Jury selection began today in the government's case against Taylar Nuevelle, accused of breaking into the home of a D.C. Superior Court magistrate judge and stalking her through voluminous text messages and e-mails.
Magistrate Judge Janet Albert, who presides over child abuse and neglect cases, ended a one-year relationship with Nuevelle in September 2008. A grand jury in April indicted Nuevelle on charges of burglary with the intent to stalk and with misdemeanor stalking. (In May, Nuevelle pleaded not guilty to the charges.)
Nuevelle’s lawyer, D.C. solo practitioner A. Kevin Fahey, maintains Nuevelle lived with Albert in her home in Northwest Washington. At a hearing yesterday in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Brenowitz said the government plans to argue that Nuevelle was only an occasional guest in the judge's home.
Brenowitz said Nuevelle executed a “campaign of harassment” against Albert, who is represented by Schertler & Onorato partner Robert Spagnoletti. The presiding judge in the case, Russell Canan, said yesterday he planned to review hundreds of text messages to and from Nuevelle in preparation for trial. Opening statements are scheduled for Wednesday.
One of the issues in the case is the extent to which the lawyers will be allowed to discuss the judicial misconduct complaint Nuevelle filed against Albert in October 2008. Prosecutors want to minimize any mention of the complaint and its details. The complaint, Brenowitz said in court papers, is “irrelevant and highly prejudicial.” The complaint only serves to embarrass Albert, Brenowitz said.
The complaint alleges, among other things, that Albert improperly involved a deputy U.S. marshal amid the spat with Nuevelle. Albert told the marshal she was concerned about her safety, and the marshal conducted a home assessment in September 2008.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Pellicane called a friend of Nuevelle’s to “assess the defendant’s mental state because of his concerns about the safety of the victim,” Brenowitz said in court papers filed last week.
Nuevelle called Pellicane and demanded to know why he was getting involved. Pellicane determined he was in the middle of domestic feud and concluded the investigation without any formal action, according to the Marshals Service.
The prosecution also wants to block the defense from talking about Pellicane’s home assessment. “The defense appears to be pursuing a theory that the victim made some improper use of the U.S. Marshals in an effort to intimidate the defendant,” Brenowitz wrote in court papers. “This contention is not supported by the facts, and is an inflammatory and irrelevant accusation that should be excluded from this trial.”
Fahey said in court he has no plan to cause an “undue embarrassment” for Albert. The details of the judicial misconduct complaint, he said, and the use of a deputy U.S. marshal, are relevant to explore Albert's bias against Nuevelle.
Yesterday, Canan said he would allow the prosecution and defense to acknowledge the judicial misconduct complaint—which is pending before the Superior Court Committee on Selection and Tenure of Magistrate Judges—but that its details were off limits. The judge did not immediately rule yesterday whether he would allow any discussion of Pellicane’s safety assessment at Albert’s home.
Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.