Mostrong defense alleges harassment, prosecutor seeks gag

May 09, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

What started as a typical pretrial conference in the case of Blake Mostrong, charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Oct. 7 death of an Alpine girl, ended in Mostrong's attorney alleging harassment against his client.

Tuesday's hearing also saw Deputy District Attorney Wayne Robinson, assigned to prosecute Mostrong, call for a gag order in the case as the May 29 trial nears.

Imperial County Superior Court Judge Matias Contreras denied Robinson's request but said Robinson could file a motion in writing to seek a gag order that would keep those involved in the case from speaking to the media.

Robinson's request came after El Centro attorney Robert Espinosa alleged Mostrong, his client, was being harassed by a family member of Michelle Marie Grady, the 17-year-old girl struck and killed by the van Mostrong was driving.


Michelle was struck on Wheeler Road in western Imperial County in the early-morning hours of Oct. 7. She reportedly was standing next to a golf cart that had stopped on the road after it had run out of gas.

Mostrong was reportedly driving from a party with friends when he struck the golf cart. One of Michelle's friends was injured in the collision.

Investigators have alleged Mostrong fled and did not turn himself into authorities until 4 p.m. the next day. He then was given a blood-alcohol test and arrested.

On Tuesday, in the moments after Mostrong's pretrial ended, Espinosa told the judge he had a "big problem" in that a member of Michelle's family was asking the bailiff about two dates — June 9 and June 14 — in front of his client.

Espinosa said those are two critical dates for the Mostrong family because on June 9, 1993, Jane Mostrong, Blake's mother, was found dead in their El Centro home. The June 14 date is Blake's birthday, when he will be 21.

Espinosa further alleged there has been repeated harassment of his client, stating in earlier hearings a member of Michelle's family had mimicked walking as if in a chain gang to Mostrong.

"That kind of crap has got to stop," Espinosa told Contreras in an outburst after the pretrial hearing ended.

Contreras cautioned Espinosa about his language in court and said he would not permit any such harassment of the defendant.

Contreras added he did not know the person Espinosa was motioning to as the individual harassing his client. Contreras said people have a right to be in the courtroom as long as they do not violate courtroom rules.

Robinson spoke up at that point, stating for the record that Espinosa was motioning to Susan Grady, stepmother of Michelle.

It was then that Robinson called for a gag order, pointing out comments attributed to Espinosa in a Dec. 1 Imperial Valley Press article in which Espinosa alleged his client was assaulted by the California Highway Patrol in its gathering of evidence.

While Contreras denied his request, Robinson said after the hearing he might file a motion in writing calling for a gag order if Espinosa continues to make such comments.

Robinson said, "There is no evidence that the CHP abused the defendant in this case."

Michelle's family members declined to speak to a reporter after Tuesday's hearing.

However, Susan Grady did make a brief comment that the two dates she had asked the bailiff about involved a June 9 tea gathering for the wedding of one of her daughters. June 14 date would have been the graduation date for Michelle, Grady said.

When asked why she was discussing those dates with the bailiff, Grady did not answer.

The bailiff declined to discuss publicly the specific question he was asked by Grady, but he said it involved the dates mentioned by Espinosa in court.

Robinson said he did not know of any harassment against Mostrong.

Espinosa said hours after Tuesday's hearing he is considering asking the court for sanctions against Grady because of what he called the harassment of his client.

Espinosa said he likely will ask for a continuance in the case beyond the May 29 hearing. He said there likely would be a hearing before that date to discuss a continuance.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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