Judge raises security questions at status hearing for beating death in Trenton

A status hearing Monday for one of two men accused in the brutal beating death of a Guatemalan immigrant took an unexpected turn when the judge stepped off the bench and summoned one of his sheriff’s officers to a sidebar.

Michael Holman

Michael Holman

When Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier returned to the bench, he said he was concerned about the security of his court room being “compromised,” an apparent reference to a man who had entered, left and re-entered the courtroom during a court appearance for 19-year-old Michael Holman.

The man’s relation to Holman was unclear, but Holman waived to him as he was being led away following the hearing.

The man appeared confused by the judge’s remarks as he had already been wanded down before entering the courtroom, a member of the judge’s security team said.

Holman is charged along with Dante Martin, also 19, for the Feb. 14, 2014 beating death of Julio Cesar Cruz, which caused uproar in the city’s Latino community.

Holman was offered a plea deal that requires him to serve 31 years if he pleads guilty to aggravated manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Assistant Prosecutor James Scott was asked by the judge whether Holman made any incriminating statements to authorities and responded “very much so.”

Holman’s attorney, Jason Charles Matey, expressed frustration that he has not been able to watch voluminous surveillance footage related to the case with his client because of security policies in place at the Mercer County jail where Holman is being held.

Julio Cesar-Cruz

Julio Cesar-Cruz

The unexpected hitch has prevented Matey from inching the case toward a resolution since he doesn’t anticipate filing many motions on behalf of his client.

Billmeier said he planned to intervene in the matter.

Matey must review hundreds of hours of footage with his client before Holman can decide whether he wants to take his case to trial. Holman’s next court appearance is scheduled for September.

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