Jesse James Hollywood Sentenced to Life in Prison without Parole

Started by roo28, April 28, 2009, 10:35:35 AM

previous topic - next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Go Down

Granny B

Thanks for giving the victim a face. :-*
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy


May 18, 2009, 06:56:26 PM Last Edit: May 18, 2009, 07:02:59 PM by Jacques
The Washington Post

LOS ANGELES -- The murder case against Jesse James Hollywood read like a screenplay even before it was turned into the 2007 movie "Alpha Dog."

A 15-year-old boy was kidnapped and killed over a $1,200 drug debt owed by his half-brother. A 4 1/2-year manhunt ended on a beach in Brazil. And allegations of misconduct by a prosecutor prompted a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now, the ending of the real-life story is about to be written.

Nine years after the killing, the trial of Hollywood is finally set to begin Friday to determine if he ordered the kidnap-murder of Nicholas Markowitz. If convicted, Hollywood could face the death penalty.

The case has become a distant memory for many observers _ lost among school shootings, salacious celebrity trials and other high-profile crimes across the country.

But back in the summer of 2000, Southern California and much of the nation were intrigued by the brazen daylight kidnapping of Nicholas and the discovery of his body in a shallow grave in the hills above tony Santa Barbara.

Karen Sternheimer, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, said people were interested because the clean-cut players came from middle-class families and appeared to have been swept up in something unusually sinister.

"A case like this, unfortunately, people can relate to a little bit more," Sternheimer said.

Prosecutors believe Nicholas was kidnapped by Hollywood and his cohorts in August 2000, presumably to put pressure on his half-brother Ben Markowitz to repay money he owed Hollywood for marijuana.

For the next few days, authorities said Nicholas partied with his captors and felt he wasn't in any danger. He was even left unattended by his kidnappers at one point but didn't try to leave or call anyone.

Prosecutors said Hollywood decided to get rid of Nicholas after learning from an attorney that he could face life in prison for kidnapping.

The witness list includes Ben Markowitz and the victim's parents, Susan and Jeff Markowitz, who declined to comment about the upcoming trial. Three co-defendants who already have been convicted, Hollywood's ex-girlfriend and the attorney who advised him are also on the list of possible witnesses.

Defense attorney James Blatt said Hollywood is innocent.

"There is no question Mr. Hollywood was not present at the time of the shooting, and we are going to prove he did not give any direct or indirect order to commit this murder," Blatt said.

For Hollywood, now 29, nearly a third of his life has either been spent in jail or on the run after the Markowitz slaying.

Though small in stature _ he stands 5 feet, 5 inches _ prosecutors said Hollywood once lived large supplying marijuana to dealers in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.

Prosecutors claim he enlisted Ryan Hoyt, one of his dealers, to kill Nicholas and delivered a gun and car for Hoyt to use in exchange for erasing his drug debt.

"Hoyt understood that he had to take care of the problem, i.e, that he was to kill Nicholas," Santa Barbara County Deputy District Attorney Joshua Lynn said in court documents. "Hoyt would have his $1,200 debt to Hollywood extinguished if he did so."

Prosecutors said Hoyt hit Nicholas over the head with a shovel and then shot him nine times before burying him with the gun, which they said belonged to Hollywood. Hikers discovered the body several days later.

Hoyt was found guilty of kidnapping and murder and sentenced to death. He will not be called as a prosecution witness, Lynn said.

Hollywood fled soon after the killing, stopping in Las Vegas and Colorado before heading to Canada. He was finally captured by authorities on a beach in Brazil, using a different name, and brought back to the United States.

The case stalled for years after it was learned that Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen had turned over probation reports, police files and other documents to Nick Cassavetes, who directed "Alpha Dog," starring Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone and Justin Timberlake.

Zonen said in court documents that he gave the files to Cassavetes to help publicize the hunt for Hollywood.

Blatt, however, claimed Zonen acted unethically and the resulting movie demonized his client.

An appeals court removed Zonen, but the state's highest court and the U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that he and the district attorney's office could stay on the case.

Still, Zonen's bosses assigned another prosecutor to try Hollywood.

Blatt also unsuccessfully tried to block the release of "Alpha Dog," arguing that a jury pool could be tainted by the film, hurting Hollywood's chances of a fair trial.

During a break this week in jury selection, Blatt said he was encouraged because only about 25 percent of the prospective panelists had seen the movie.

"The defense team is confident we will receive a fair trial," he said.

In this July 25, 2001 file photo Jeff and Susan Markowitz are photographed at their home in the West Hills area of Los Angeles. The couple's son, Nick Markowitz, is shown in a photo at rear. Opening statements have started in the kidnap-murder trial of Jesse James Hollywood who is accused of ordering the kidnapping of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz over a $1,200 drug debt owed by his half-brother.



"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself." Albert Einstein


Testimony Continues In Hollywood Kidnap-Murder Trial
Santa Barbara, CA-- Three witnesses took the stand on Monday in the Jesse "James" Hollywood kidnap-murder trial.

Prosecutors say Hollywood ordered the murder of 15-year-old Nicolas Markowitz in 2000.

The witnesses called to the stand were Jeff Markowitz, the victims father and Pauline Mahoney.

Mahoney was driving with her sons when she saw a group of men attacking Markowitz.

A third witness, Brian Affonti was a one time friend of Hollywood's who was picked up after the kidnapping. Affonti testified that he knew about Hollywood's gun, a tech-nine, the alleged murder weapon.

If convicted, Hollywood could get the death penalty.

KEY News Reporter Coleen Sullivan was in court and has more.


Rumour has it Justin Timberlake might take the stand... for what reason I am unsure  ??? but we will see in the near future I'm sure.


