SAN DIEGO (CNS) - An investigation into the search of a defendant's jail cell during his murder trial forced a delay Friday in sentencing a boxing trainer convicted of fatally shooting another trainer and two others at a Vista gym.
Mark Anthony Diaz, 50, was convicted in April of first-degree murder and other charges in the April 7, 2010, death of 52-year-old Hector Gil. Boxer Ricky Gutierrez and trainer Peter Moreno were wounded but survived the shooting at Pacific Coast Gym.
Diaz was supposed to be sentenced today, but his attorney asked for a two-month delay, saying the defense was waiting for the results of a Sheriff's Department internal investigation into a search of Diaz's jail cell during his trial, in which he said key attorney-client notes were taken and never returned.
The search happened just before jurors were taken on a "scene visit" to view evidence in the case, defense attorney James Fitzpatrick said. The attorney said security shouldn't have been an issue since Diaz had waived his right to be present on the jury's trip into the community.
Fitzpatrick told Judge Kerry Wells that Diaz was going to testify in his own defense, but decided not to when only one of 12 pages of his handwritten notes was returned.
"It deeply impacted our decision for him not to testify," Fitzpatrick said.
As inmates watched, two plainclothes officers took everything out of Diaz's jail cell, spread it out on a table and photographed the items, Fitzpatrick said.
"I know that they read our confidential communications," the defense attorney said outside court. "This cuts to the very core of our legal system."
Depending on the results of the internal sheriff's investigation, the defense might have grounds for a new trial, Fitzpatrick said.
Wells said she had "significant doubts" regarding the legal basis for the request to delay sentencing, but rescheduled the hearing to July 29.
Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza opposed the request to postpone sentencing.
Diaz faces up to 96 years to life in prison.
Albert Gamez, a "cut man" who knew both the defendant and the victim, testified at trial that Diaz called him in February 2010 and asked him not to help Gutierrez with an upcoming fight because Diaz and Gutierrez had had a disagreement. Gutierrez had decided to train with Gil, Gamez testified.
The witness said Gil told him that Diaz had been threatening him.
At another fighter's bout in April 2010, Gil had Gamez listen to voice mail messages from Diaz, the witness testified.
Gamez said Diaz left a message saying he was "going to blast him or shoot him."
"He (the defendant) said, `I'm going to blast you, I'm going to shoot you. You're gonna die," Gamez testified. "He (Gil) was clearly bothered by it."
Gamez said he tried to contact Diaz to explain why he was helping Gutierrez, but the calls were never returned.
The witness said Diaz left another message for Gil that said, "You're (expletive) with the wrong person. You watch. You watch. You're gonna get yours."
Salvador Gonzalez, who took his son to train at Pacific Coast Gym, said he and Gil became close, and the victim confided in him about a month before the shooting that Diaz had threatened to hurt him because he had taken his fighter.
The owner of the gym had obtained a restraining order to keep Diaz away from the premises, Espinoza said.
An approaching winter storm is poised to open an "atmospheric river" of subtropical rain clouds on Southern California this week, but the San Diego area is expected to see just a fraction of that moisture, forecasters said Sunday.
A man threw rocks at vehicles on Interstate 5 near Imperial Beach Sunday, and threatened police with a pickaxe as he ran into a riverbed.
San Diego Sen. Toni Atkins will make history Wednesday when she becomes the first woman and first lesbian to hold the California Senate's top job.
A 16-year-old boy was allegedly drunk when he crashed his car into a stopped vehicle, pinning a motorist between two bumpers, police said Sunday.
Two people were killed in head-on crash, as the driver of a stolen car sped away from deputies and veered into oncoming traffic near Pauma Valley Sunday.
A man was shot and killed by police at an officer- involved shooting in Escondido, a sheriff's lieutenant said Sunday.
A 27-year-old man suffered fatal injuries as the result of a "punching game'' inside of a bar Saturday morning in the Gaslamp
neighborhood of San Diego.
A large plume of smoke filled the sky in Miramar on Saturday morning after a concrete supply building went up in flames.
SANDAG began removing call boxes along urban highways throughout the San Diego region this month and will continue to do so through June, reflecting a decrease in call volume due to the increase in cell phone ownership.
Authorities today announced that police have arrested a suspect in connection with Friday's sexual assault on the campus of San Diego Mesa College. The name of the suspect was not immediately released.