No Plea Deal For Wife of Slain Bell Gardens Mayor

October 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Efforts to reach a plea deal with no jail time have fallen apart for the wife of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo Sr., who claims she shot and killed him in self-defense after enduring years of abuse at his hands, her attorneys said Monday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy asked whether a plea deal had been struck when the parties were discussing potential trial dates for Lyvette Crespo, 45.

Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said, “We tried to, your honor.”

Defense attorney Eber Bayona replied, “We thought we had a deal,” but told Kennedy the offer apparently wasn’t approved by supervisors in the District Attorney’s Office.

“I understand the family had a strong voice in the decision-making,” Bayona said.

He said he believed the parties are now at an impasse.

A pretrial hearing was scheduled for Nov. 30, with a tentative trial date of Jan. 5.

Outside the courtroom, co-defense counsel Roger Lowenstein said two deals had been on the table.

The first, involving a plea of involuntary manslaughter, was withdrawn by prosecutors who then sought a voluntary manslaughter plea. Both deals were for probation with no jail time, he said.

“Lyvette Crespo is innocent. This is a self-defense case,” Lowenstein said, alleging her husband “tortured (her) for 28 years.”

However, given the risk of wrongful conviction, a possible 21-year sentence and a mandatory 10-year term for using a firearm, Lowenstein said it made sense for his client to take the deal and “start healing.”

Crespo with wife son Searing In

(EGP photo archive)

Daniel Crespo’s brother William was informed of the potential plea deal and spoke out against it to ABC7.

“That’s wrong. You get more for killing a dog,” William Crespo told a Channel 7 reporter last week.

An attorney representing the mayor’s brother and mother said Lyvette Crespo had other options.

“Lyvette had time to walk into the bedroom, get the 9 mm gun, load it, take the safety off and fire three shots down a stairwell and into my client’s chest,” James Devitt told the station.

Lowenstein accused the District Attorney’s Office of “unprofessionalism” and “playing with people’s lives” in withdrawing the deal.

He also dismissed the idea that higher-ups were responsible.

“If Beth Silverman wanted this deal, she would go in and fight for it,” Lowenstein said.

Silverman could not immediately be reached for comment and a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office said they do not comment on plea negotiations conducted outside of open court.

Crespo was indicted by a grand jury on a voluntary manslaughter charge in the Sept. 30, 2014, shooting death of her husband.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators have said the mayor and his wife were arguing when their then-19-year-old son, Daniel Crespo Jr., intervened, leading to a struggle between father and son.

Lyvette Crespo claims she was protecting the couple’s son when she grabbed a handgun and shot her husband, who had allegedly punched the young man in the face.

Bayona contends that Daniel Crespo “was a man who abused not only his wife but other women” and mentally and physically abused his children.

William Crespo has denied allegations that his brother was abusive, but said the mayor had a series of extramarital affairs that angered his wife.

A civil lawsuit filed Oct. 20, 2014, by Daniel Crespo’s mother alleges her daughter-in-law picked a fight with him knowing that their son would intervene, then opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.”

Slain Mayor’s Mother Wins Access to Police Reports

June 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A judge has reversed himself and ruled that an attorney for the mother of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo — whose wife is accused of shooting him — can have access to the police report he says he needs to get his client’s civil case ready for trial.

Otilia Santos’ attorney, James Devitt, filed court papers in Los Angeles Superior Court asking a judge to order the Bell Gardens Police Department to turn over the police report and all documents related to the death of her son, Daniel Crespo.

On April 17, Judge Michael Raphael denied Devitt’s motion, noting that the police investigation was still in progress. But Raphael said June 18 that in light of a grand jury indictment of Lyvette Crespo for voluntary manslaughter and her subsequent plea of not guilty, no legal grounds remain for withholding the information.

“This is precisely the sort of new fact or circumstance that warrants reconsideration,” Raphael wrote in his two-page ruling.

Raphael said he is not requiring the BGPD to turn over photos of the decedent. He also said Devitt cannot disseminate the report to the public unless he also obtains a copy from another source.

In court papers filed before Lyvette Crespo’s indictment, lawyers for the BGPD said they would only turn over the records if ordered by a judge to do so. The department handed over the investigation into Crespo’s death to the Sheriff’s Department shortly after the mayor was killed, according to the BGPD attorneys’ court papers.

Devitt said after the hearing that the Bell Gardens report is five pages long. He said he still has not seen the Sheriff’s Department report and may have to make a similar motion to obtain it.

Santos filed suit last Oct. 20, exactly a month after her 45-year-old son was shot. Sheriff’s investigators said Daniel Crespo and his wife were arguing when their 19-year-old son, Daniel Crespo Jr., intervened, leading to a struggle between father and son. Lyvette Crespo allegedly grabbed a gun and shot her husband, who had punched their son in the face.

