Nothing in life is certain but death and taxes. Well, that and—up until Monday morning—Denise D’Sant Angelo trying to delay another court hearing.
Since her original arrest on November 19, 2008, D’Sant Angelo has been on a long, windy road to state prison, where she was sent Monday, and where she will spend the next 11 or so years of her life. The sentence comes after a May conviction on six counts of felony financial elder abuse, six counts of felony grand theft, and one count of misdemeanor unlawful practice of law for swindling a couple out of more than $20,000 after convincing them she could help save their home from foreclosure. And it comes following hearing after hearing over four years during which she frustrated prosecutors, ping-ponged back and forth between defense attorneys, and generally slowed down the judicial system.
Her name first popped up in news reports in late 2007, when money went missing from an account set up to raise money for a group of Santa Barbara nuns who were being evicted from their homes. The prosecution said she had “repeatedly been involved in activities designed to defraud persons of money and to misrepresent her background and qualifications,” and had civil court documents to prove it. She eventually went to trial, and a jury found her guilty of embezzling $2,800 from the nuns and sentenced her to two years in prison.
Monday, however, was her sentencing in the elder fraud abuse case, and D’Sant Angelo tried again to delay. But Ochoa, who had already granted two continuances, had seen enough. In July, she dropped attorney Joe Allen, announcing her intention to hire the public defender’s office, so long as it wasn’t Senior Deputy Public Defender Jeff Chambliss, who represented her at her first trial and was dropped by D’Sant Angelo after her first conviction. A week later she changed her mind and decided to represent herself. She said she would need 30 days to prepare a motion for a new trial.
But 30 days later, on Monday morning, she wasn’t prepared, she said, and needed more time. The judge said no. She argued she hadn’t been allowed access to the paperwork she needed. The judge told her she had. Despite her persistence, Ochoa told D’Sant Angelo it was time to proceed.
So first, in an oral motion for a new trial, D’Sant Angelo attempted to disqualify Ochoa, but the judge found it untimely and not backed by any legal argument. Then she said there was juror misconduct, saying a juror had talked to Ochoa’s wife, KEYT anchor Paula Lopez, about the case. But the judge noted the juror was dismissed after this revelation, and was not a part of the deliberations.
Then she went after Allen, saying he had been ineffective counsel. Pointing to a variety of issues, D’Sant Angelo, among other things, said he was not prepared, failed to file an appeal related to her previous conviction, and failed to perform investigations critical to her defense. But Deputy District Attorney Brian Cota said D’Sant Angelo lost her case not because Allen wasn’t a good attorney, but because “he’s not a miracle worker.”
Cota noted points in D’Sant Angelo’s testimony on the stand that drew laughter from the jury box. “She got up on the stand and lied about pretty much everything other than what her name was,” Cota said. Indeed, Allen, who was present to defend himself, told the court there were “problems in the evidence that were very problematic to deal with.” D’Sant Angelo then went after Cota and said he proffered testimony that was perjurious and knew it was perjurious. However, when confronted by Ochoa, she gave no specifics.
The hearing was a microcosm of D’Sant Angelo’s entire encounter with the legal system. “She’s playing fast and loose with the administration of justice,” Cota said.
From the beginning she’s pointed fingers every which way, at Police Chief Cam Sanchez, the nuns, and radio personality Ernie Salomon (who formed the group to help the nuns), to name a few. But no longer. D’Sant Angelo, after throwing every argument against the wall to see if anything would stick, was sentenced by Ochoa to 11 years in state prison. “You’re simply trying to delay this case which you’ve done repeatedly in the litigation of this case,” Ochoa said.
After Ochoa denied her oral motion for a new trial, the judge joined Cota and a probation officer in dumping on D’Sant Angelo’s actions. “She gave them hope they could keep their house when she only intended to keep their money,” Cota said. Followed the probation officer: “This is the longest list against giving a person probation I’ve ever, ever seen.” And apparently, Ochoa had seen enough of D’Sant Angelo as well, telling her, “I have rarely in my time on the bench seen such a pattern of chicanery and flim-flam artistry.”
D’Sant Angelo announced to the court her attention to appeal, and has 60 days to file an official notice.