Frenzied Juror Halts Work in Brugnara Case

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A juror’s violent outbursts and lies about his criminal past got him disqualified and dragged from the courtroom on Monday, putting jury deliberations in the trial of accused con man Luke Brugnara back to square one.
     The juror, Ivan Jakic, unleashed an explosive tirade in court directed at U.S. District Judge William Alsup and federal prosecutors, calling them Nazis and fascists and screaming, “Luke Brugnara is not guilty!”
     The U.S. government has accused Brugnara of mail and wire fraud, alleging that he bilked an art dealer out of $11 million in fine art on the pretense that he was building an art museum.
     “I’ve been on the job 16 years and nothing comes close to what the court just saw in a juror,” Alsup said of Jakic’s outburst. “A meltdown is too tame a word for what we saw.”
     The trouble actually started on Friday, when Jakic flew out the 19th-floor jury room in a rage. A surveillance video of him arguing with court security officers who found him wandering on the 18th floor was played in court on Monday.
     On Friday, another juror had sent Alsup a note saying that the allegedly rogue Jakic was arguing for acquittal, based on his past experience of torture in prison. Alsup declined to intervene at that time.
     “I need more than just talk,” he said.
     On Monday, prosecutors urged Alsup to dismiss Jakic because he did not raise his hand when asked during jury selection if he had ever been a defendant in a criminal case or accused of a crime. Jakic actually has a substantial history of criminal charges, they found, including a rape charge of which he was eventually acquitted.
     Brugnara said prosecutors were singling Jakic out because he was the only one leaning toward a not-guilty verdict.
     “We would never dismiss somebody just because they were deliberating for one side or the other. But that’s not what’s going on here,” Alsup said.
     The courtroom was cleared and Jakic was brought in. But as soon as Alsup began to question him, he launched into a rant that could be heard from the hallway.
     With the court reopened, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Harris said, “In 20 years as a federal prosecutor, I’ve never seen a performance like we just witnessed. It was disturbing on every level. He’s clearly unstable.”
     She also pointed out that Brugnara went against Alsup’s instructions and spoke to Jakic, saying “Stop, this isn’t helping me,” and clapping his hands.
     “I really wonder who wants a fair trial in this case,” Harris said.
     Brugnara said Jakic may be passionate, but had not disrupted the deliberations since his case went to the jury Tuesday.
     “How can you say that when he bolted out of the jury room and the deliberations had to stop because he left?” Alsup asked. He then ordered Jakic dismissed for cause.
     “He lied to the court by failing to raise his hand when asked about his criminal history. I find that was intentional deception,” Alsup said.
     The judge also expressed concern for the other jurors’ safety because of Jakic’s violent display before the court.
     “I believe that he is a danger to the other jurors,” Alsup said. “This is a person who called me a Nazi judge and the prosecutors Nazi prosecutors. It was so vehemently and despicably anti-law enforcement that he cannot possibly be fair. He’s clearly a deeply disturbed individual. He was throwing his jacket around. At one point he even called the other jurors Nazis. I fear for his own mental safety.”
     When Jakic was brought back in and ordered to leave the building, he fell into fresh paroxysms of rage.
     “I tell you this is a Nazi system. No Nazi lawyers! Down with Nazi lawyers,” he screamed.
     Pointing at Alsup, he shouted, “I blame you! He’s an agent of a Nazi, fascist system! Luca [sic] Brugnara is not guilty! Communists!”
     He could still be heard screaming in the hallway, “Brugnara is not guilty,” as security officers escorted him out.
     With an alternate brought in, the jury will begin its deliberations anew.
     Meanwhile, Jakic was detained by security in the hallway and taken to a holding cell on the 20th floor because he continued to be disruptive and combative, according to supervisory deputy Frank Conroy with the U.S. Marshal’s Service.
     “They brought him up here to calm down, which he didn’t do,” Conroy said.
     Jakic was then taken to St. Francis Memorial Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. He was later released.

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