Santos alleges her son was shot in cold blood. The lawsuit alleges his wife picked a fight with him knowing that their son would intervene, then opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.”

Eber Bayona, the attorney for 43-year-old Lyvette Crespo, contends his client was a longtime victim of domestic violence. Transcripts from the grand jury indictment contend Daniel Crespo had multiple affairs and physically abused his family members for years.

Bayona opposed the release of the Bell Gardens report pending the outcome of his motion to stay the civil case until the criminal proceedings against his client are over. He said his client would not be able to give a deposition in the lawsuit because what she said could be used against her in the criminal case.

Bayona also said in court that Devitt offered to drop the lawsuit if he could obtain the rights from Lyvette Crespo to make a movie about her life.

However, Devitt said he told Bayona that there may be some value in such a film but that he did not offer to drop the suit in exchange for any movie rights.

Slain Mayor’s Wife Facing Voluntary Manslaughter Charge

April 30, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

After nearly seven months of hearing no new information about the fatal shooting of former Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo, news that his wife has been charged with his killing has taken some local residents by surprise.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office last Friday announced that a County Grand Jury has indicted Lyvette Crespo on charges of voluntary manslaughter.

If convicted, she could face up to 21 years in state prison.

Twenty-four-year-old Celina Rodriguez told EGP she was shocked Lyvette was not arrested right after she allegedly shot the mayor multiple times during an domestic dispute on Sept. 30 of last year.

“I thought they were just going to leave it at that,” the Bell Gardens resident said in Spanish Tuesday, figuring that after so much time Crespo’s wife would never be charged.

The district attorney requested that a criminal grand jury hear evidence to determine whether a crime had been committed and what if any charges Lyvette should face. The grand jury’s indictment was returned April 16 but remained sealed until last Thursday, April 23, when Lyvette was taken into custody after pleading not guilty to the charges. She was released Friday after posting a $150,000 bail bond, and is due back in court for a pretrial hearing May 29.

Lyvette Crespo’s attorney Eber Bayona, center, maintains his client’s innocence outside the Clara Shorthridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles . (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Lyvette Crespo’s attorney Eber Bayona, center, maintains his client’s innocence outside the Clara Shorthridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles . (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Heidi Rummel, professor of law at the University of Southern California and former federal prosecutor, told EGP grand jury hearings are conducted in secrecy often to protect the individuals who testify or to avoid a stigma of being investigated if no charges are brought. According to the Superior Court of Los Angeles’ website, in some cases grand jury proceedings are used when they “involve prominent public figures.”

Why prosecutors chose the grand jury route rather than a preliminary hearing, however, is unclear.

“Prosecutors make the determination to file cases based on evidence,” D.A. spokesperson Jane Robison told EGP in an email.

According to Rummel, office politics are often involved.

“You don’t spend time in a grand jury if you don’t think they will indict,” she said, but added that going to the grand jury is a way to make sure the decision to prosecute does not fall on just the D.A.’s office.

Unlike in a pretrial hearing, during grand jury proceedings, the district attorney presents evidence without the defendant or their attorney being present.

Typically, a summary witness, such as a police officer, is used to provide an account of the case.

“I think it’s appropriate when you have doubts about what really happened,” Rummel said.

An indictment requires a vote in favor by at least 14 of the 23 members, who are all civilians selected from a random pool of registered voters.

An indictment by a criminal grand jury is not a finding of guilt, but instead contends there is probable cause to proceed using a lower standard of proof.

“It is definitely easier to indict” in a grand jury, explains Rummel.

In this case, “the grand jury made the determination based on the evidence we presented,” the D.A.’s Robinson said.

Eber Bayona, Lyvette Crespo’s lawyer, says his client was a longtime victim of domestic violence by her husband and evidence presented during trial will acquit her of all charges.

“I want to ask the public to maintain an open mind and to wait until all the evidence has been presented before they make a final opinion about what happened,” he said during a press conference last week outside the courthouse.

According to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators, Lyvette and her husband were arguing when their 19-year old son Daniel Crespo Jr. intervened, leading to a struggle between the two men. Crespo Sr. allegedly punched his son and that’s when Lyvette allegedly grabbed a handgun and shot her husband three times in the chest.

Lyvette, who at the time was said to be cooperating with police, was not arrested following the shooting. Los Angeles County Sheriff Homicide Det. Phil Guzman told EGP at the time that in some cases it’s very apparent a crime took place, but “sometimes it’s not that apparent.”

“That’s when it needs to be reviewed by the D.A.”

The decision to not file charges initially led to public outrage and criticism by residents who were fans of the popular mayor.

Linda Garcia told EGP Tuesday that she broke down in tears when she heard her mayor had been fatally shot by his wife.

“I didn’t really know her, but he was a very good man who helped the community,” she said in Spanish. “His wife needs to face the consequences for killing someone.”

