Former Suffolk County Legislator George O. Guldi insisted last week on representing himself in an upcoming trial—a decision that went against a judge’s advice and comes after he unsuccessfully attempted to defend himself during a separate trial this winter.
Mr. Guldi, a disbarred attorney from Westhampton Beach who was a Suffolk County legislator for 10 years, began serving a four-to-12-year sentence for grand larceny and insurance fraud in March and is now facing additional grand larceny charges for his alleged involvement in an $82 million mortgage fraud ring that targeted homes on the East End. The court will begin jury selection for trial for Mr. Guldi and a co-defendant, Dix Hills attorney Brandon Lisi, on June 21 with the trial beginning July 11.
Sporting a shaved head and wearing a suit during his conference last Thursday, April 28, Mr. Guldi told Justice James F.X. Doyle that he wanted to represent himself, as he had done during his earlier trial, saying he has been going over boxes of documents related to his case while incarcerated in the Suffolk County Jail.
Judge Doyle said he believes no one should act as their own attorney, but acknowledged Mr. Guldi’s right to do so. He also warned Mr. Guldi that the court would be less tolerant of “some of the things that happened at the last trial” this time around, threatening to disallow him from representing himself or even remove him from the courtroom if he did anything that “in any way disrupts the court proceedings.”
The judge also warned Mr. Guldi that he will be expected to fulfill all the requirements of an attorney even though he is confined to jail and will have limited access to documents. Mr. Guldi’s legal advisor, the judge indicated, will likely be Christopher Brocato, who was assigned to assist him during the previous trial.
The court, Judge Doyle said, requested that the jail grant Mr. Guldi five to six hours per day to sift through five boxes of documents that had been delivered to the jail, as well as permission to take documents back to his cell on weekends. When Mr. Guldi said he had been granted only 13 hours and 49 minutes to look at the documents over the prior two weeks, Assistant District Attorney Thalia Stavrides said defendants usually have access to the jail’s law library for only one hour per week.
Judge Doyle said he was “not going to micro-manage the jail,” but would ensure that the documents are available “on a reasonable basis.” A sixth box of documents, he said, would be delivered to the jail for Mr. Guldi later that day.
Mr. Lisi appeared in court earlier that day, but did not speak substantially with the judge because his defense attorney was involved in another trial. Both Mr. Lisi and Mr. Guldi were tentatively scheduled to appear in court for another conference on Tuesday.
After last week’s court appearance, Mr. Lisi referred questions to his attorney, Randy Zelin. When reached this week, Mr. Zelin said he plans to ask questions about prosecutors’ recent decisions to hold three separate trials for the defendants in the mortgage fraud case—a switch from their original plan to try all 17 defendants at once—and to pare down the number of charges in a large 2009 indictment of the defendants.
“There is much here that, in my humble opinion, requires another look at,” Mr. Zelin said.
Bob Clifford, a spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota, said last month that it was “not unusual for prosecutors to pare down large indictments for trial in complex white collar crime cases.”
After the trial with Mr. Lisi, Mr. Guldi faces yet another trial with two other co-defendants, Donald MacPherson and his wife, Carrie Coakley, related to the same alleged mortgage fraud ring.
In February, a jury convicted Mr. Guldi of grand larceny and insurance fraud. The charges stemmed from a fire that destroyed his Westhampton Beach home in 2008. He represented himself in that trial after he claimed that he could no longer pay an attorney because prosecutors froze his assets.