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Prosecutor in Achilli trial accused of withholding info

September 3, 2010 3:43:14 PM PDT
The second day of a trial for the alleged love triangle murder of Los Gatos restaurateur Mark Achilli was stalled by a defense attorney who accused the prosecution of withholding significant information.

Harry Robertson, defense attorney for Esequiel "Paul" Garcia, one of three men charged in the killing of 53-year-old Mark Achilli, said he did not have information about evidence submitted to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office related to the case.

He asked for prosecutor Jeff Rosen to obtain a report from the sheriff's office before proceeding with the trial.

The interruption occurred at the end of the second day of trial for Garcia, Miguel Chaidez and Lucio Estrada, all charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Achilli, who owned the popular downtown Los Gatos nightspot Mountain Charley's saloon and the adjacent 180 Restaurant until 2007, when he sold them to Garcia.

Achilli, 53, was gunned down in the driveway of his Overlook Road townhouse on the morning of March 14, 2008.

All three defendants face life in prison if convicted.

Santa Clara police Sgt. Nicholas Richards testified today that in March 2008, he assisted Los Gatos police in their investigation by going to Duarte, a city in Southern California, and serving a search warrant at Chaidez's home.

He said he recovered from the home a Dell laptop, six cell phones, two gun-cleaning kits, and a red box with Chaidez's social security card, photographs, a handwritten note with Chaidez's signature, and three bundles of cash amounting to $3,240.

Richards said he also found an Airsoft gun, a rifle, 11 ounces of marijuana, and an article about gang-related shootings, all of which he turned over to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office for a separate investigation they were doing.

During a break today, both Chaidez's attorney, James Leininger, and Robertson told Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena that Richards' testimony about the evidence submitted to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office would have a prejudicial effect on the jury.

Cena gave the jury an admonition to ignore the portion of Richards' testimony pertaining to the evidence submitted to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office.

In his opening statement Wednesday, prosecutor Rosen called Achilli's death the result of a love triangle that led to a case of murder-for-hire.

Garcia was in love with Tessa Donnelly, a woman both Achilli and Garcia had dated, and wanted to kill Achilli because she ultimately chose him over Garcia, Rosen said.

Rosen said Garcia had told Donnelly he was in love with her and wanted to marry her after six weeks of dating, but that in January 2008, Donnelly told him she was in love with Achilli and wanted to go back to him, causing Garcia to become increasingly jealous and possessive.

He said Garcia asked Daniel Chaidez, a cousin of Miguel Chaidez who worked as a bouncer at Mountain Charley's, for his help arranging for the murder of Achilli and gave him $9,500 in two separate payments for the job.

Miguel Chaidez then contacted Estrada in Southern California and offered him money to get rid of Achilli, Rosen said.

Robertson, however, has said the case is about a drug debt collection and that Daniel Chaidez was using Garcia as a scapegoat. Daniel Chaidez later pleaded guilty to a voluntary manslaughter charge in exchange for testifying against Miguel Chaidez.

Robertson also countered that Achilli used cocaine and that he "had a drug problem." He said Donnelly had chosen him because only he could provide her with drugs.

The trial will continue Tuesday morning.


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