Day Three In Hollywood Kidnap - Murder Trial

Santa Barbara, CA-- Day three in the kidnap-murder trial of Jesse "James" Hollywood began with continued testimony of an old associate of Hollywood's.

Witness and one time friend of Hollywood's, Brian Affronti took the stand again Tuesday morning. Affronti testified to the fact that Hollywood was owed $1200 in drug debt by the victim's step-brother.

Prosecutors allege Hollywood ordered the murder of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz nearly a decade ago, because of the money owed to him by Markowitz' step-brother.

Affronti told the court he knew Hollywood owned a gun and that Hollywood was scared because of threats made toward his family.

For nearly five years after the kidnapping and murder of Markowitz, Hollywood alluded authorities. He was eventually captured in Brazil following an anonymous tip.

If found guilty, Hollywood is eligible for the death penalty.


Santa Barbara News Press - May 19, 2009

Slain Teens Dad Takes Stand in Hollywood Trial


With a jury seated and opening statements out of the way, the prosecutors pursuing the death penalty against Jesse James Hollywood on Monday called their first witness: the father of the 15-year-old who was executed allegedly at the defendant's direction.

Mr. Hollywood, 29, is accused of masterminding the kidnapping of Nicholas Markowitz in 2000 from the San Fernando Valley and his execution in Santa Barbara County over a $1,200 drug debt owed to Mr. Hollywood by the victim's older brother, Ben. Mr. Hollywood faces charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping, with special circumstances that could bring the death sentence.

Called to the stand by the District Attorney's Office Chief Trial Deputy Josh Lynn on Monday, Jeff Markowitz, the victim's father, described the brothers' relationship as loving. But he and his wife Susan had early on hoped to keep the two separate, as Ben had gotten into trouble as a kid, like stealing a vehicle.

Mr. Markowitz also found out about Nicholas using drugs in 2000, when, among other incidents, the teenager was arrested for smoking marijuana.

Recounting the events of Aug. 5, 2000 - the night before Nicholas disappeared - Mr. Markowitz said his son arrived home about a half hour before his midnight curfew and had slurred speech. Mr. Markowitz said he spotted a bulge in Nicholas' back pocket - and when he reached for it, Nicholas bolted. The boy returned later that night and a discussion about drug use began, but they decided to take it up in the morning.

When Mr. Markowitz awoke the next morning, a Sunday, he left his house to play tennis and returned at around 11 a.m. He and his wife decided to get Nicholas to continue their discussion, but "he was gone," Mr. Markowitz said. They called his pager, but could not reach him.

Even the friends who were with the teenager the night before did not know his whereabouts.

The parents got in touch with Ben, whom Nicholas had turned to in the past after leaving the house without permission, but he did not know where his younger brother was.

The Markowitzes kept an ear out for their son's return, but about a week later, on Aug. 14, sheriff's deputies arrived at their home and informed them that their son had been shot dead.

In an attempt to keep Nicholas out of trouble, his family got him involved in martial arts and made it a family activity. Mr. Markowitz said he would take his son to martial arts tournaments on weekends, but he had been too busy to do so the weekend Nicholas disappeared.

"It would have been a good idea," he said.

During cross examination, defense attorney James Blatt focused in on the police report Mr. Markowitz filled out the morning of Aug. 8, 2000, and asked why he waited so long to go to the authorities. Mr. Markowitz said he had been conducting his own search along with Ben, and he had been hoping to get in contact with a new friend of Nicholas' who had just come over to their home for the first time the day before his son disappeared.

Mr. Markowitz said this new friend was the only difference in their lives that could have caused such a disruption. "I wish I would have done a lot more a lot earlier," he said.

After getting in touch with Ben, Mr. Markowitz said he asked if Ben had any enemies that would have done this, according to testimony. Ben told his father it could have been Mr. Hollywood or another person.

Nicholas' relationship with his parents also came to light during the cross-examination. Mr. Markowitz said he and his wife's relationship with their son had peaks and boundaries. Around the time of the disappearance, Nicholas was accompanying his father to work, so the two had been talking a lot. Mr. Markowitz also testified that his wife had a strong relationship with Nicholas at the time, but that Nicholas had also raised his voice to her.

Also called to the stand by Mr. Lynn was Brian Affronti, who reportedly came to Santa Barbara in the same van as Mr. Hollywood and Nicholas but was not prosecuted and has received immunity for his testimony.

Mr. Affronti had known Mr. Hollywood for three to four months prior to August 2000 through Mr. Affronti's friend, William Skidmore (who pleaded guilty to kidnapping and robbery in 2002 and was sentenced to nine years in state prison), according to testimony. Mr. Affronti testified that he received a pound of marijuana a week from Mr. Hollywood, drugs that he would then sell in smaller amounts. Mr. Affronti said he would pay Mr. Hollywood $4,000 from the sales and keep $1,000 to $1,200 profit.

A group of friends had planned to go to Santa Barbara for Fiesta celebrations, and Mr. Affronti recalled he had been picked up by a utility van at his home. Inside the vehicle were Mr. Hollywood, Mr. Skidmore and Jesse Rugge (who was convicted of kidnapping for ransom or
extortion and sentenced to seven years to life in prison). Also in the van was Nicholas, who Mr. Affronti said he did not know and was not introduced to.

With Mr. Rugge driving and Mr. Hollywood in the passenger seat, the ride was fairly quiet until about halfway through the trip when Nicholas' pager started vibrating, the witness said. Mr. Hollywood reportedly asked if it was Ben Markowitz paging, and Nicholas responded it was his mother. Mr. Hollywood took the pager away, and some marijuana and pills Nicholas had in his pockets were also confiscated, Mr. Affronti said. A ring was also taken from him, but was later returned because it had great sentimental value to the victim.

