D.C. judge's ex-girlfriend is convicted in stalking case

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 3, 2010; B04

The District woman accused of breaking into the home of a D.C. Superior Court judge and hiding in her attic was found guilty Tuesday of three counts of breaking and entering and burglary, and was ordered held without bond until her April sentencing.

Taylar Nuevelle, sitting next to her attorney, dabbed at her eyes with a tissue as the jury foreman announced the verdict. Nuevelle, 40, could face a maximum of 15 years in prison when she is sentenced April 7.

Nuevelle was charged with stalking Magistrate Judge Janet Albert, her ex-girlfriend. In September 2008, Nuevelle was found unconscious from prescription pills and wine, lying in Albert's attic above her bedroom, with some food and a toilet fashioned from an ice bucket. Authorities said Nuevelle had been in the attic for more than 24 hours.

It took the jury about four hours to reach a verdict after the often emotional week-long trial. Albert wept as she testified that Nuevelle began stalking her when their year-long relationship ended, sending her hundreds of calls, e-mails and text messages. Nuevelle also repeatedly broke into Albert's Northwest Washington home, she testified, leaving her afraid for her safety and that of her 9-year-old son.

Albert, 45, was absent from most of the trial, except for the two days she testified. On Tuesday, she briefly left her own courtroom, where she oversees family and child neglect cases, and sat in the second row of the Superior Court courtroom as the verdict was read.

Nuevelle's attorney, Dorsey Jones, asked that Nuevelle be allowed to return home or be placed on intensive supervision until her sentencing.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Brenowitz argued that Nuevelle should be locked up immediately. Brenowitz reminded Judge Russell F. Canan of how, in 1999, Nuevelle -- in the middle of a court custody hearing with her ex-husband -- faked illness and ducked out of court, grabbed her then-5-year-old son and fled the country for three years before she was captured. She eventually pleaded guilty to a felony charge of criminal contempt and lying to obtain a passport. While on the run, Nuevelle, whose birth name was Idella Jackson, assumed 20 different aliases.

Canan agreed, citing Nuevelle's "mental health issues," which he said could explain her "outrageous and unacceptable" behavior, and ordered federal marshals to escort her to jail.

During the trial, Nuevelle maintained that the two women had lived together for about nine months, and that, after the breakup, she repeatedly contacted Albert to retrieve her belongings, which she said Albert refused to relinquish. She testified that she climbed through a broken window in the house to get her things.

On the stand, Nuevelle acknowledged that she became suicidal after an argument with Albert. She said Albert had threatened to use her judicial connections to ensure that Nuevelle would never get to see her son, now living with Nuevelle's ex-husband. Nuevelle said she went to Albert's home, climbed into the attic through a door in Albert's bedroom closet and began collecting her items. She said she then decided to take prescription pills in hopes of killing herself.

"I wanted to die," Nuevelle told the jury. "I figured I didn't have anything else to live for."

The women met at a 2007 summer retreat sponsored by their church, All Souls Unitarian in the District, where Nuevelle is a former trustee and Albert is a member.

Nuevelle's attorney argued that the charges against his client were in retaliation for Nuevelle filing a civil complaint against Albert in an effort to get back her belongings. Nuevelle also lodged a judicial misconduct complaint against Albert, charging that she used her influence to remove a child from her mother without a court order or the mother's consent. Nuevelle said the girl had lived with Nuevelle and Albert for about six weeks while the girl's mother stayed in a psychiatric unit of a local hospital.

Nuevelle also asserted that Albert contacted U.S. marshals to intimidate and harass Nuevelle.

A committee of D.C. Superior Court judges had suspended an investigation into Nuevelle's complaint until after her criminal case.

Albert filed charges against Nuevelle two weeks after she discovered her ex-girlfriend in her attic and learned of Nuevelle's charges. But Albert maintained that the two women never lived together: She said Nuevelle would stay at her home two to five nights a week.

Brenowitz characterized Nuevelle as vindictive and often psychotic, a woman who had an "elaborate fantasy" of being a stay-at-home mom for Albert and her son.

"She wanted to punish Albert and launched a campaign of stalking," Brenowitz said in her closing arguments. Within a three-month period, Nuevelle sent Albert 190 text messages and 60 e-mails, and called Albert 470 times, Brenowitz said.

Albert declined to comment on the verdict. But her attorney in the civil case, Robert J. Spagnoletti, said his client was "thrilled" with the verdict.

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