Defense attorney Darryl Genis is no stranger to courtroom drama. Tuesday morning, however, a violation of three court orders during the course of one case resulted in a $3,000 sanction for the outspoken lawyer, who said in an email he has already appealed the decision from Judge Brian Hill. The sanction amount means that Genis is required to self-report the sanctions to the California State Bar. The violations came during a fairly run-of-the-mill DUI trial, where the defendant was found guilty of driving under the influence and not guilty of driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher.
During a pretrial hearing, Genis was caught trying to record a video of Officer Kasi Beutel on the stand, prompting Hill to tell both attorneys that they needed his permission to record audio or video. But on June 11, during a break from trial, Genis snapped a photo of Beutel — whom Genis alleged has participated in widespread misconduct in the past — talking in the back of the courtroom with her husband, Mark Corbett, another SBPD officer.
Genis — who has been held in contempt by Hill in the past but won his appeal in that case — told Hill he did so because he believed Corbett was coaching his wife on her testimony and wanted to document their interaction. He chided the court for not holding Corbett and Beutel responsible for “doing something equally wrong, if not more wrong.” But Hill noted that he held a hearing and gave Deputy DA Justin Greene a sharp talking-to about the appearance of collusion between an officer witness in the case and another officer.
Genis admitted he violated the court order but claimed he had substantial justification to do so because it was reasonable to think the two were acting inappropriately. But Hill asked why Genis didn’t bring it to his attention. “It was a very specific, clear order,” said Hill, who had to caution Genis several times to remain calm and keep his voice down, as the attorney often interrupted the judge. “There’s orderly ways to proceed, and there’s other ways to proceed,” he said.
Genis also got in trouble for questions he asked of both Beutel — whom he called a liar in court Monday — and Officer Aaron Tudor, the investigating officer in the case, regarding their past statements. Hill admonished both sides that they were not to bring up any prior acts of any witness on the stand in the presence of the jury and that the issue should be decided outside the jury’s presence. But Genis asked Beutel whether she, in writing or orally, gave sworn testimony that was not both true and correct. An objection from the prosecutor was sustained by the judge. Genis later asked a different question of Tudor which the judge deemed was also an attempt to bring up prior acts.
“I repeated it, I repeated it, I repeated it,” Hill said of his admonition not to bring up any prior acts of moral turpitude. “To me, this is indefensible.”
Greene mostly sat quietly while Hill and Genis went back and forth Monday. He provided a statement after the hearing. “The District Attorney’s office respects the court process and feels that Judge Hill made the correct decision today to sanction Darryl Genis $3,000 for violating three separate court orders associated with a jury trial that concluded late last week,” Greene said in the statement. “The fair administration of justice requires that both sides — whether the prosecution or defense — adhere to the court’s orders so that neither party is prejudiced.”
Genis, in comments sent after the hearing via an email in which he talked about governmental lies and corruption, said Hill “clearly has more interest in protecting Beutel from being publicly exposed as the documented liar she is than in protecting a citizen accused’s Constitutional 6th Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel.” He said he is “willing to put myself in harm’s way in civil disobedience in order to expose corrupt government officials like Beutel, Corbett and Tudor.”
Hill, for his part, said he didn’t want his courtroom turned into a circus. “I issue orders that I see as appropriate in terms of how I want this courtroom conducted,” he said. Genis must pay the money by July 3.
Note: There were a few errors in this piece which have been corrected. First of all, Judge Brian Hill did not impose a fine on attorney Darryl Genis; it was a monetary sanction. Secondly, a typo erroneously rendered the quoted phrase “both true and correct” to “both true or correct.” Finally, the article misstated a question, ruled improper, that Genis asked Officer Aaron Tudor on the stand: Genis asked Tudor whether he was aware that not all of his DUI arrests were good enough for the DA to prosecute and followed up with a question about a specific case in the past.