A federal judge has rebuffed Carissa Carpenter’s effort to replace her court-appointed attorney with a fourth lawyer for her fraud case, leaving her on schedule to face trial in August over her fundraising to build a movie studio in Dixon and several other cities.
Carpenter, 54, who has complained that her health is being endangered while she is in custody at the Sacramento County jail, appeared Friday morning in a wheelchair before U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr.
Her court-appointed attorney, John Manning, had asked for the hearing at Carpenter’s request that she be allowed to speak to Burrell about replacing him.
“This is Ms. Carpenter’s request,” Manning told the judge. “I hesitate to put words in her mouth.”
Carpenter then began to speak, but Burrell stopped her, telling her she had an attorney who could speak for her. He then cleared his court of onlookers and prosecutors, and held a 20-minute hearing behind closed doors.
Once open court resumed, the judge announced the request had been denied and Carpenter, clad in an orange- and white-striped jail jumpsuit, was wheeled out and back to jail, where she has been held since August.
Carpenter is accused of siphoning off more than $5 million from investors between 1997 and 2014 by pitching movie studio projects throughout Northern California and one in South Carolina.
Nothing was ever built in any of the communities.
Her last proposal was for a $2.8 billion project in Dixon, a small farming community in Solano County 25 miles west of Sacramento that she said would gain 1,000 jobs from the project. That effort collapsed after a 2013 Sacramento Bee investigation found she had a string of unpaid bills and $1.4 million in court-ordered judgments.
Since her indictment on 32 felony counts of fraud and lying to the FBI, she has had three court-appointed attorneys, and prosecutors had opposed her effort to have a new one named, arguing that such a move could further delay her trial.