Thursday, March 25, 2010

Prosecutor disappears in the middle of trial

Every so often people in the hallways and elevators ask us to visit a particular courtroom. Sometimes they are part of "the System" and sometimes they're just citizens who are associated with a particular case.

Yesterday, I ran into Assistant State Attorney Mark Interlicchio as he stepped into the elevator I was riding. Between the 12th and 7th floors, he mentioned that a domestic violence case he was handling was about to get JOA'd in Judge Richard Conrad's courtroom. I was training a volunteer, so I got her situated in a courtroom on the 7th floor and went back up to Judge Conrad's a few minutes later.
But what happens if the prosecutor leaves the courtroom for a few minutes to research caselaw and fails to return?
JOA is legalese lingo for Judgment of Acquittal. After the State has presented its case in a trial, the jury is excused and the Defense makes a motion for Judgment of Acquittal, citing the areas in which they believe the State failed to prove their case. The judge then decides, based on the facts presented thus far, whether or not the jury will deliberate on the charges as presented. Sometimes a charge is reduced  (for instance, if someone is charged with grand theft but the State fails to prove the value of the items stolen reached a certain threshold, the charge might be dropped to petit theft). Sometimes a charge is dropped altogether. Most of the time, the Motion for JOA is denied.
I'll tell you what happens. The judge grants the defense motion.

At 1:25 pm the jury was excused, the Motion for JOA was heard, and Mr. Interlicchio was given 5 minutes to produce caselaw to support his argument.

At 1:40 pm I arrived in the courtroom wherein the defendant, his attorney, court deputies, the court reporter and the judge were patiently awaiting the prosecutor's return.

At 1:48 pm Judge Conrad asked the court reporter what time they had recessed. He expressed his extreme irritation at the prosecutor's failure to return.

At 1:57 pm the judge asked Defense Counsel, Mark Lippman, if he had a motion. He reiterated his Motion for JOA and it was granted because, as Judge Conrad noted for the record, "the Assistant State's Attorney has absented himself to research an issue he should have researched the night before."

The defendant, Andrew Michael Phillips, age 35, had his case dropped.

There was back slapping and smiles at the defense table.

I left a few moments later.

CourtWatch finds Mr. Interlicchio's behavior extremely irresponsible. He was not adequately prepared for trial and he disrespected his colleagues by not returning in a timely manner (or notifying the court of his status). 

Finally, Mr. Interlicchio taught Mr. Phillips that the courts will not hold him accountable for his crimes.

Just to provide a little perspective, here's some history on the defendant:

1/8/09 offense: Osceola County case 2009-MM-000175
Charged with misdemeanor battery. Jury found defendant guilty. Sentenced to 28 days jail + probation. A Violation of Probation was charged in October and dismissed in February.

1/29/09 offense: Orange County case 2009-MM-001093-A-O
Charged with misdemeanor battery. Case dismissed.

4/14/09 offense: Orange County case 2009-CF-005484-A-O
Charged with Felony Battery but pled to misdemeanor battery & sentenced to 12 months probation, 25 hours community service, and to write an apology letter to the victim.
A Violation of Probation is pending for this case and a DUI case.

9/19/09 offense: Orange County case 2009-CF-015403-A-O
Charged with Felony Battery - Motion for JOA granted. Prosecutor's antics noted above.

10/10/09 offense: Osecola County case 2009-MM-004175
Charged with Battery-DV and Battery. Victim filed a declination of prosecution and case was dropped 2 weeks later.


PS: I learned that Mr. Interlicchio subsequently returned to the courtroom after I left.


  1. Laura, did you ever speak to Mr. Interlicchio or anyone else to find out what his delay was? I am curious to know.

  2. We have certainly lost control...the judge is pissed at a lack of respect so he puts the defendant back on the street to continue his violence toward women and the public in general. We are making many "Teflon punks" in this foolishness.
    Judgment should not be dependent on the emotional response of an elected or appointed official.

  3. In response to Anonymous's comment that the judge's response was an emotional one, I respectfully disagree. I've been prosecuting cases for more than a decade, and I agree with the judge's decision. He was given a legal argument and asked to dismiss a case based on a lack of evidence (the essence of a Judgment of Acquittal argument). The State was unable to rebut that argument. Even with an extra hour to research the case, the State was still unable to rebut the defense's JOA argument. That left the judge with no choice but to dismiss the case, so please don't accuse the judge of basing his ruling on an "emotional response."

    As for the prosecutor's actions, unless he was ill, injured, or restrained against his will, he should apologize to the court (and respond here)

  4. "so he puts the defendant back on the street to continue his violence toward women and the public in general."

    There sure seems like a presumption of guilt here. And I am willing to bet donuts to dollars that anonymous was not present in court when the argument was made. For that I noticed that the author of the blog did not put what the argument was. I don't believe that Judge Conrad, an extremely experienced Judge, would have granted a Judgement of Acquittal if there was not a basis for it.

  5. I think the judge's comment "the Assistant State's Attorney has absented himself to research an issue he should have researched the night before" addresses the JOA very clearly.

    The judge did not grant the motion out of any "emotional response" to the prosecutor's absence.

    This was a case of the prosecutor not being prepared for the motion.

  6. He is a dirt bag like his father who is a sexual offender.. Here is the link to check it out for youself the apple does not fall far from the tree

  7. The defense argued for JOA stating the victim didn't testify that she did not consent to the battery. The judge was absolutely wrong in his ruling, a person cannot consent to a battery. For the prosecutor with ten years experience i find it sad that you didn't know that. Mark should have known that law as well, but a judge is trusted with knowing the law. Also Ms. Williams you failed to mention that he prosecuted a tough DV case where the victim refused to cooperate. I guess it is simply easier to criticize then do a bit of research.

  8. Dear Anonymous (1/2/12) - given the fact that there are a dozen felony courtrooms, and far fewer volunteers available, we are not able to watch every case every day. I have no doubt that Mr. Interlicchio has prosecuted other tough cases successfully. I just happened to catch this case where, as I stated in the blog, he should have been better prepared. This case represented a waste of taxpayer resources (courtroom time, jury's time) because the prosecutor was not prepared with caselaw to respond to the defense attorney's motion.