Messy Arraignment Ends with a Compassionate Release Proposal


By Hannah Adams

SANTA BARBARA, CA – Judge Brian Hill oversaw the arraignment of Santana Hellasandros, and although the hearing here in Santa Barbara County Superior Court last Friday was messy, after it was revealed there a recent death in the immediate family, newly appointed public defender Mark Saatijin proposed a compassionate release.

At the beginning of the hearing, Hill reappointed Saatijin to represent Hellasandros—accused of felony elder abuse, domestic violence and contempt of court—until the accused’s competency can be determined.

PD Saatijin noted the statute calls for a second opinion; after a brief discussion, it was decided that Dr. Carolyn Murphy would act as the second expert witness. The first expert was Dr. James S. Angelos.

Judge Hill then proposed postponing legal proceedings until April. 27, suspending the criminal trial until Hellasandros’s competency could be contested.

The prosecutor of the hearing, Adam Howland, discussed the formality of the legal proceedings, and whether or not Hellasandros’s case had been suspended before.

Hellasandros expressed his dissatisfaction, claiming that he had been treated unjustly.

He informed the court, “Justice delayed is justice denied. I have been falsely imprisoned for 114 days now. I came here this morning, and I would accept Mark Saatijin, but my mom is here—she came here because we lost my younger brother last night. They terminated life support—he died.”

Hill expressed his condolences, and Hellasandros continued with his argument.

“Fortunately, I happen to have facts on my side. Based on the facts, an innocent person—me—can be released in the best interest of justice. I do not deserve to spend any more time as an innocent person locked up, and the facts will clearly show that we can have resolution today.”

Hellasandros then agreed to receive Saatijin’s counsel in order to “facilitate” his release.

After Judge Hill explained that he would be appointing Saatijin as his public defender and Murphy as the second expert, Hellasandros regressed to his original argument, claiming that the matter of his competency should not be relevant anymore.

“Your Honor, there’s already a preponderance of evidence to show that I’m competent, and that doesn’t need to be the issue right now. We can have the issue be the facts and we can get resolution on this matter, please. In any plea bargain, according to the supreme court regarding the Miranda decision in Arizona, some degree of duress would be inherent.”

Hill abruptly truncated Hellasandros’s explanation, stating that part of the reason why he may have been deemed incompetent by Angelos was because of his refusal to “listen to others when they express themselves.”

Citing statutes and other laws, Judge Hill attempted to convince Hellasandros that he and the other judicial officials were suspending the trial by extension of their professions.

“We cannot proceed in a criminal process, whether it’s a plea bargain or a trial, when there’s an opinion from a doctor that you’re incompetent,” Hill said.

Countering Hill’s statements, Hellasandros cited the preponderance of evidence standard on his side, stating that if a judge orders a competency test in spite of significant evidence, then he or she is committing an “abusive process.”

“I have 20 pages of a declaration for cause motion that I’ve submitted to the state bar of California and the commission on judicial performance. I’m looking to put those aside right now because willingness to listen means your willingness to listen to my mother and to listen to the facts,” Hellasandros added.

Hellasandros was then escorted off-camera; DDA Howland, in an attempt to move forward with the hearing, suggested that the court schedule a consultation with Murphy as well as a probable cause hearing.

In another rebuttal, Hellasandros cited charges that Santa Barbara County has appointed experts who incorrectly deem the accused as incompetent.

Judge Hill once again terminated Hellasandros’s discourse, asking Saatijin to speak in place of Hellasandros.

The PD declared that the purpose of a probable cause hearing is to allow the court to investigate whether probable cause exists or not. He admits that there may be an issue in that the preliminary hearing was heard by Judge Raimundo Montes de Oca.

Judge Hill and DDA Howland propose that another preliminary hearing be held in light of Hellasandros restoring his competency, and that for now, all that could be done has been done.

PD Saatijin then stated that he would talk with Hellasandros’s mother in regard to pursuing a compassionate release, given the recent loss in the family.

Hellasandros is set to return to court on April 27.


About The Author

Hannah is a first-year undergraduate student at University of California, Santa Barbara. She is majoring in English and currently is involved with two campus newspapers. She is anticipating on graduating early and attending law school. She hopes to continue her passion for writing in a law-related career.

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