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Sunday, March 24 , 2019, 1:38 pm | A Few Clouds 61º


Adrian Robles Pleads Not Guilty in Arroyo Burro Beach Slashing Death

The court appoints a private attorney to represent Robles, the prime suspect in the case

Adrian Robles, the 20-year-old man accused in the slashing death of Robert Burke Simpson at Arroyo Burro Beach on April 15, appeared in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Tuesday morning — this time represented by private attorney Steve Balash — and pleaded not guilty to murder.

Adrian Robles
Adrian Robles

The courtroom was packed with those arrested during Isla Vista’s Floatopia weekend, among others, but Judge William Gordon addressed Robles’ case straightaway.

“I’m not exactly sure how Mr. Balash got here, but I’m glad he is,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer said, referencing the court’s decision to contract a private practice attorney to represent Robles, who was eligible for help from the Public Defender’s Office.

Because of a conflict of interest involving Robles’ co-defendants — Brittany Weiler, 19, and a 17-year-old female — the Public Defender’s Office could not represent him.

The case involves gang-related special circumstances and enhancements to the murder charges against Robles — which carry the possibility of either life without parole or the death penalty, depending on what a jury decides — which means the case can only be tried by attorneys, on both sides, who are qualified for capital cases.

Criminal Defense Associates, an outside agency with which the court has a contract that would normally take such a case in lieu of the Public Defender’s Office, did not have any qualified staff attorneys available, so the court appointed Balash.

Robles, sitting inside a glass-walled room to the right of the judge’s bench, could be heard softly responding to Gordon’s question of whether he was OK with relinquishing his right to a preliminary setting within 10 days. Robles said yes.

Gordon would not allow photos of the defendant, a move Dozer said arises from the possibility that Robles may be included in a police lineup as part of the investigation of Simpson’s murder.

Robles’ preliminary hearing is scheduled to be set by Superior Court Judge Brian Hill on May 25. Balash said he plans to make a motion at that time to be allowed to bring his laptop computer into the Santa Barbara County Jail when he meets with Robles, a simple detail he said complicates representation.

“All of his information has to be filed electronically, but the jail won’t let attorneys bring computers into the jail,” said Balash, adding that normally, all that is allowed into the room when meeting with an incarcerated defendant is a rubber pencil and a small paper tablet. He expressed confidence that Hill would uphold his motion.

Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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