Mr. Hollywood was uneasy in his chair and said that Ben Markowitz is going to pay the money back and that he was going to "kick Ben's ass," according to the testimony.

They eventually arrived at a town home on Modoc Road, where they got off and Mr. Hollywood soon left for another location in order to take a shower, the witness testified. Mr. Affronti lied to Mr. Hollywood, saying he had a date with his girlfriend and wanted to return to the San Fernando Valley, and Mr. Hollywood agreed to let him take the van back once he returned from the other location.

Mr. Affronti testified he saw Nicholas sitting in a bedroom with his wrists and ankles duct taped together. Mr. Skidmore was also in the room, and the witness recalled attempting to console Nicholas. Still restrained, Nicholas smoked marijuana from a bong Mr. Affronti and Mr.
Skidmore placed in his hands, Mr. Affronti said.

Mr. Affronti told jurors he did not remove the tape out of fear that Mr. Hollywood would return and see the victim unrestrained. Once Mr. Hollywood returned, he turned over the keys and the witness and Mr. Skidmore left for home. But Mr. Affronti returned later in the day to retrieve his cell phone, at which point he saw an unbound Nicholas sitting on the couch with Mr. Hollywood playing video games and smoking marijuana.

Mr. Skidmore later called Mr. Affronti and told him that Nicholas had been killed, Mr. Affronti said. Mr. Skidmore also warned Mr. Affronti to stay away from Mr. Hollywood, who had reportedly told Mr. Skidmore to "take care" of him.

During cross-examination, co-defense counsel Alex Kessel asked why Mr. Affronti had been scared of Mr. Hollywood. Mr. Affronti said the accused mastermind had never threatened him before. However Mr. Affronti said he believed the defendant could have gotten gang friends to hurt him, but he was not fearful that Mr. Hollywood would personally harm him.

Additionally, Mr. Affronti said Mr. Hollywood never ordered him or Mr. Skidmore around.

Going back to when Mr. Affronti first got in the van, Mr. Kessel asked whether Nicholas showed any signs of being beaten.

"He looked perfectly fine, didn't he?" the attorney asked, and the witness replied yes.

Mr. Kessel additionally asked about a prior police statement where the witness did not say anything about Mr. Hollywood saying he wanted his money returned during the drive to Santa Barbara. Instead, Mr. Hollywood had been angry about threats Ben Markowitz had reportedly
made to Mr. Hollywood's family and that Ben had thrown a brick through his window. Mr. Affronti looked at a specified section of the statement and said he did not see any mention of Mr. Hollywood asking for his money.

The trial is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. today before Superior Court Judge Brian Hill.


Hollywood's Day in Court
Accused Murder Mastermind's Case Draws Capacity Crowd

Thursday, May 21, 2009
By Chris Meagher, Amy Silverstein

The case of Jesse James Hollywood has already been made into a book and a movie, has gone before the California Supreme Court, and has necessitated the highest level of security at a Santa Barbara County courthouse since Michael Jackson was tried. Already, the growing legend of Jesse James Hollywood seems bigger than the man himself.

And the case only went to trial on Friday.

The youngest man to make the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, Hollywood vanished just days after the murder of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz in August 2000. Hollywood, alleged by prosecutors to have masterminded Markowitz's kidnapping and murder, evaded authorities until 2005 when, acting on a tip, they arrested him in a small Brazilian fishing village. On March 10, 2005 -- four-and-a-half years after Markowitz's death -- he landed at Los Angeles International Airport to finally face charges for the murder.

The 29-year-old's day in court came at long last on May 15. Clad in a suit and a red tie, Hollywood strode into a packed courtroom. A jury of nine women and three men heard Hollywood's defense of his alleged involvement in Markowitz's kidnapping and murder, as well as the prosecution's version of how it happened. If found guilty, Hollywood could face the death penalty.

Prosecutor Joshua Lynn opened the day calling Hollywood a "ruthless coward." "Jesse James Hollywood murdered 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz like he pulled the trigger himself," Lynn claimed. Lynn took jurors through the few weeks in August 2000 that climaxed with Markowitz being shot to death at Lizard's Mouth, a popular overlook in the hills above Santa Barbara. Lynn stated the kidnapping and eventual murder came as a result of a $1,200 drug debt owed to Hollywood by Markowitz's older half-brother Ben Markowitz, at one time an ally of Hollywood's and one of the drug dealers who worked for Hollywood.

Markowitz was supposed to collect a debt for Hollywood, whom Lynn characterized as a well-known drug dealer in the San Fernando Valley "trying to live up to the reputation he was building." In lieu of cash, Ben Markowitz received dozens of ecstasy pills, which he was planning to sell to repay Hollywood. When the pills turned out to be duds, however, Markowitz was out the money. The debt consequently became his, prosecutors said.

The relationship between Hollywood and Ben Markowitz deteriorated. On their way to rough up Ben Markowitz, Hollywood and two friends drove past his younger brother, Nick, walking along the street. They picked him up and eventually headed north to Santa Barbara to celebrate Fiesta. Along the way, Nick was free much of the time and was partying, drinking, and doing drugs with much of the crew. One of Hollywood's associates, Jesse Rugge, held the boy for days "in lieu of Jesse James Hollywood's orders to do anything else with him," Lynn said.

Meanwhile, Lynn alleged, Hollywood visited his family attorney, who told him that the penalty for kidnapping could be life in prison. With this in mind, Lynn said, Hollywood directed his friends to kill the boy, while he himself made plans to escape, emptying out bank accounts and trading in cars. Markowitz was killed on August 9, 2000.