Since Crespo’s death, rumors have speculated that there was another, darker side to the public figure.

Lyvette’s attorney claims the former mayor not only abused his wife but other women as well, and had mentally and physically abused his children.

“To the outside world Daniel Crespo was a great mayor, a great community leader, but he was also an abusive husband,” Bayona said. “This is the man who took his wife’s face and shoved it into a computer screen when she was looking at an assemblymember after his election.”

Daniel Crespo’s brother, William, has denied the allegation, claiming Lyvette was angry and jealous that her husband was involved in extramarital affair. He claims Lyvette had often threatened violence against her husband.

A civil lawsuit filed last Oct. 20 by the brother on behalf of Crespo’s mother, alleges Lyvette picked a fight with Crespo knowing that their son would intervene, then opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.”

Even if he was cheating on his wife or he had abused her, murdering him is not justified, says Bell Gardens resident Beatriz Ochoa. She told EGP that when Lyvette was not immediately arrested, she assumed money or some other form of influence was keeping her out of jail.

“It didn’t surprise me,” she said frankly. “I figured nobody wanted to touch the topic.”

Lyvette Crespo, left, was indicted of voluntary manslaughter for fatally shooting her husband Daniel Crespo, pictured right during his oath of office as Bell Gardens mayor.  (EGP Photo Archive)

Lyvette Crespo, left, was indicted of voluntary manslaughter for fatally shooting her husband Daniel Crespo, pictured right during his oath of office as Bell Gardens mayor. (EGP Photo Archive)

Robison assured EGP public outrage was not the reason why Lyvette was ultimately indicted.

“We do not file cases or take evidence to the Grand Jury based on public opinion or whether we receive calls or letters,” said Robison.

Transcripts of the Grand Jury proceedings that led to the indictment are released 10 days after they are received by the defendant’s attorney, which could be early next week, said Robison.

Esposa de Alcalde de Bell Gardens Asesinado es Acusada de Homicidio Voluntario

April 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Después de casi siete meses de no escuchar más información sobre el asesinato del ex alcalde de Bell Gardens Daniel Crespo, algunos residentes se sorprendieron cuando su esposa fue detenida la semana pasada.

El pasado viernes, la oficina del fiscal del distrito del Condado de Los Ángeles anunció que un Gran Jurado del condado acusó a Lyvette Crespo bajo el cargo de homicidio voluntario.

Si es declarada culpable, podría enfrentar hasta 21 años de prisión.

Read this article in English: Wife of Slain Bell Gardens Mayor Indicted

Celina Rodríguez, 24, inicialmente estaba sorprendida cuando Lyvette Crespo no fue detenida el 30 de septiembre del año pasado después de dispararle a su marido varias veces durante una disputa doméstica.

“Pensé que simplemente iban a dejar las cosas así”, dijo la residente de Bell Gardens el martes, asumiendo que después de tanto tiempo la esposa de Crespo no sería encarcelada.

El fiscal solicitó que un gran jurado penal escuchara la evidencia para determinar si se había cometido un delito y si habrían cargos que Lyvette debiera enfrentar. El resultado del gran jurado fue entregado el 16 de abril, pero se mantuvo sellado hasta el pasado jueves 23 de abril, cuando Lyvette fue detenida tras declararse no culpable de los cargos. Fue puesta en libertad el viernes después de pagar una fianza de $150.000 y debe regresar a la corte para una audiencia previa al juicio el 29 de mayo.

Heidi Rummel, profesora de derecho en la Universidad del Sur de California y ex fiscal federal, le dijo a EGP que las audiencias del gran jurado se llevan a cabo en secreto, a menudo para proteger a las personas que dan testimonio o para evitar el estigma de ser investigado si son llevados sin cargos. Según el sitio web del Tribunal Superior de Los Ángeles en algunos casos se utilizan los procedimientos del gran jurado cuando “se implican figuras públicas prominentes”.

El por qué los fiscales eligieron la ruta del gran jurado en lugar de una audiencia preliminar, no está claro.

El abogado Eber Bayona, centro, durante una conferencia de prensa el año pasado mantuvo la inocencia de su clienta Lyvette Crespo. La semana pasada habló en una conferencia de prensa similar después de que ella fue culpada de homicidio voluntario. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

El abogado Eber Bayona, centro, durante una conferencia de prensa el año pasado mantuvo la inocencia de su clienta Lyvette Crespo. La semana pasada habló en una conferencia de prensa similar después de que ella fue culpada de homicidio voluntario. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

Los fiscales hacen la determinación de presentar los casos basados en la evidencia”, la portavoz del fiscal Jane Robison le dijo a EGP vía email.

De acuerdo con Rummel, los políticos usualmente están involucrados.

