has repeatedly botched the 2008 sentencing of methamphetamine dealer Cesar Velazquez Rodriguez, who also illegally possessed a weapon.
The judge gave Rodriguez two, 16-month prison terms on the meth count
and the gun count but did not supply an adequate reason for requiring
the punishment to be served consecutively.
In 2009, the appellate panel ordered a re-sentencing hearing to clean up the mistake.
But Fasel declined to follow the instructions of the higher court.
He didn't hold a hearing.
the presence of anyone but himself, he wrote a terse, sloppy minute
order confirming the consecutive prison terms and closed the case again.
It didn't delight the appellate justices or the California Attorney General's office that the judge also decided to ignore Rodriguez's right to be present during all major court actions in his case.
On June 13, Justice Richard Aronson (for himself and justices William Rylaarsdam and Richard Fybel)
again reversed Fasel's sentencing determination, again ordered a new
sentencing hearing and again told him to adequately explain the
justification for the punishment.
Rodruguez, 48, is housed in California's second oldest, maximum-security penitentiary: Folsom State Prison.
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.