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Friday, February 4, 2011

Tide Turns Against Kaushal Niroula in Murder Trial

Posted By on Fri, Feb 4, 2011 at 2:57 PM

click to enlarge Have the old boy's powers failed him?
  • Have the old boy's powers failed him?
Have the old boy's powers failed him?
A Palm Springs judge has refused to dismiss murder conspiracy charges against Kaushal Niroula and Danny Garcia, a rare setback in a pretrial process that seemed to favor the two alleged masterminds of the December 2008 murder of retiree Cliff Lambert.

SF Weekly readers know the story of how apparent Teflon con man Niroula came to America from Nepal, befriended accused conman Garcia, and hatched a series of lucrative financial schemes before being nabbed on charges that he and a group of accomplices conspired to swindle and murder Lambert.

Since their arrest, Garcia and Niroula have seemed to continue the charmed existence that had allowed them to purportedly bilk hundreds of thousands of dollars from assorted victims without facing prosecution. The four other defendants in the Lambert case have either been convicted or pleaded guilty. But Niroula and Garcia's cases seemed to be moving in the defendants' favor, even though they were each serving as their own counsel.

In September, Niroula and Garcia were granted a reprieve when a judge

declared a mistrial, giving them until a March pretrial hearing to

prepare their respective cases. The two men complained to both the court as well as local journalists that they were given insufficient resources to

defend themselves. In response, Riverside County has spent $135,000 for assistance that has included private investigators and jailhouse laptops.

Last fall, the two men requested that Judge David Downing throw out the charges entirely, based on the assertion that Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria had illegally eavesdropped on privileged phone conversations, and improperly read their mail.

In March 2009, the defendants' aura of invincibility was enhanced with claims by an attorney who represents one of Niroula's purported swindling victims that the Nepalese immigrant is an earthly vessel for supernatural forces of evil.

Stephen Shaw represents Megumi Hisamatsu, a Japanese woman who has claimed in a San Francisco federal lawsuit that Niroula bilked her out of $500,000. The attorney suggested Niroula may be beyond the criminal justice system's earthly reach.

"There are too many instances of him getting out and going free to blame it on his charisma or a lack of good police work. I attribute it to the supernatural. He's evil. He's like a vessel. And if people don't treat it like this, he's going to continue doing what he's doing."
However, on Thursday, Niroula's powers seemed to have failed him. Judge Downing ruled the charges would stand. As for claims the prosecutor improperly reviewed recorded jailhouse phone conversations, the judge said the calls weren't privileged.

"The DA did nothing wrong, not even close," Palm Springs media quoted Downing as saying. said. "In fact, they did everything right."

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