Criminal defense investigator testifies at Rick Ross hearing

Rick Ross sits on a bench in the courtroom shortly before the beginning of his pretrial hearing. (Justin Fedich)

Rick Ross sits on a bench in the courtroom shortly before the beginning of his pretrial hearing. (Justin Fedich)

Read Part I of Rick Ross’s pretrial hearing coverage before reading Part II.

 Part II

Ross greeted Khaled with a hug as he exited the courtroom. It was one of the few times Ross smiled during his long day at court. The two sat together on a bench outside the courtroom, but their conversation was brief. After a five-minute recess, Ross returned to the courtroom, and Khaled took his seat three rows back.

Charles Mittelstadt wasn’t at Ross’s Fayetteville estate on June 7, 2015. In fact, no one in the courtroom Friday was there on the day of the incident except Ross and James. However, Mittelstadt, a criminal defense investigator, visited the property a little over a month after the incident and reviewed surveillance footage from the morning of the alleged attack.

After both McCutcheon and Sadow were given a chance to provide their account of what happened based on evidence they had collected, Mittelstadt was called to the witness stand. On a large screen to Mittelstadt’s right, Google Earth’s bird’s eye view portrayed a section of Ross’s estate.

After Mittelstadt proved his knowledge of the property, Sadow began a long line of questioning aimed at showing that his clients were innocent. A majority of Mittelstadt’s time at the witness stand was spent analyzing surveillance footage from the morning, as Sadow flipped through the various angles of photos and videos from a laptop.

Sadow, in an attempt to show that Zamudio and Ceceras were only temporary residents, asked Mittelstadt if it looked like the guest house was the permanent residence of anyone on June 7, 2015.

“Objection, Your Honor as to how this witness is qualified to answer that if he had not been present on June 7,” McCutcheon said.

It was far from the only time McCutcheon rose from her seat with an objection during Mittelstadt’s testimony, as Sadow pressed the criminal defense investigator to make inferences based on surveillance footage that wasn’t always clear. In one photo, Mittelstadt later admitted he misidentified one of the men, and he was cautious not to make too many definitive statements when reviewing the surveillance.

As Ross watched on from his seat, his gaze constant and expression rarely changing, Mittelstadt looked at two separate pieces of surveillance footage, one of the man he believed to be Zamudio and another one he believed to be Ceceras.

The footage was from a time after the incident had occurred, once Zamudio and Ceceras re-entered the estate, and Sadow asked Mittelstadt if either of the alleged victims looked like they had blood on them. Mittelstadt replied they did not appear to be bloodied.

During McCutcheon’s turn to speak to Mittelstadt, she carefully crafted her questions, trying to find holes in the story that she thought didn’t add up. Much of McCutcheon’s concerns during Sadow’s line of questioning was the level of certainty behind Mittelstadt’s claims. She also challenged the relevancy behind some of Sadow’s questions.

As McCutcheon pushed for every detail she could, Sadow interrupted.

“I just want to be clear,” Sadow said. “I don’t object to any of this because this is not going to be a dispute, but this is precisely the same type of testimony she objected to.”

The two sides broke for lunch soon after Mittelstadt exited the witness stand, a resolution likely months away and another Ross arrest yet to be discussed.

Stay tuned for Part III of Rick Ross’s pretrial hearing coverage on Monday.

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About

Justin Fedich is a reporter for the Fayette County News. He has been a reporter for various papers around the Southeast, including the Athens Banner-Herald and the Selma Times-Journal. Justin is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in digital and broadcast journalism and a sports media certificate.


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