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Emotional confrontation prompts judge to clear courtroom during accused killer’s hearing

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A tense and emotional preliminary hearing for a man accused of a fatal stabbing while trying to bring his 12-year-old daughter home from an apartment complex in Pittsburg went into recess unexpectedly Monday morning when a judge cleared the courtroom after hearing screams outside of court. Jimmy Biles is charged with the April 4 murder of Albert Lea, after allegedly trying to bring his daughter home after she had been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana in the El Pueblo apartment complex in Pittsburg.

On Monday, people associated with Biles had gotten into an altercation with associates of Lea. A large group of Lea’s associates had gathered near the courthouse entrance, and some of them could be heard screaming that someone associated with Biles had a knife.

Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputies responsible for courthouse security, joined by uniformed officers from the Martinez Police Department and armed investigators from the district attorney’s office, kept the two groups separate and worked to de-escalate the situation until the parties involved left of their own accord.

Another group of deputies kept a group of Biles’ family members inside the courthouse, ensuring that they would not be subject to further interaction with the victim’s friends and family.

Sheriffs’ spokesman Jimmy Lee was unable to comment on that specific incident, but did confirm that multiple individuals had been escorted out of the courthouse building during a verbal altercation earlier Monday morning after the victim’s associates confronted the suspect’s family in the hallway outside Judge Theresa Canepa’s courtroom around 9:30 a.m. “Several people were asked to leave the courthouse because they were screaming and causing a disturbance,” Lee said in an email. “They complied as deputy sheriffs escorted them out of the building,” he said. “There was no physical contact and no one was detained.” While court was in session, Deputy District Attorney Aron DeFerrari called two of Biles’ children as witnesses, identified only as Jane Doe and John Doe. Both of them were present when Lea was stabbed, and both were interviewed by Pittsburg police.

Jane Doe recanted much of what she apparently told police during their initial investigation.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Joseph Tully, Jane Doe told the court that she and another boy had consumed a full bottle of Hennessy cognac in about 20 minutes that day, and that she had consumed marijuana. She was hungover in the morning, and her substance use prior to witnessing Lea’s death had affected her memory.

John Doe repeatedly told the court that he did not want to talk, and that he would prefer to be represented by a lawyer for the purposes of the hearing. He also stated that Pittsburg police had threatened him during an interview with criminal charges and then told them what they wanted to hear.

John Doe also admitted in court that he was in the car at the time of the altercation between Biles and Lea, that he saw his father engage in a stabbing motion before getting back into the car. He also said that during a subsequent phone call he’d heard Biles admit to stabbing Lea. Despite the rough and unexpected end to Monday morning’s proceedings, the hearing was scheduled to resume in the afternoon.

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