Jurors in a multi-defendant Santa Rosa assault trial conceded Thursday they had read news reports or were told that one of the defense lawyers in the case was arrested on suspicion of carrying drugs into the courthouse.
Judge Gary Medvigy polled the panel about the July 17 arrest of attorney Shell Kaminsky, 31, of Brentwood, who deputies said tried to pass through security with a small amount of methamphetamine.
She is representing Robert Flett, 27, formerly of Rohnert Park, who has been charged along with four others in an attack on a 40-year-old Santa Rosa man at Youth Community Park last year.
He faces more than 20 years in prison if convicted of assault causing great bodily injury and a gang enhancement.
Jurors were asked individually if they read either of two stories in The Press Democrat about Kaminsky or had talked among themselves about her.
Eight admitted reading a portion of one of the stories or hearing someone else talking about it. Some read just a headline while others reported reading the beginning of one of the stories before realizing it involved the case they were hearing.
All said they could remain fair and impartial.
"My husband mentioned that a lawyer had been arrested for drugs," one woman juror told Medvigy. "He went on to say her name, and I said I can't hear any more."
Another woman said it was "dumb for her to do" but that she could deliver a fair verdict for Kaminsky's client and the others.
"They don't have anything to do with it," she said. "It's a separate issue."
The remaining members of the jury, which includes two alternates, said they didn't know about the arrest.
After hearing their statements, the judge resumed the trial, which has been going on for about a month. Several defense attorneys have called for a mistrial on different grounds. Their motions have been denied.
"All of their answers are very clear," Medvigy said of the jurors' responses to his questioning. "I don't see any equivocation at all."
Flett and his co-defendants are charged with assaulting former Santa Rosa resident Amador Pacheco during a June 2012 car show at the park. It's believed that he was beaten by the men, who are alleged to have gang ties, after being labeled a snitch in a Mendocino County homicide case.
Defense lawyers maintain Pacheco, along with his adult and teenage daughters, started the fight. Flett was called to the stand Thursday by Kaminsky's co-counsel, Pleasanton attorney Peter King. Kaminsky was not present in court and it was unclear whether she would continue to represent Flett.
Prosecutors are expected to announce whether they will file drug charges against Kaminsky at an Aug. 28 hearing.
Flett testified that he punched Pacheco only after he found him beating his friend, co-defendant Carl Hastie, 28, of Marin County.