On the other side, Hollywood's defense counsel, Los Angeles attorney James Blatt, said the circumstances hardly constituted kidnapping. They simply picked up the boy and asked, "Do you know where your brother is?" Blatt explained. "Okay, let's go to Santa Barbara and party." Blatt denied the existence of evidence such as a request for ransom or extortion that would point toward kidnapping and said Hollywood had nothing to do with the boy being moved around throughout Santa Barbara.

Blatt also said that his client had nothing to do with the teenager's murder. Two witnesses, he said, will testify to a conversation between the shooter, Ryan Hoyt, and Hollywood in which the latter said to the former, "How could you do that? You're f-ing crazy. You're out of your mind." From that point on, Blatt said, there was a different Hollywood. "He was frightened," Blatt said, as Hollywood realized the gravity of the situation. But Blatt promised the jurors they would never hear that Hollywood ordered the murder.

Hollywood's alleged accomplices have each been sentenced for involvement in the murder. Ryan Hoyt, now 29, was found guilty of pulling the trigger on Markowitz nine times with a semi-automatic found buried next to the victim's body at Lizard's Mouth. He is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

Graham Pressley, a fourth-generation Santa Barbaran, was the first minor in the county to be charged as an adult for a crime under Prop. 21. He was convicted of second-degree murder as an adult by a Santa Barbara jury in 2002 but was sentenced as a minor. He was released by the California Youth Authority about a year ago at age 25. Rugge, now 29, is currently serving a life sentence for his involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Markowitz. William Skidmore pled guilty in a plea bargain and was released just weeks ago after serving nine years behind bars.

Though Hoyt, Pressley, Rugge, and Skidmore are each on the witness list, not all are expected to testify. Included on the witness list are members of the Markowitz family. Lynn said he hoped the prosecution will bring "whatever minor relief we can bring" through the outcome of the trial.

Surely posing difficulties for both sides will be accuracy of witness testimony. In addition to memory gaps created by the passage of nine years between the events being discussed and the trial, attorneys must also contend with testimony that may not be truthful. Several of the witnesses, including those previously convicted, have made statements about Markowitz's death that contradict each other. According to Blatt, Hoyt also had a reputation among his friends for embellishing.

The trial will undoubtedly generate interest among Santa Barbarans as details of a tragic story that grabbed the community in 2000 emerge once again. Perhaps most troubling is the large number of young people who did not speak up, despite witnessing Markowitz's incarceration. Many later admitted having seen him tied up, or that it was strange that a 15-year-old would be partying with 20-year-olds while rumors swirled that he'd been kidnapped. Even Markowitz himself, at one point in the ordeal, allegedly could have packed up and left. But he didn't.

The events of the Jesse James Hollywood case may also be familiar to Santa Barbarans as a result of the 2006 movie Alpha Dog, which was based on these events. The film -- which starred Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Sharon Stone, and Bruce Willis -- brought in more than $32 million worldwide. It also presented trouble for the prosecution, as Ron Zonen, a veteran deputy district attorney who prosecuted the others involved in the kidnapping and murder, aided in the making of Alpha Dog by giving producers his files. Zonen explained he had done so because he hoped more publicity would help flush Hollywood out of hiding, but Blatt argued that Zonen and the entire Santa Barbara District Attorney's Office should be thrown off the case as a result of the collaboration. The matter ultimately went to the state Supreme Court, which, in October 2008, ruled that Zonen shouldn't be removed from the case, despite "highly inappropriate and disturbing" behavior. Still, DA Christie Stanley ultimately decided to replace Zonen with Lynn to eliminate any potential problems.

Two former friends of Jesse James Hollywood, along with three other witnesses -- including the victim's father -- testified in the first two days of Hollywood's trial.

After Markowitz was murdered, Hollywood showed up on the doorstep of witness Chas Salsbury's mother's house in Colorado. Though the two men hadn't spoken in five years, Salsbury agreed to drive the defendant to Las Vegas and then to Los Angeles. Salsbury alleged in court that, during the car ride, Hollywood slowly revealed he had kidnapped the brother of someone who had been harassing him.

According to Salsbury, Hollywood initially was "not sure" what to do with the victim until he consulted his attorney at the time, Stephen Hogg. Salsbury testified that "the attorney told Jesse that he was in a lot of trouble anyway and he should 'dig a deeper hole.'" Hollywood, Rugge, and Hoyt then allegedly made a mutual decision to murder Nick Markowitz. Tuesday's trial ended with a few minutes of Salsbury's cross-examination by defense attorney Blatt. In his brief questioning, Blatt said Salsbury could receive the death penalty if he lied in his testimony.

Blatt was expected to continue cross-examining Salsbury on Wednesday, past The Independent's print deadline.


Taken in by Hollywood : Onetime friend tells jury of trying to 'rescue' fugitive murder suspect
May 20, 2009

A onetime friend of Jesse James Hollywood on Tuesday told a Santa Barbara jury about being duped into taking him on a 1,100-mile road trip from Colorado to Calabasas, a journey that prosecutors say was part of Mr. Hollywood's plan to elude authorities in the days after the kidnapping and shooting death of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz. On day three of the capital murder trial, Chas Morgan Saulsbury testified that he and Mr. Hollywood became close friends in 1994, when they were 16-year-olds in Colorado Springs, about an hour south of Denver. The Hollywood family moved back to California a short time later, and the two parted ways. That was until August 2000, when, Mr. Saulsbury said, he went to his mother's home one day and found Mr. Hollywood standing in the doorway, dripping sweat after apparently walking 10 miles or so to get there.


In his brief questioning, Blatt said Salsbury could receive the death penalty if he lied in his testimony.

WOW!!!  :o The DP? Holy moly... tell the truth boy!!!!


