Westminster Police Detective Anthony Orban killed himself in jail last year after being convicted of kidnapping, beating and raping a waitress in 2010, but before his victim had the satisfaction of seeing him sentenced for his crimes.
But last Friday, West Valley Superior Court Judge Shahla S. Shabet indicated that she was prepared to sentence a dead man because there were still legal issues that needed to be addressed. The San Bernardino Sun quoted her as saying, “Our system needs to close this case either through dismissal or sentencing.”
Orban’s attorney, James Blatt, was dumbfounded. “I can't comprehend how you can go ahead and sentence someone who is dead,” Blatt told the judge.
This is how it’s done.
Judge Shabet wouldn’t accept Blatt’s decision not to request a dismissal of the case and gave him until July 2 to research cases that would support his claim that a dead perp means a dead case. Blatt simply wanted the case removed from the court calendar and argued that his client’s death removed it from the judge’s jurisdiction. “This is not in the best interest of the dignity of the court system,” he said.
She disagreed and had the support of the victim, who reportedly said after Friday’s hearing that she wanted closure and was disappointed sentencing had been postponed. She told a CBS reporter, “Just because he chose to take the coward’s way out on the day that was supposed to be his sentencing does not mean he’s excused from that. . . . I waited years to say my piece to him and he took that from me.”
Sentencing might also make it easier for her to sue for restitution.
The case had taken a few other curious turns before this one. Orban, a five-year veteran of the police force and a former Marine, said that he had been taking the prescription drug Zoloft and an anti-seizure medication when he kidnapped the 25-year-old woman in a parking lot after she got off work.
He claimed to have no memory of the incident. He didn’t remember snatching her with the help of a buddy, Jeff Jelinek, a prison guard at California Institution for Men in Chino. He didn’t remember brutalizing the waitress in her car for more than an hour while taking cellphone pictures that he sent to Jelinek, who had stayed behind. And he didn’t remember leaving his pistol, which had his name engraved on it, in the victim’s car, or her escape to a liquor store while he was distracted with his phone.
The Zoloft defense did not work.
Jelinek was sentenced to a minimum of five years in prison after pleading guilty to being an accessory to a felony, false imprisonment and assault with a firearm.
Orban hanged himself last October in his cell at the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino the day before he was to be sentenced.