DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - On June 4, 2010, Brian Alexik went to jail a purported criminal mastermind and suspected terrorist. Facing up to 18 years in prison for drug, gun and counterfeiting charges, Alexik opted to represent himself in court.
On Friday, Sept. 23, after fighting his case for 470 days - a self-taught lawyer in a blue prison jumpsuit - Alexik became a free man, albeit one with a suspended sentence and on probation.
Alexik's case was nearing a jury trial when he pled guilty to five felony charges: possession for sale of cocaine and methamphetamine; possession of "concentrated cannabis"; possession for sale of a controlled substance while armed; and forgery, for faking U.S. currency. Charges for possession for sale of heroin, crack and marijuana were dropped. So were two gun charges.
Judge Patricia Schnegg gave Alexik a suspended seven-year prison sentence, with five years probation, said District Attorney spokeswoman Jane Robison. Any future violation would result in prison time, Robison said.
Deputy District Atty. Ronald Goudy, who prosecuted the case for the state, declined to comment. In an email, Robison said, "We'll let the court record of the defendant's plea speak for itself."
In a drawn-out legal battle, prosecutors repeatedly stated their readiness for trial. Alexik consistently delayed a trial by filing a hailstorm of motions, usually to obtain discovery and other evidence. He sought to prove that the police search of his Downtown apartment on April 19, 2010, was illegal.
Private investigator Elizabeth Ann Archer, a member of L.A. Superior Court's appointed panel of licensed investigators, was assigned to Alexik's case. A 30-year veteran in her field, Archer works primarily with criminal defendants, many of them "pro pers," or people representing themselves. Archer served witnesses and collected sworn statements on behalf of Alexik. She described him as the most impressive defendant she has encountered in her career.
"He beat the system," Archer said. "I think the District Attorney knew that Brian basically had won his own case, but there was no way they were going to give in to him and let him get away with it, with beating them."
Breaking Down the Door
Alexik's plight began when police responded to a purported gas smell that a neighbor claimed was coming from his apartment. By the time they broke down the door of his penthouse unit in the Reserve Lofts at 409 W. Olympic Blvd., Alexik, who had rented the apartment under the pseudonym Ken Shurin, had fled down a fire escape. He was a fugitive for nearly two months before police tracked him to his girlfriend's apartment at the American Hotel in the Arts District. He surrendered peacefully.
In court, he questioned the smell that brought authorities to his door. A neighbor in the Reserve Lofts testified in a preliminary hearing that she smelled gasoline, and suspected it was from a gas-powered electric generator. The building had by that time cut off Alexik's electricity because he had stopped paying rent and utility bills (management was also in the process of evicting him). Authorities, however, never found a generator, or identified a source of the fumes.
Alexik further argued that LAPD and Secret Service officials searched his apartment before obtaining a warrant. Time stamps on the LAPD's crime scene photos indicated that they were snapped hours before 4 a.m., when a warrant was officially obtained. One of the LAPD pictures showed a projected, illuminated sign on the nearby J Restaurant and Lounge. Restaurant representatives later provided a sworn statement that the projection automatically shuts off at 2 a.m.
Alexik also attacked the search warrant, which was obtained in part by citing the presence in the apartment of a loaded, illegal weapon. Two court-registered firearms experts confirmed that that weapon, an SKS rifle, was legal and that it had been rendered impossible to load.
Last November, Superior Court Judge Samuel Mayerson acknowledged that police made some mistakes in the search; one officer moved weapons and other evidence that he observed in plain site, and a detective walked through the apartment without a warrant. But ultimately Mayerson said that circumstances such as the gas odor led police to reasonably suspect danger, and he upheld the probable cause.
As part of his plea deal, Alexik waived his right to appeal Mayerson's decision, Alexik said.
Alexik was released on a Friday. He was back at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Downtown the following Monday, this time as a civilian observer, to take in a hearing involving a friend he met in jail.
On Tuesday, he was working with Archer, his private investigator. She is now paying him for help on private-eye work.
"Because of Brian's intelligence and the brilliant way that he can work on a computer, I thought to myself, you can't really have a felon working for you doing what I do, but there was no harm in letting him locate people and find little things out for me," Archer said.
Asked about the counterfeiting operation, Alexik claims he did it just to take on the challenge, and to occupy his mind while getting over a bad break-up.
"Hobby," he said.
In the past, Alexik worked as a computer programmer, designing and selling software. He also sold drugs.
He said he always picked up new hobbies that married his affinity for making things with his personal and sometimes political interests. He took up mosaic tiling, and after honing his skills for a couple years, tiled a replica of the CIA seal.
Making phony bills was just another project, he said.
"I know it sounds crazy, but I like a challenge," he said. "I didn't do it to hurt anyone. I did it to do it."
Contact Ryan Vaillancourt at email@example.com.
©Los Angeles Downtown News.