These are the boys that were involved in the kidnapping and murder of Nick. Clicking on it will make it larger  :-*

Granny B

According to Salsbury, Hollywood initially was "not sure" what to do with the victim until he consulted his attorney at the time, Stephen Hogg. Salsbury testified that "the attorney told Jesse that he was in a lot of trouble anyway and he should 'dig a deeper hole.'" Hollywood, Rugge, and Hoyt then allegedly made a mutual decision to murder Nick Markowitz.

Sure sounds like the scumyer in this case advised them to murder the boy and hid his body in a "deeper hole" to me.  Wonder if the scumyer could be charged for his part in the crime?   ???

Naw, they seem to have teflon hides, no matter how scummy they are. >:(
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy


Santa Barbara News Press - May 21, 2009
Witness on Cross Examination Says He Lied To Investigators

Witness, on cross examination, says he lied to investigators : Admission comes during murder trial of Jesse James Hollywood A day after testifying about driving Jesse James Hollywood from Colorado Springs to Calabasas after the bullet-ridden body of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz was found off West Camino Cielo, witness Chas Saulsbury returned to the stand on Wednesday and faced a withering assault on his credibility at the hands of Mr. Hollywood's lead defense attorney.

Attorney James Blatt, during his cross examination of Mr. Saulsbury, got the witness to admit he lied to detectives investigating Nicholas' August 2000 kidnapping and slaying in hopes of protecting his immunity deal.

Mr. Hollywood is on trial for first-degree murder and kidnapping, with special circumstances that could make him eligible for the death penalty in connection with the kidnapping and killing, allegedly over a drug debt owed to the defendant's by the victim's older half-brother.
Four co-defendants have already been convicted. The shooter, Ryan Hoyt, sits on California's death row at San Quentin State Prison.

Mr. Saulsbury previously testified he and Mr. Hollywood -- accused of masterminding the kidnapping of Nicholas from the San Fernando Valley and his execution in Santa Barbara County less than three days later-- became friends when both were 16-year-olds in Colorado Springs, about an hour south of Denver. The Hollywood family moved back to California a short time later, and the two parted ways.

That was until August 2000, when, Mr. Saulsbury said, he went to his mother's home one day and found Mr. Hollywood standing in the doorway. With Mr. Hollywood making mention of fleeing to Canada or Mexico, the two went on a road trip that led back to the San Fernando Valley, with a stop in Las Vegas.

As Mr. Hollywood got out of Mr. Saulsbury's vehicle after making one of several stops in the valley, the witness sped off and headed home, according to testimony. Soon after he got back, Mr. Saulsbury contacted an attorney and gave law enforcement a statement.

Mr. Blatt produced that police report in court and read a portion that indicated Mr. Saulsbury told detectives he did not know why Mr. Hollywood was in trouble, and he had assumed it was related to a drug debt.

However, Mr. Saulsbury admitted Wednesday he knew about the alleged murder before ever leaving Colorado Springs with Mr. Hollywood.

Soon after Mr. Hollywood showed up at Mr. Saulsbury's mother's home, the old friends reportedly logged onto the News-Press Web site, and Mr. Hollywood read a story that indicated a dead body had been found and two reported associates of Mr. Hollywood -- Mr. Hoyt and Jesse Rugge -- in addition to a 17-year-old, had been arrested.

Prosecutors say the kidnapping and shooting were the result of a drug debt owed to Mr. Hollywood by Ben Markowitz. Mr. Rugge was convicted of kidnapping for ransom or extortion and sentenced to seven years to life in prison.

Mr. Blatt went on to ask Mr. Saulsbury if he had lied because he wanted to look better in front of detectives, and the witness agreed. Mr. Saulsbury said he wanted to get his deal with law enforcement -- one that involved immunity in exchange for testimony, and that he was willing to do what it took.

Mr. Blatt additionally zeroed in on Mr. Saulsbury indicating to prosecutors that during the trip, Mr. Hollywood said an attorney he contacted advised him to kill the boy and bury him. In the course of his cross examination, Mr. Blatt pointed out that by the first time he revealed this information, it was after he had initially been interviewed by detectives and had testified before the grand jury.

Mr. Saulsbury said he supposed he had wanted to protect his friend, but after continued examination from Mr. Blatt, the witness admitted he had been attempting to protect himself.

The attorney asked if he had just lied to the jury, and Mr. Saulsbury replied that he had not. Superior Court Judge Brian Hill, who is presiding over the case, interjected, asking if the witness cared to explain his answer, but he said he did not.

However, Mr. Saulsbury went on to acknowledge the fib, and Mr. Blatt asked why he did it.

"That was a mistake," the witness said.

The examination moved onto something Mr. Saulsbury reportedly omitted from statements to law enforcement: Mr. Hollywood, according to the testimony, told the witness he did not orchestrate the shooting and that he did not want Nicholas to be harmed.

Mr. Blatt asked Mr. Saulsbury why he never divulged this information to authorities, but the witness sat there for a moment without answering. Mr. Blatt continued on, asking if the reason he never gave this information to detectives was because he wanted to save his own skin.

"I don't know," Mr. Saulsbury said.

Mr. Blatt later went on to ask if, out of fear of jail time, Mr. Saulsbury did not want to reveal information that would be helpful to his client. The witness agreed.

On redirect examination, Chief Trial Deputy Josh Lynn of the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's office asked the witness if he had been confused by the defense's questioning, as past testimony and police reports were all referenced in a quick-fire fashion. Mr. Saulsbury answered affirmatively, and Mr. Lynn went on to ask whether into the later part of the trial's morning session, he had been willing to say "yes" to anything. Mr. Saulsbury again agreed.

