Accused Art Thief Evicted From Jail During Trial

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Luke Brugnara, the one-time commercial real estate powerhouse now defending himself against criminal charges that he bilked an art dealer out of $11 million in fine art, found himself evicted from the Glenn Dyer Detention Facility after deputies had enough of his “shenanigans.”
     At a hearing Monday afternoon, Captain Jack Tucker from the Oakland jail told U.S. District Judge William Alsup that deputies were already packing up Brugnara’s cell Friday morning. Apparently the last straw was Brugnara’s allegation that Deputy Alex Faber had “tossed” his cell and thrown his legal papers into disarray.
     Alsup had Faber brought in Friday afternoon for an evidentiary hearing after the jury had been dismissed for the day, and after listening to Faber’s side of the story, decided he believed that the deputy had not tossed the cell.
     The drama, however, did not end there. As Brugnara was being taken back to his cell on Friday, U.S. Marshals heard him say, “I’m going crazy. I’m going to hang myself. The next thing you’re going to see is a dead man hanging in this cell.”
     U.S. Marshals immediately whisked him away to San Francisco General Hospital for an evaluation. Because Glenn Dyer is not equipped to deal with inmates in need of the intense observation required when they make the sorts of statements Brugnara made, jailers transferred the man to Santa Rita jail, 40 miles east in Dublin.
     Although initially a temporary fix, Brugnara later learned that the Dublin jail was to be his new home. His legal papers, collected in garbage bags, were brought over the weekend.
     Brugnara told Alsup on Monday that he never intended for his comment about hanging himself to be taken seriously.
     “I’m the last person on this Earth who would kill himself,” he said, contending that the Marshals were working in collusion with the U.S. Attorneys office to prevent him from preparing for trial over the weekend. “This is the dirtiest trick I’ve ever seen. I was shanghaied.”
     After being evaluated by a Santa Rita jail doctor, deputies took Brugnara to a cell that did not measure up to the man’s standards.
     “They take me into this room, and it’s a dungeon,” Brugnara said, adding that there was no bed and no toilet – only four walls and a grated floor befouled with human feces.
     “They threw me in this cell naked like a prisoner of war in Vietnam,” he told the judge. “You ask me why I’m so crazy, but you wouldn’t have lasted in there 30 minutes.”
     He added: “Have you ever seen the movie the Edge? Anthony Hopkins says the bear won’t let them eat, won’t let them sleep. It was like that.”
     Alsup said he knew on Friday the Glenn Dyer jail was ready to throw Brugnara out, but had asked them not to. He repeated that preference on Monday.
     “I’m disappointed Glenn Dyer would kick someone out who is a defendant in a federal case who is on trial,” Alsup told Tucker. “Mr. Brugnara is an abusive, obnoxious person who would make the deputies’ lives hell, and I don’t blame you for wanting to get rid of him, but I believe it was bad judgment to kick out someone who is defending himself in a federal trial because it raises issues of whether he can defend himself properly.”
     In defense of his decision to evict Brugnara, Tucker said, “The problem we’re having is this is the fourth or fifth time my staff has had to come out to testify because of his shenanigans.”
     “What if I didn’t have these evidentiary hearings and this case comes up on appeal,” Alsup chided. “This comes with the territory. You put this case in great jeopardy.”
     Tucker protested that the jail’s resources are already strained, and that Brugnara’s complaints against deputies should be handled by the jail’s grievance process rather than through an evidentiary hearing in San Francisco.
     “Tell that to the Court of Appeal,” Alsup said.
     The government is expected to wrap up its case on Tuesday. However, Alsup gave Brugnara a chance to move for a mistrial.
     “Most judges by now would have a declared a mistrial if the government asked for one. I guess you think this trial is going well for you,” Alsup said, referring to Brugnara’s near-constant courtroom outbursts and violation of evidentiary rules.
     “Everyone has a different style in the courtroom,” Brugnara answered. “I am who I am.”
     Brugnara then likened himself to prominent San Francisco antitrust attorneys Joseph Alioto and Fred Furth, known for their aggressive and flamboyant styles.
     “Joe Alioto makes me look like a mouse,” he said. Alsup slammed this comparison.
     “To say you’re in any way like Joe Alioto and Fred Furth is an insult to those two,” the judge said.

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