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Trial Pushed to March For Aspiring Rap Artist Charged With Threatening Victims

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge on Wednesday reluctantly agreed to a several-week delay in the trial of an aspiring rap artist accused of threatening rape victims through one of his songs.

On Wednesday, Judge Gustavo Lavayen questioned why the attorneys were recommending a date in March for the start of the trial for Anthony Ray Murillo of Orcutt.

The criminal case, stemming from 2013, landed back in the local courts in 2015 after winding its way through the appellate-court process.

In July 2015, the Second District Court of Appeal said a local judge erred in 2014 in deciding not to hold Murillo to answer to the charges stemming from allegations the lyrics of his song "Moment for Life Remix" threatened two teenage rape victims.

Judge Patricia Kelly had ruled after the preliminary hearing that the lyrics were protected speech that did not constitute a criminal threat under state law, dismissing charges against Murillo.

However, the appellate court disagreed and said charges should be reinstated, leading the case to wind its way toward trial.

On Wednesday, defense attorney William Makler blamed the current delay on issues involving his own schedule, the availability of his expert witness, and the schedule of Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Karapetian. 

Makler said they were reluctant to delay the trial that long.

“I think that’s the best we can do, in other words,” Makler added.

The expert is based in Virginia, and has a number of constraints, making the defense attorney confident March is the earliest date the expert would be available, Makler told the judge.

“I do contend that we have good cause,” Makler said. ‘It’s not because we want a continuance. It’s because I have a professional responsibility to pursue those leads.”

In answering a question from the judge, Makler confirmed the reason for the delay is due to information he recently received.

“This case has to get tried,” the judge said, adding the prosecution team is ready to move forward. “I certainly think it needs to get tried sooner than later.”

Lavayen set a hearing for March 1 to confirm the trial will proceed March 6, saying he has granted the last continuance in the case.

Murillo's song included lyrics that reportedly identified and threatened two girls raped by his friend, Shane Villalpando, who was convicted in June 2013 of three counts of unlawful sex with a minor concerning Jane Doe 1, the appellate ruling said.

At the time, Villalpando attended St. Joseph High School and later graduated from Righetti High School, both in Orcutt.

After "Moment for Life Remix" was posted at the online music site ReverbNation, it was downloaded 1,089 times and played 23,468 times before it was removed from the website on Oct. 9, 2013, authorities said.

The case has attracted wider attention because it involves the issues of protected speech under the First Amendment versus victims' rights.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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