Asked if anyone ever told Mr. Saulsbury he would be in trouble if he did not assist in convicting Mr. Hollywood, the witness replied that had never been indicated.

Concerning his first interview with detectives, Mr. Saulsbury agreed that at that time, he did not remember every detail about his trip.

Mr. Lynn also asked about the reported sorrow Mr. Hollywood displayed while the two were on the road, and the witness said the defendant never indicated whether he was sad for Nicholas or himself. Additionally, Mr. Hollywood talked about making a break for Mexico or Canada more than he talked about the victim, according to testimony.

Mr. Saulsbury will be back for his third day on the stand Friday, when the trial resumes at 9 a.m.
in Dept. 14.


Hollywood's Getaway Driver Testifies

Salsbury Tells of 15-Hour Car Ride With Fugitive

The Jesse James Hollywood portrayed in the film "Alpha Dog" may have seemed like a ruthless thug, but on the third day at the trial of the real Jesse James Hollywood, witness Chas Salsbury said that in the days following the murder of 15-year-old Nick Markowitz in August 2000, Hollywood seemed remorseful, depressed, and at some points even suicidal. Hollywood had fled from California after the slaying, going to Salsbury's Colorado home before leaving the country. Nonetheless, the defense spent Wednesday trying to discredit Salsbury's testimony by portraying him as a weak and dishonest individual.

Hollywood has been charged with murdering and kidnapping Markowitz nine years ago, and faces the death penalty if found guilty. Wednesday's session of the trial began with defense attorney James Blatt apologizing to Salsbury for asking questions on Tuesday that might have been upsetting or intimidating. After Salsbury responded that he did indeed feel intimidated, Blatt asked Salsbury if he cried on Tuesday. Though Salsbury answered that he didn't cry, Blatt said later during the cross-examination that Salsbury actually did cry on Tuesday after court. This is one of many disagreements between the witness and Hollywood's attorney throughout an almost three hour cross-examination.

Salsbury has been the prosecution's most vital witness to testify in the trial so far. In a direct examination on Tuesday by prosecuting attorney Joshua Lynn, Salsbury said that he was friends with the defendant from 1994 to 1995, but that the friendship ended when the Hollywood family moved from Colorado to Los Angeles. In August 2000, Salsbury went to his mother's house in Colorado and found Hollywood waiting at the door step.

Salsbury said he was "shocked" to see Hollywood, as the two men hadn't spoken since Hollywood moved to California. Salsbury said that Hollywood appeared very stressed out, and that he told Salsbury that he was in trouble.Acting out of a "misguided care for Jesse," Salsbury agreed to drive Hollywood to Las Vegas and then back to the Los Angeles area. "It was a bad decision," Salsbury said.

Salsbury alleged that, during the approximately 15-hour car ride, Hollywood slowly revealed how he had kidnapped the brother of someone who had been harassing him. According to Salsbury, Hollywood was initially "not sure" what to do with the victim until he consulted his attorney at the time, Stephen Hogg. In what would become the most contentious part of his testimony, Salsbury said, "the attorney told Jesse that he was in a lot of trouble anyway and he should 'dig a deeper hole.'" Salsbury said that Hollywood told Jesse Rugge and Ryan Hoyt, two of Hollywood's friends who were later convicted for their involvement in the murder, what his lawyer had told him, and that Hoyt then volunteered to "do it." After hearing this story, Salsbury said he thought that Hollywood, Rugge and Hoyt made a mutual decision to murder Nick Markowitz, contradicting the prosecution's theory that Hollywood was the mastermind behind the killing, but showing that he was still very involved in it.

With only a few minutes left until the evening recess on Tuesday, Blatt began his cross-examination. He first asked Salsbury, who was paid for speaking with "Alpha Dog" filmmakers during the creation of the film in 2006, if he was aware that it was illegal to lie to a jury. Blatt then explained that Salsbury could receive the death penalty if he did so. "I have a packet of eight conversations you had," Blatt then told Salsbury. "Tomorrow I'm going to review them." The defense attorney then began a siege against Salsbury's memory of the events which had occurred nine years prior.

After apologizing on Wednesday for his potentially threatening line of questioning, Blatt made word-for-word comparisons between what Salsbury said in court on Tuesday and what he previously told police officers in interviews over the past nine years. In particular, Blatt wanted to know why Salsbury used an alleged direct quote from Hogg about "[digging] a deeper hole" during his testimony on Tuesday, versus why he only paraphrased Hogg's words in an interview with police detectives in 2000. He posited that Salsbury's memory of the nearly decade old incident would presumably have been sharper then.

Blatt also harped on the fact that Salsbury was inconsistent in various testimonies about Hollywood's mention of Hogg's suggestion, and whether it occurred at the beginning or more toward the end of the car ride. Because of this confusion, Blatt presumed that the witness was lying and asked multiple times whether or not he was finally "ready to tell the truth." Salsbury responded that he had been telling the truth all along.

Another issue of conflict between Blatt and Salsbury was Salsbury's interpretation that the murder of Nick Markowitz was a group decision. Salsbury admitted that Hollywood never used the specific words "group decision" during the car ride. This language choice led Blatt to conclude that Salsbury was trying to help the prosecution in his testimony to avoid his own potential arrest.

Hollywood himself appeared calm in court, but had allegedly experienced "a whole range of emotions" during the car ride being discussed, praying and at one point telling Salsbury that he didn't want to live anymore. Blatt asked Salsbury why he didn't mention this remorse during his initial interview with police. "Because you knew that's not what they wanted to hear," Blatt said before receiving a reprimand from Judge Brian Hill for asking an argumentative and speculative question.

