Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 25, 2010

New attorney seeks bail for Bulos Zumot

Mark Geragos asks court to revisit bail issue, compel prosecution to hand over computer evidence

by Gennady Sheyner

The defense for Bulos Zumot, the Palo Alto hookah-shop owner charged with killing his girlfriend, Jennifer Schipsi, and setting their shared Addison Avenue cottage on fire last October, is once again asking the court to set bail for Zumot.

Mark Geragos, the Los Angeles-based criminal-defense lawyer whose previous clients included Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson, made his first court appearance as Zumot's attorney at the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice Wednesday.

In a brief hearing packed with Schipsi's family and friends, Geragos asked Judge Philip Pennypacker to compel the prosecution to hand over key computer drives in a more timely fashion.

Geragos also filed two motions, one of which seeks the release of Zumot's two sports-utility vehicles, which police had seized over the course of their investigation. The motion claims that this particular evidence is "neither relevant or necessary."

Geragos also asked the court to grant Zumot bail, a request the court had previously considered and rejected on two occasions. The motion he filed states that the "defense feels it is only fair that if the preliminary hearing is going to be continued once again, the defendant should have at least the opportunity to post bail."

Pennypacker didn't rule on Geragos' requests and continued the hearing until Friday morning, at which time Judge David Cena is expected to take over the case and consider the defense's requests.

Geragos took over for Zumot's previous defense attorney, Cameron Bowman, shortly after a Santa Clara County court judge denied Bowman's second request to set bail for his client in February. Geragos said he decided to become involved in the case because he found the case "intriguing."

"What's intriguing about it is that I don't think he did it," Geragos told the Weekly after the Wednesday hearing.

Most of the hearing focused on the defense's effort to obtain computer evidence from the prosecution. Geragos said he needs to see both the suspect's and the victim's computers to establish the timeline of the case -- a critical component of a case rooted in circumstantial evidence. Geragos said he was previously told by the prosecution that he would receive the computers last Monday.

Geragos told Pennypacker he needs some kind of a court order compelling the prosecution to hand over the evidence in a timely fashion.

Prosecutor Chuck Gillingham said the defense had only asked for only one computer, which would have been provided by Monday had the defense not expanded its request. Because the list now includes four computers and two telephones, the timeline had to be extended, he said. Two of the computers are from Zumot's place of business, Da Hookah Spot on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto.

Gillingham also said the timeline of when the evidence is handed over is determined by the forensics laboratory, not the prosecutor's office.

Zumot, 36, was arrested on Oct. 19, 2009, four days after the police found 29-year-old Schipsi's remains in the Addison Avenue cottage where the couple lived. Zumot has been charged with homicide and arson -- charges to which he pleaded not guilty in January. Police said Zumot killed Schipsi and then set the house on fire to destroy the evidence.

He has been held without bail since.

Zumot was the last person to see Schipsi alive, according to the arrest affidavit filed by Palo Alto police. Zumot also allegedly told police the two had argued the night before the fire and the day of the fire. He was arrested after an accelerant-sniffing dog "alerted" after smelling Zumot's shoes, socks, pants and sweatshirts. The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner's office had also determined that Schipsi's hyoid bone was crushed and that she died before the fire.

Zumot and Schipsi had had a turbulent relationship marked with break-ups and episodes of domestic abuse, court records indicate. In February 2008, Schipsi filed a restraining order against Zumot, accusing him of harassing and threatening her -- an order she later asked the court to rescind.

She filed another restraining order against Zumot last August, claiming that he threatened her.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Geragos finds this case intriguing because he thinks the accused is innocent? Ha, methinks what Geragos is intrigued by is the status of his own rep, which took a hit when Scott "I'll Dye My Hair & Fool Everybody!" Peterson was convicted. Good luck, Geragos - you'll need it.


Posted by Stop DV, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 23, 2010 at 8:51 pm

I think Geragos is intrigued by the potential length of this case= $$$.
[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] Jenny- peace be with you.


Posted by Oh, Brother, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Geragos? [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]vPlease!


Posted by Lisa, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 23, 2010 at 9:31 pm

I Pray that God gives Geragoes the strength to defend Paul, an innocent man! The REAL victim here is Paul Zumot, not Jennifer. [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] God bless Paul Zumot, his family and Geragoes!!


Posted by Lisa, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 23, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Stop DV, you claim that Geragos is intrigued by this case because of $$$$, [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] At least he makes an honest living.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2010 at 10:17 pm

I think it's interesting that Lisa asserts that Geragos makes an honest living. I guess it depends on the definition one is using...

Lisa, do you think it's in good taste to post the things that you are the way that you are? There are certainly ways to demonstrate your support of the accused w/out disparaging the victim - that's in very poor taste.


Posted by Domanica, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 23, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Domanica is a registered user.

I agree with Lisa 100% . [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]. God bless Bulos Zumot, his family and friends. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]. Maybe you all should be smart for once, go hire a PI and try to find who really is behind her demise rather then wasting taxpayers money!


Posted by Koa, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2010 at 9:21 am

Koa is a registered user.

Lisa-
Regardless of guilt, it's not possible here to be more of a victim than Jennifer. She's gone.


Posted by Domanica, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 24, 2010 at 10:45 am

Domanica is a registered user.

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language].


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.