Monday, September 14, 2009

Mary Cummins gives expert witness testimony in legal case

"As events unfolded, though, it became questionable if Jimmy was actually living on Union Pacific property. The LAPD, for example, was unsure if the homeless man lives on railroad land, and L.A. City Councilman Greig Smith's office, which represents Northridge, told the Weekly that Jimmy lives on "county property."  Longtime real estate expert Mary Cummins, in fact, said that she had no doubt Jimmy resides on county land.

Since two of the three charges against Jimmy involve trespassing on Union Pacific land, the findings were a major blow to the city attorney's case. Incredibly, the private/county property question came as a surprise to Atteukenian, whose boss is Carmen Trutanich.

When Atteukenian was confronted with Cummins' findings during one of Jimmy's court hearings this summer, the prosecutor was caught off guard, said he would make some calls, and asked for a continuance. Atteukenian obviously hadn't done the basic homework of finding out if Jimmy lived on private or county property -- if justice, in fact, was being properly applied to the homeless man's case.

Atteukenian's less than exemplary work as a prosecutor only got worse from there.

At another court hearing on August 3, Atteukenian started to realize the impact of Cummins' and City Councilman Smith's findings. Before the hearing started, the prosecutor approached Jimmy and his friend, Edward Muzika, holding out a business card. With his fingers purposefully obscuring most of the card, Atteukenian used it as proof that he had a contact with the county's Department of Public Works, and said that the unnamed official wanted Jimmy off county land."

Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.

Mary Cummins gives expert testimony in legal real estate case

LA Weekly. "Jimmy on the edge of town."

"Mary Cummins, a longtime real estate assessor, has independently deduced that he is, indeed, on county-owned land. But she questions whether or not Union Pacific issued a valid citation for trespassing. If Jimmy is living on county-owned property edging the railroad spur, Cummins’ logic goes, then the railroad company may not be able to charge him with “trespassing” on the railroad’s “private property” or of “lodging without [their] permission.”

As an expert real estate assessor for more than 25 years in the Los Angeles area, Cummins knows how to read tract maps. Just recently, for example, she was hired to testify in court over a major real estate dispute at the Ambassador Hotel. Feral-cat activist Muzika started looking into Jimmy’s case, and he asked Cummins, a friend from animal-rights circles, to help.

Cummins, who normally charges $100 per hour for her expertise, took up Jimmy’s cause for free. She looked up Jimmy’s location on Google Earth, found an L.A. County Assessor’s map, and placed the Google map on top of the county’s map. “You can clearly see Jimmy’s on the L.A. County flood-control channel” land, Cummins says. She is also “absolutely certain,” and would testify in court, that Jimmy is on county-owned property, not the railroad’s.

Cummins sent her findings to Muzika, who e-mailed the maps information to Councilman Smith’s office, and alerted the city attorney at Jimmy’s court hearing on July 1 in the Los Angeles Superior Court in the small town of San Fernando, in the far northeast Valley.

In court that day, the prosecutor handling the case, Apraham Atteukenian, looked surprised when Muzika, with Jimmy near his side, offered up the disputed land-ownership evidence. It’s clearly very basic land-ownership homework that Los Angeles city prosecutors should have done before hauling a man into court for trespassing on railroad property. The prosecutor promised to “make some calls.” Jimmy is defending himself pro per, having dumped a Los Angeles County public defender who advised him to plead guilty to trespassing against Union Pacific. Jimmy is now facing trial August 3, yet, Cummins says, even now, the city attorney and Smith’s office have not responded to her finding that Jimmy is not on railroad land."

Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.