During his re-direct questions, prosecutor Joshua Lynn argued that, if Salsbury was really only looking out for himself and not for Hollywood, then he wouldn't have agreed to drive the defendant -- who Salsbury knew was wanted for murder -- across California. Lynn also posited that it would be impossible for Salsubury to remember the exact words he used from so many different interviews. He also cited an instance during the cross-examination in which Blatt himself had forgotten a question he had just asked.

Blatt's re-cross examination will continue Friday at 9 a.m.


Nerves fray at murder trial : Day 5 of Hollywood sees sparring between defense and key prosecution witness
May 23, 2009 7:16 AM

Jesse James Hollywood shied away from showing emotion in the opening days of his capital murder trial, barely breaking a straight face when those in courtroom around him were chuckling.

But a morning of terse back and forth between defense counsel and a key prosecution witness that, at times, verged on argument and drew admonitions from the judge on Friday gave the accused ringleader in the Aug. 2000 kidnapping and murder of Nicholas Markowitz something to smile about.

It was a day marked by a detailed account of 15-year-old Nicholas' final two days alive by way of then-16-year-old Kelly Carpenter, who told the jury she partied with Nicholas and his captors -- some of whom have done time in connection with the crime and others who are doing time -- on Aug. 7 and 8, 2000 at a Santa Barbara area home and a local hotel, and never once saw the boy restrained or heard him ask for help.

Ms. Carpenter, now 25 and living out of state, said during cross-examination by the defense, "I don't feel like what I saw was a kidnapping."

She told jurors about being at another party in Santa Barbara one day around suppertime and hearing Mr. Hollywood say to his girlfriend about Nicholas, who was also there, "We could just tie him up and throw him in the back of the car and go to dinner."

She testified the comment was said in a joking fashion, later describing it as "Humor in poor taste."

Ms. Carpenter is set to take the stand again on Tuesday. And Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Brian Hill put the defense on notice that Jesse Rugge, who is serving a seven-years-to-life sentence for aggravated kidnapping in connection with Nicholas' abduction and murder, could also take the stand next week.

Asked by the defense whether that meant the judge had ruled on its motion to bar Mr. Rugge fromtestifying the judge said no.

The more research he does on the matter, said Judge Hill, "The more I am of a mind that he's likely to be a witness."

"I think you need to be ready."

Mr. Rugge is serving his sentence at Avenal State Prison, but Judge Hill said that as of Friday, he was being held in the Santa Barbara County Jail.

One week after opening remarks began in the case against him, the 29-year-old Mr. Hollywood, wearing a navy blue jacket a white shirt and blue tie, watched Friday as his defense attorneys continued their assault on testimony by the defendant's high school pal Chas Saulsbury, who, less than two weeks after Nicholas was shot dead in the local hills, got an unexpected visit from Mr. Hollywood -- whom he hadn't seen in about five years -- at his home in Colorado Springs, Colo., eventually driving Mr. Hollywood to the San Fernando Valley in what prosecutors allege was part of Mr. Hollywood's plan to elude capture.

Arriving to court in flip-flops and board shorts, Mr. Saulsbury, 31, struck a defiant profile, which carried over to his testimony, resulting in Judge Hill threatening to hold the Colorado resident over for another day, which, because of the holiday weekend, meant taking the stand again Tuesday.

The witness ultimately obeyed the judge's order, but not before numerous verbal sparring matches with the defense.

Frazzled by apparent prior inconsistent statements brought out during cross-examination by lead defense attorney James Blatt, Mr. Saulsbury, who is testifying with immunity, at one point blurted out, "I'm guilty of being an accessory to murder after the fact."

When pressed under cross-examination about why he didn't go to police when, as he claimed on the stand, Mr. Hollywood told him about the trouble he was in over Nicholas' death, he said, "I was scared . . . I didn't know what to do. . .A little boy got killed here."

The mood shifted to lighthearted soon after when the judge, admittedly bothered by Mr. Saulsbury's fidgeting in his chair, asked the bailiff to switch it with a chair that didn't swivel.

Attorneys on both sides, the witness, the audience, the judge and relatives of the murdered boy and those of the man accused in his death -- who take up an entire row inside Department 14 each day, separated sometimes by only a seat -- all got a good laugh out of the exchange.

And from his seat at the defense table, Jesse James Hollywood, too, flashed a smile.

His face gave off a sense of delight at times, smugness at others. The latter was evident when Mr. Saulsbury complained about Mr. Blatt twisting his words.

But Mr. Hollywood clearly seemed to relish his old friend's admission that, "I lied mistakenly" when being questioned by police about where he and Mr. Hollywood were headed after their reunion in Colorado.

But the face of Mr. Hollywood showed contempt when the witness, after another round of arguing with Mr. Blatt, loudly said, "Your client came running to me and then ended up in Brazil."

That statement alluded to the nearly five years Mr. Hollywood spent on the run, before his capture on a Saquerema beach in 2005.

Mr. Blatt tried to impeach the witness' testimony that he heard about the murder weapon from Mr. Hollywood by showing him articles from the News-Press published shortly after the killing that reported a gun being buried with Nicholas' body.

But Deputy District Attorney Josh Lynn noted that the reports cited by the defense made no mention of a specific type of gun.

Where did you find out that the weapon was TEC-9, Mr. Lynn asked.

"From Jesse," replied Mr. Saulsbury.

Mr. Saulsbury's testimony came to an end with a chilling tale that Mr. Lynn hoped would explain some of the confusion exhibited by the witness, who had been away from his home for six days.

"Turns out my dog was fed some kind of poison," said Mr. Saulsbury. "She's bleeding internally. . . There's been so much bleeding it's coming out her eyeballs."

