Carissa Carpenter arrives at the Sacramento federal courthouse
Carissa Carpenter, the would-be developer of a Dixon movie studio now facing charges that she conned investors out of millions, had her bail revoked Wednesday and was ordered off to the Sacramento County jail by a judge who declared he had “zero confidence” she could be trusted to follow the rules of her pretrial release.
Appearing shell-shocked at the decision, Carpenter turned to her attorney Wednesday afternoon and said softly, “What happens now?”
Three U.S. marshals provided the answer, crowding around her and waiting patiently while she removed her jewelry and debated with them over whether she could take her prescription medications with her. After several minutes, she disappeared down a secure courthouse hallway to be taken for booking.
The order by U.S. District Judge Kendall J. Newman came nearly three years after she was indicted and a full year before she is to face trial.
Newman’s order came after prosecutors asked last week that she be jailed over a series of violations.
Her attorney, John Manning, argued that the violations prosecutors cited are overblown or incorrect, and that Carpenter’s well-known “constellation of medical issues” requires constant care by specialists that cannot be provided in jail.
“Incarceration is neither necessary, nor appropriate,” her attorney wrote in documents filed in federal court in Sacramento on Wednesday morning.
Manning conceded that his client, whom he met only Monday, could benefit from greater supervision and mental health counseling, and said that some of her problems stem from her disjointed, rambling style of speaking that he labeled “Carissa-speak.”
“It is incredibly easy to be confused by Ms. Carpenter,” her attorney said.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd A. Pickles and Rosanne L. Rust appeared incredulous at times as Manning downplayed the seriousness of Carpenter’s actions and wrote them off as bad judgment.
But the judge said he intended to put a stop to Carpenter’s travels, which took her recently across the country to New York, even though her court-approved destination was Pennsylvania. She posted regular Facebook updates and giddy accounts of her journey with two small dogs.
“There is not going to be any more traveling, gallivanting,” the judge said. “It’s no more traveling road show.”
Manning argued that Carpenter’s health could suffer at the jail. Carpenter, who has frequently cited her health problems for difficulties she has had paying bills or making court appearances, suffers from at least 20 current maladies, Manning wrote in court filings, including cervical cancer, breast cancer, multiple stokes, multiple blood clots, multiple pacemakers installed, ovarian cancer and a history of colitis.
“Her health is barely managed out of custody under the care of specialists,” Manning wrote. “It is inconceivable the Sacramento Main Jail has the ability to manage Ms. Carpenter’s health issues.”
Carpenter is accused of siphoning off more than $5 million from investors during a 17-year odyssey during which she pitched her plans to build a movie studio in various Northern California cities and, once, in South Carolina. No ground was ever broken, and her latest effort, a self-described $2.8 billion project in the farm town of Dixon, about 25 miles west of Sacramento, fell apart amid a Sacramento Bee investigation into her history of failing to pay creditors and court-ordered judgments of about $1 million.
She has been out on $25,000 bail since her 2014 indictment, but prosecutors want her jailed for a series of violations they cite in court documents, including her alleged efforts to continue fundraising for a movie deal using the name “Lady Carissa.”
They also say she bilked her landlord out of $20,000 that was sent to an “international lawyer” in Australia to help with her defense, and took another $700 from the landlord to buy a cloak so she could become a “baroness” and receive diplomatic immunity from prosecution.
Her lawyer ridiculed some of the claims, saying the landlord sent the $20,000 to Australia himself after Carpenter “fell for an internet predator” she thought she had fallen in love with.
He also dismissed the notion that she tried to become a baroness, saying that after two weeks of online communication, “Ms. Carpenter realized whomever she was communicating with was a kook.”
Judge Newman eventually interrupted the proceeding and stated: “I’ve heard enough.”
Newman said he was especially concerned that some of Carpenter’s conduct involves alleged fraud and misrepresentations, which led to her arrest in the first place.
“She’s got too many excuses and explanations for everything,” he said, ordering Carpenter off to jail.