Unless it’s a traffic ticket where you don’t have much to lose, it’s just not a good idea to represent yourself. This point is made over and over by cases like this. As reported by Courthouse News Service:
On trial for mail and wire fraud, fallen real estate mogul Luke Brugnara [who is representing himself] blamed his treatment at the Alameda County jail for his bizarre behavior in court and demanded that U.S. District Judge Alsup allow this explanation to be given to the jury.
“If I were in the jury box, I’d think this guy is nuts,” Brugnara said, launching into a rant about how he has not been allowed to shower or shave for five days and that deputies are trying to prevent him from preparing for trial by repeatedly throwing his legal papers into garbage bags.
Brugnara also spent this past weekend on suicide watch in Santa Rita jail, where he claims to have been thrown naked into a cell caked with feces for 30 hours. Since the incident, he has taken to calling the deputies his “North Vietnamese captors.”
“I haven’t showered, haven’t shaved. That’s why I’m acting crazy,” he told the judge.
What are the charges?
… allegedly conning a New York art dealer out of $11 million in fine art including a missing Edgar Degas sculpture …
The trial sounds, well, interesting, and challenging.
[Brugnara] has consistently bullied witnesses, argued with the U.S. attorneys and generally turned the court into a lurid spectacle for nearly two weeks.
“You’re trying to turn this trial into the biggest train wreck you can,” Alsup said Tuesday.
Alsup, who seems to fully believe that Brugnara is deliberately hanging himself in order to get the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn his inevitable conviction, has so far added 295 days to Brugnara’s sentence for summary contempt – earning 111 of those days for calling U.S. District Attorney Robin Harris a “Nazi” in court on Tuesday.
“You’re racking up a lot of time in this case. You deserve more,” Alsup said.
“She’s worse than a Nazi in my opinion,” Brugnara said. “And you don’t care about me; none of you care about me. It’s not fair. You’ve orchestrated this whole case and because you don’t like the way I communicate, you’re punishing me.”
“I’m not going to try to argue with you on the falsehoods in your speech. You got away earlier with saying Ms. Harris dresses like she’s in North Korea,” Alsup fired back.
On Wednesday, Brugnara fought with Alsup over the contempt sentences. “If you hate me that much, why don’t you just recuse yourself? Say, ‘I fucking hate you’ and recuse yourself.”
Harris asked Alsup to keep Brugnara from bringing up the summary contempt orders in front of the jury.
“You think that will do any good?” Alsup asked wearily.
Brugnara interjected, “Can you just hand Ms. Harris your robe? Because she’s trying to direct the court.”
You get the idea. And the judge’s displeasure with Mr. Brugnara began before the trial.
The judge is still steaming from Brugnara’s defiance of a furlough order that allowed him to meet with his former court-appointed attorney, Erik Babcock, at the San Francisco Federal Building. Brugnara walked out of the building after a meeting with Babcock on February 5 and spent six days on the lam before being apprehended by the FBI.
At a hearing after Wednesday’s proceedings, Alsup addressed the only defense Brugnara has for that escape, U.S. Supreme Court case United States vs. Bailey.
Under Bailey, duress or necessity can be used as a defense to an escape charge. Brugnara claims that he was dying of malnourishment in the Glenn Dyer jail in Oakland and fully intended to return for his trial, originally scheduled to begin Feb. 26.