Jason Paul Schaefer's sentencing hearing was classic Marco Hernandez doing what he wanted. He began by dismissing a motion for reconsideration that should have given Schaefer a new trial because a member of the prosecution's team, Lauren Williams Deits, was once a legal assistant for Schaefer's attorney and interviewed Schaefer on behalf of that lawyer. Deits never told her current employer, the United States Attorney's Office, that she had previously worked with Deits. When a lawyer at her former firm notified Schaefer's defense team they moved to dismiss the case. During those proceedings Judge Hernandez went on record as saying that he did not believe Deits when she said that she did not recall interviewing Schaefer just two years earlier, so why did Judge Hernandez deny the motion?
All Judge Hernandez has to do to uphold a conviction under these circumstances is say that he does not believe that the defendant suffered prejudice. If there is no prejudice then the question of whether or not Schaefer's right to counsel was violated due to a member of the prosecution's team possessing privileged information becomes legally irrelevant. Leading up to this it is no surprise that Hernandez stated on the record that he did not believe Deits. This is classic Hernandez presenting the appearance of reasonableness and compromise knowing that in the end it won't matter anyway. The conviction and sentence that Hernandez wanted is in place while he gets to defend his actions by pointing to favorable statements or rulings that he did make even though they did not result in any tangible favors for the defendant.
The worst Judge Hernandez has to worry about if he is wrong under these circumstances is that the Ninth Circuit or Supreme Court overrules him and orders a new trial. If Hernandez had ordered a new trial his court, the government, and the taxpayers would have suffered enormous expenses since the monetary cost alone of a federal criminal trial is believed to be in the millions. That is a lot to consider for a judge that ultimately believes that even without that evidence the jury would still have convicted him and he personally would have given the same sentence. The problem with that conclusion is that it is hypothetical. In an assault case where intent is an element of the offense a prior incident involving the defendant and law enforcement can be a deciding factor for a juror when it comes to whether they think the allegations are consistent with the defendant's character. Judge Hernandez is not a psychic, so he is in no place to know exactly what a juror thinks or would think if not told something. Questions of facts are for juries to decide and judges are not in a position to speculate as to what a jury would have decided. Judge Hernandez is in a position to say that it did not prejudice sentencing because as mentioned earlier he does what he wants, so changing the evidence would not cause Hernandez to impose a different sentence unless that evidence prejudices the defendant even further, but the question remains for the jury as to whether or not Hernandez should have the authority to sentence the person at all.
The Ninth Circuit should overturn this conviction, order a new trial, and direct the district court not to allow evidence from the case in which Deits's former boss represented Schaefer. That is because like the quote in the lobby at the Hatfield Courthouse says, the first responsibility of any society is justice. Justice cannot be done if it is denied for budgetary reasons based on speculation even if that speculation is highly likely to be correct. From what I understand the prosecution used evidence from that prior case that likely came from Deits and that evidence was prejudicial. Prejudicial because even though it did not have anything to do with the current case, it could be used to question Schaefer's credibility, his character, any predisposition that may have existed, and his attitude towards police. I was not at the trial but it is my understanding that the government sought body cam footage from that earlier arrest and that lead probably came from Deits. Schaefer represented himself at trial and according to one witness that was like watching someone set himself on fire, so that was another error by Hernandez because as someone that knows Schaefer, I can tell you that he is not competent to represent himself. He even had a decent lawyer and did that anyway, which supports my point further.
Fortunately for Schaefer he did not waive any of his appellate rights, so the procedural bars that usually keeps the Ninth Circuit from calling out Hernandez do not exist here. Still, the Ninth Circuit is a liberal activist court that acts a lot like Hernandez, so they are likely to seek ways to uphold the end result that they wish to see even if they know that they are technically wrong.