The symptoms, Mr. Saulsbury said he came to find out, were consistent with being given rat poisoning.

"I'm going to go home and put her down and say goodbye."


The Fifth Day in Hollywood

Jesse James Hollywood Murder Trial Continues with Testimony of Former Friends

Monday, May 25, 2009
By Jon Forrest (Contact), Chris Meagher (Contact)

A tense time on the stand finally came to an end Friday for Chas Saulsbury, a witness in the death penalty murder trial of his former friend Jesse James Hollywood, accused of ordering the kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz in August 2000.

Saulsbury was at his home in Colorado when Hollywood showed up at his door shortly after Markowitz's death. From there, he drove Hollywood to Las Vegas and then on to Los Angeles, a trip during which Hollywood allegedly spilled the beans about what had happened to Markowitz.

Often looking distraught on the stand (and crying afterward one day, according to one attorney), Saulsbury explained that he didn't expect to be on the stand for the better part of the week, and the day after he had arrived in Santa Barbara he caught word that his dog was sick. This news, he said, came just one day after Hollywood's attorney James Blatt asked for Saulsbury's address. The dog was "fed some sort of poisoning," and was very sick and bleeding, Saulsbury said, implying that perhaps the defense had something to do with the sickness, much to the surprise of Blatt.

After expressing all this at the prompting of questions from prosecutor Josh Lynn, Saulsbury faced Blatt. "Are you saying that I actually called you? Did I call you?" Blatt asked. "No," Saulsbury said, explaining it was really an investigator from Blatt's office. "If I called and asked for your address, wouldn't that be a threat? Blatt asked. "That's the way I took it," Saulsbury replied, saying he would be going home to put the dog -- whose sickness, doctors told him, was consistent with rat poisoning -- down.

Earlier in the day, Saulsbury, during cross-examination, admitted he didn't tell police everything he knew about the murder to avoid getting himself in trouble for being an accomplice. Many times throughout his testimony, he contradicted his story about the sequence of events, as well as what he was told by Hollywood and what he read in a newspaper article.

Blatt clearly rattled Saulsbury with his questioning, making him not want to cooperate with the questions. But Judge Brian Hill threatened to bring Saulsbury back on Tuesday, May 26, meaning he would have to stay through the weekend. "I'm not going to tolerate your continued disobedience of my orders," the judge told the witness.

After Saulsbury stepped off the stand, Kelly Carpenter, 25, stepped up. A 16-year-old at the time, she was friends with Graham Pressley and Jesse Rugge, both of whom were previously charged and convicted in this case. Rugge is serving a life sentence while Pressley was recently released from a juvenile facility at age 25. Carpenter testified at their trials, as well as the trial of Ryan Hoyt, who was convicted of shooting Markowitz nine times near Lizard's Mouth in the Santa Barbara foothills. The prosecution alleges that the kidnapping and murder came as a result of a drug debt owed to Hollywood.

Carpenter, who had reviewed transcripts of her testimony in previous cases and indicated she was relying on that information for much of her testimony, said she, her best friend Natasha Adams, Pressley, and Rugge would get together often that summer to hang out and smoke marijuana. On August 7, 2000, she arrived at Adams' house to find Markowitz there. Hollywood was also present with his girlfriend. At one point, she heard Hollywood, in a "joking manner" tell his girlfriend they could tie Markowitz up and throw him in the back of the car while they had dinner. "My heart skipped a beat," she said, and she ended up leaving. "I felt uncomfortable."

The next day she and Adams went to Rugge's house, where Pressley, Markowitz, and Rugge all were hanging out. She testified that she was concerned for Markowitz at this point, but that the boy wasn't upset and that no one was physically confining him. "He said he wasn't worried about it," she said. "This would be a story he could tell his grandkids."

She later overheard an agitated and frustrated Rugge telling Markowitz: "I want to take you home, I want to get you a bus ride home. I don't want to be a babysitter. I just better not have the police show up at my door." A calm Markowitz assured him they wouldn't.

Later, the group hitched a ride with Pressley's mother to the Lemon Tree Inn, and partied in a hotel room for awhile. When she left that night, it was the last time Carpenter would see Markowitz until newspaper reports came out days later.

The defense attorney cross-examined Carpenter, and immediately cut to the chase. "Did you feel like you were part of a group to keep Nick Markowitz in a specific location?" he asked. "No," she replied. She also never saw Hollywood hit or threaten the teen, and there were plenty of times when the boy could have left, including one time it was just her and him in a grocery store parking lot and she encouraged him to leave. In fact, several times she encouraged him to leave.

Markowitz was partaking in the drinking and smoking marijuana just as everyone else, and Carpenter, though aware of the circumstances, was never told by anyone to not act suspicious or draw attention to the group. "I didn't feel like what I saw was a kidnapping," she said.

Carpenter will return to the stand Tuesday. Hill indicated both sides should be ready for Rugge to testify this week, whether it is Tuesday or later. The judge hasn't made a ruling on whether Rugge, currently in the Santa Barbara County Jail, will be forced to testify, but he warned that he was leaning more toward Rugge getting on the witness stand than not.

The prosecution planned to give immunity to Rugge, but the defense objected, because Rugge has given conflicting testimony in the past. The defense has argued that it wasn't fair to grant immunity to someone who perjured themselves and admitted to it. "They're calling the witnesses they pick and choose what they want," defense co-counsel Alex Kessel said. "The prosecution is using known perjurers, known liars." Hill, however, said it wasn't unusual for a witness to lie in his testimony when he is the one on trial.

Hill will make a decision prior to testimony sometime this week. Expected to testify Tuesday are Adams and Richard Hoeflinger, a friend of Rugge's and witness to Markowitz's alleged kidnapping.

Go Up