Man Accuses Court Appointed Defense Counsel of Incompetence and Wrongdoing – Judge Cuts Him Off


By Carson Eschen

SANTA BARBARA, CA – A defendant vigorously complained to a judge here Monday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, noting that his motion to be assigned a new attorney had been ignored, and launched several accusations of incompetence and wrongdoing against his current defense counsel.

Brandon Troy Contreras is facing sentencing for shoplifting and felony assault, enhanced by his prior convictions.

The court met for a sentencing and disposition hearing on his case, where his court-appointed attorney, Sanford Horowitz, filed a simple continuance, requesting more time to file pre-sentencing motions.

Although the case has been pending sentencing for more than a year and a half, Horowitz claimed that probation did not consider Contreras’s mental health status, backed up by extensive paperwork, in writing their initial pre-sentencing recommendation, and had thus taken several weeks since the last court date to update their recommendation.

The presiding judge, Judge Michael Carrozzo, agreed to give Horowitz the continuance, despite objections by the prosecution.

However, during the official proceedings, the defendant, present via Zoom, seemed anxious to directly address Judge Carrozzo. He attempted to speak multiple times, despite instructions from the judge to wait, although he stopped each time when asked.

Judge Carrozzo finally prompted Contreras to speak at the end of the proceedings.

Contreras immediately began reading animatedly from a prepared statement. He stated that in July he had filed a Marsden motion that had not been resolved.

A Marsden motion is a request by the defendant for the court to replace their current court-appointed defense attorney with another, and it must be filed on grounds of ineffective representation, malpractice, or conflict of interest.

Contreras then attempted to justify his motion, stating that Horowitz had been “fraudulently assigned” and was “totally ineffective counsel” because he did not discuss defense strategy at all and had failed to respond to Contreras’s written communication.

He made further allegations that Horowitz was a suspect of a forgery case that was being investigated by the California Department of Justice and the State Bar of California.

The Davis Vanguard was unable to find any public records that Horowitz was the suspect of any investigation, by either the California Bar Association or law enforcement, and could not locate any records of the cases Contreras claimed Horowitz was involved with.

Judge Carrozzo cut Contreras off, saying “I’ve heard enough.” He refused Contreras’s request, stating that they had already discussed these issues before, and that he found Horowitz to be an excellent lawyer.

Contreras further responded that he had been filing with the U.S. District Court at which point Judge Carrozzo said that “he wasn’t making any sense” and removed him from the call.

Meanwhile, Horowitz seemed mostly unperturbed by his client’s tirade, although he apologized to the court for his client’s behavior after Contreras had been removed.

Judge Carrozzo reassured Horowitz, but said that if Contreras acted similarly on the next court date, he would invoke Penal Code section 1368, under which a competency hearing would be held to determine if the defendant is mentally competent enough to stand trial.

However, he also expressed a hope that the defense and prosecution could work out a deal that would help Contreras.


About The Author

Carson Eschen is a fourth year Political Science and Philosophy double major at UC Santa Barbara. He plans on becoming a lawyer.

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