Warning: This article contains graphic content.
The UC Santa Barbara student arrested in February for allegedly hiding a camera in the bathroom of an Isla Vista residence had all charges dismissed, despite his attorney’s attempt to enter a guilty plea.
Former UCSB student Justin Asinobi is still under investigation for potential charges in the future as law enforcement continues to review footage from Asinobi’s multiple cameras, according to Isla Vista Foot Patrol (IVFP) Community Resource Deputy Justin Schroeder.
On Feb. 15, a UCSB student found a hidden camera in her bathroom, sparking an IVFP investigation that culminated in the arrest of Asinobi after the discovery of “several surreptitious recording devices” at his residence.
He was arraigned the day after his arrest on two misdemeanors: eavesdropping and unlawful electronic peeping.
While held in jail, Asinobi tested positive for COVID-19 and entered a quarantine. Due to the positive result, the court disallowed him from attending court proceedings in person or using a “Zoom room,” according to court documents submitted by Defense Attorney Lauren Gartrell, Asinobi’s public defender. As an alternative, the court held Asinobi’s arraignment via telephone on Feb. 16.
The jail’s telephone procedure required that a deputy be present with Asinobi during all phone calls, including with his defense lawyer. Gartrell argued in the documents that under the circumstances, Asinobi’s right to confidential communications with legal counsel, or attorney-client privilege, had been obstructed.
He was eventually bailed out on the morning of Feb. 24 after days of quarantine. Asinobi then contacted Gartrell, a meeting that concluded with his decision to plead guilty to both misdemeanors.
That day, Gartrell notified the court and the District Attorney’s office of Asinobi’s plea decision. Deputy District Attorney Sherwin Nadjm objected on the basis of an ongoing investigation, and Deputy District Attorney Megan Chanda argued it would create a procedural barrier to accept the plea, should more serious charges be filed.
Gartrell contested the objections, accusing the District Attorney of not accepting the plea due to ill preparation.
“Nothing prevents the court from accepting the plea agreement,” read a document submitted by the defense and obtained by the Nexus. “Rather, due to the district attorney not being prepared, they are asking the court to deny Mr. Asinobi his statutory right to plead guilty to the charges before him so that they may insure their lack of preparedness does not cause them issues.”
In Asinobi’s Readiness and Settlement Conference, which he attended the following morning over Zoom, the prosecution moved to have the case dismissed. A handwritten comment on the document certifying the case’s dismissal read, “dismissal over defense objection.”
Asinobi’s bail payment was returned and the case was ordered concluded. The multiple restraining orders filed against Asinobi expired in February.
Chanda defended the decision to not accept Asinobi’s guilty plea in an email statement to the Nexus, stating that after Asinobi’s arrest, the prosecution learned of evidence suggesting other potential crimes that had been committed by Asinobi, and had opted not to prosecute him to avoid jeopardizing a larger case should they pursue one.
“We opted to dismiss the misdemeanor case so as to not jeopardize any future case that may evolve from the initial reported conduct,” Chanda said.
The investigation into the other potential crimes is ongoing, according to Chanda, and will be reviewed by prosecutors upon its completion, who will determine whether to bring additional charges against Asinobi. She declined to elaborate on what the possible charges may entail, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.
“Once that investigation is completed, we will review all of the evidence and make a filing decision,” she said.
In the weeks following Asinobi’s arrest, IVFP said they received a number of calls from students that believe they found similar camera devices in their residences. Law enforcement requested a warrant to search the contents of the cameras found in Asinobi’s home and will contact each victim individually, according to Schroeder.
As of Aug. 22, the investigation into Asinobi is ongoing, with possible charges stemming from the material found on the cameras in Asinobi’s home, as well as from the cameras that were found by other students according to Schroeder. The District Attorney’s office declined to provide any update on the investigation. Asinobi is not enrolled at UCSB for Fall Quarter 2022.
UCSB Media Relations Manager Kiki Reyes said that while the university is unable to comment on individual student conduct, the university is able to enact security measures, should there be a threat to campus security.
“In cases where there is a threat to campus safety and security interim measures may be put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of impacted parties and could include restrictions or exclusions from certain privileges or campus until the conduct process has concluded,” Reyes said in an email statement to the Nexus.
A version of this article appeared on p.2 of the August 25, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.