April 29, 2016
Two private investigators can be tried on charges of false imprisonment and conspiracy in connection with a fake DUI report against a Costa Mesa city councilman in 2012, an Orange County judge ruled Friday.
Upholding an earlier ruling, Superior Court Judge Michael Leversen agreed that there is enough evidence for private investigators Christopher Lanzillo and Scott Impola to stand trial on charges that they conspired in advance about the false report.
The report led a police officer to briefly detain Councilman Jim Righeimer.
A magistrate ruled in August that a sobriety test the officer conducted on Righeimer didn’t constitute a detention, nullifying some of the prosecution’s charges of false imprisonment and conspiracy.
But Superior Court Judge Cheri Pham reversed the magistrate’s ruling in December.
Defense attorneys challenged the reversal, but Leversen denied their motion after a brief hearing Friday in Fullerton.
Leversen’s decision means Lanzillo and Impola still face felony counts of conspiracy and false imprisonment related to the DUI stop, as well as two more felony counts of conspiracy on allegations that they used GPS devices to illegally track Councilman Steve Mensinger and a lawyer.
Lanzillo and Impola could each face up to four years and four months in prison if convicted, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office. The two previously pleaded not guilty to all the accusations and are free on bail.
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