Zumot sentenced to 33 years to life
Palo Alto hookah lounge owner was convicted in February 2009 murder, arson
In a raucous conclusion to the murder-and-arson case of former Palo Alto hookah lounge owner Bulos "Paul" Zumot on Oct. 28, Superior Court Judge David Cena sent the convicted murderer from the San Jose courtroom prior to sentencing after Zumot accused the judge of corruption and repeatedly proclaimed his own innocence.
Cena eventually sentenced Zumot, who had been convicted in February, to 25 years to life for the murder of his girlfriend, Palo Alto real-estate agent Jennifer Schipsi. He also received an eight-year sentence for aggravated arson and will serve the sentences consecutively.
Zumot strangled Schipsi on Oct. 15, 2009, in the Addison Avenue cottage the couple shared and set fire to the building. A jury took less than 14 hours to find him guilty following a trial that began Jan. 3 and included three days of testimony from Zumot in his own defense.
Defense Attorney Tina Glandian said to the judge last Friday afternoon that a month ago Zumot had fired his defense team, including celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos. But Cena refused to delay the sentencing, since neither Zumot nor his attorneys had asked permission from the court to relieve Geragos, as is required.
Zumot began an escalating tirade.
"Hold on, hold on, hold on. I'm innocent!" he hollered.
"You've been for the DA (district attorney) since day one," Zumot accused the judge.
"You were convicted by a jury ..." Cena began to say.
Zumot interrupted: "I don't agree with this. I refuse to be here. I don't want to hear this. Take me away from here."
"You are corrupt," he told Cena.
Zumot turned to face Deputy District Attorney Chuck Gillingham and Palo Alto Police Agent Aaron Sunseri. "You framed me. ... The DA is a liar. The Palo Alto police are liars.
"I'm an innocent man! I'm innocent!" he shouted.
Jim Schipsi, Jennifer's father, stood to make his victim's family's statement. His hands trembled slightly as he read from a notepad.
"I believe it's quite apparent the kind of a monster we're dealing with here," he said.
"You are the monster," Zumot shouted.
A deputy handed Schipsi a microphone.
"Our Jennifer Marie was sweet and loving. ... She was a beautiful flower," Schipsi continued, as Zumot talked over him.
"One day she made a terrible mistake. She met you," he said, as Schipsi's mother and relatives wept loudly.
Cena ordered Zumot, hands still shackled to this waist, to be removed from the courtroom to hear the proceedings through an audio feed in a prisoner holding room.
Looking toward the door through which Zumot had passed, Schipsi continued.
"The pain that he has caused has no description. It has no reason. It has no end. I can only wish and dream to be the one to administer the punishment," Schipsi said.
Dee Towner, Jennifer Schipsi's aunt, wept during her statement.
"I often wonder what went through Jenny's mind as you gripped her neck so tightly. That image will haunt me and my family for the rest of our lives," she said.
Zumot must also pay several fines, including $135,982 to his former landlord, John Eckland, for burning down his cottage.
Outside the courtroom, District Attorney Gillingham said escalating domestic violence leading to murder is a pattern prosecutors see "over and over again."
"If someone tells you they are going to kill you or hurt you, you really have to take that 100 percent seriously. You shouldn't die for loving somebody," he said.
Jim Schipsi quietly reflected on the two years since Jennifer died.
"Hopefully this case in some way can bring awareness to some person, to some woman, and hopefully she will break away from some monster, because they are still out there. Maybe this case, someone will see it and it will change their destiny," he said.
Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.