“No pasaría por un gran jurado si usted no cree que [lo] van a acusar”, dijo, pero añadió que ir al gran jurado es una manera de asegurarse de que la decisión de procesar no caerá sólo en la oficina del fiscal.

Al contrario de una audiencia previa al juicio, durante los procedimientos del gran jurado, el fiscal presenta pruebas sin que el demandado o su abogado estén presentes.

Típicamente, un testigo ‘resumen’, tal como un agente de policía, se utiliza para proporcionar una cuenta del caso.

“Creo que es apropiado cuando se tiene dudas sobre lo que realmente sucedió”, dijo Rummel.

Una acusación formal requiere el voto favorable de al menos 14 de los 23 miembros, quienes todos son civiles seleccionados de un grupo aleatorio de votantes registrados.

Una acusación por un gran jurado criminal no es un fallo de culpabilidad, sino que sostiene que hay causa probable para continuar utilizando un estándar más bajo de la prueba.

“Es definitivamente más fácil para acusar” en un gran jurado, explica Rummel.

En este caso, “el gran jurado tomó la determinación basada en la evidencia que presentamos”,  dijo Robinson.

Eber Bayona, abogado de Lyvette Crespo, dice que su cliente fue víctima por mucho tiempo de violencia doméstica por su marido y pruebas presentadas durante el juicio la absuelven de todos los cargos.

“Quiero pedir al público mantener una mente abierta y esperar hasta que toda la evidencia haya sido presentada antes de que tengan una opinión definitiva sobre lo que pasó”, dijo durante una conferencia de prensa la semana pasada afuera de la corte.

Según los investigadores del Alguacil del Condado de Los Ángeles, Lyvette y su marido estaban discutiendo cuando su hijo Daniel Crespo Jr. de 19 años intervino, dando lugar a una pelea entre padre e hijo. Crespo Sr. presuntamente golpeó a su hijo y fue entonces cuando Lyvette tomó una pistola y le disparó a su marido tres veces en el pecho.

Lyvette, quien en ese momento se dice estaba cooperando con la policía, no fue detenida tras el tiroteo. El detective de homicidios del Alguacil Phil Guzmán le dijo a EGP en aquel momento que en algunos casos es muy evidente que el crimen ocurrió, pero “a veces no es tan evidente”.

“Ahí es cuando necesita ser revisado por el fiscal”.

La decisión de no presentar cargos inicialmente llevo a la indignación pública y la crítica por los residentes que eran fans del popular alcalde.

Linda García le dijo a EGP el martes que ella se soltó a llorar cuando se enteró que su alcalde había sido asesinado por su esposa.

“En realidad no la conocía, pero él era un hombre muy bueno que ayudó a la comunidad”, dijo. “Su mujer tiene que enfrentar las consecuencias por haber matado a alguien”.

Desde la muerte de Crespo, se han especulado rumores de que había otro lado más oscuro de la figura pública.

El abogado de Lyvette afirma el ex alcalde no sólo abusó de su esposa, pero de otras mujeres también, y había abusado física y mentalmente a sus hijos.

“Para el mundo exterior Daniel Crespo fue un gran alcalde, un gran líder de la comunidad, pero también era un esposo abusivo”, dijo Bayona. “Este es el hombre que tomó el rostro de su mujer y la restregó en una pantalla de computadora, cuando ella estaba buscando a un asambleísta después de su elección”.

El hermano de Daniel Crespo, William, ha negado la acusación, alegando que Lyvette estaba enojada y celosa de que su esposo estaba involucrado en relación extramarital. Afirma que a menudo Lyvette amenazaba con violencia a su esposo.

Una demanda civil presentada el pasado 20 de octubre por el hermano en nombre de la madre de Crespo, alega que Lyvette comenzó una pelea con Crespo sabiendo que su hijo iba a intervenir, después abrió una caja fuerte, cogió una pistola y mató a su marido “con malicia y a sangre fría”.

Incluso si él estaba engañando a su esposa o había abusado de ella, el ser asesinando no se justifica, dice la residente de Bell Gardens Beatriz Ochoa. Ella le dijo a EGP que cuando Lyvette no fue detenida de inmediato, ella asumió que el dinero o alguna otra forma de influencia la mantenía fuera de la cárcel.

“No me sorprendió”, dijo con franqueza. “Pensé que nadie quería tocar el tema”.

Robison le aseguró a EGP que la indignación pública no fue la razón por la que Lyvette fue acusada en última instancia.

“Nosotros no archivamos casos o llevamos pruebas al Gran Jurado en base a la opinión pública o si recibimos llamadas o cartas”, dijo Robison.

Las transcripciones de los procedimientos del gran jurado que llevaron a la acusación están disponibles 10 días después que han sido recibidos por el abogado del acusado, lo cual podría ser la próxima semana, agregó Robison.

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Twitter @nancyreporting

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