Crime and Punishment Gangs

Jesse James Hollywood

Nine years after the crime, on May 15, the trial finally commenced for SF valley boy and baby thug,
Jesse James Hollywood, a middle class-raised West Hills drug dealer who, in the summer of 2000, allegedly ordered the kidnapping and eventually the murder of 15-year-old Nick Markowitz, when Hollywood was in a feud with Markowitz’s older brother Ben. And then he went on the run. Hollywood was captured in Brazil in 2005

In past years, the story of the crime has been chronicled in a long narrative article by my pal Jesse Katz for Los Angeles Magazine, a novel by Michael Mehas called Stolen Boy, and a film by Nick Cassavetes called Alpha Dog.

Marc Cooper’s wonderfully smart daughter Natasha Vargas-Cooper
is covering the trial for The Awl and hers will assuredly be the account to read as this thing unfolds.

Hollywood is represented by LA super attorney James Blatt. I had occasion to speak to Blatt when I was researching a story, and poured over lengthy court transcripts on a case for which he was the defense attorney. The impression I came away with was that Blatt was exactly the attorney your or I would need and couldn’t afford if we ever found ourselves accused of a bigtime felony. He seemed able to convince judges and juries that black is white, up is down, no is yes, and guilt is really innocence.

Natasha herself has a special interest in the case. As it happens, she knew the victim, Nick Markowitz.

Here are some clips from her story:

I grew up with Nick Markowitz. We had a three-day hand-holding affair the summer of 7th grade. He was a part of my tight circle of goofy theater kid friends who were transformed into a traumatized fraternity after his murder.

In the summer of 2000, Nick’s older brother Ben owed a $1,200 drug debt to Hollywood. Ben and Jesse—who had played in Little League together—were now feuding.

In a haphazard plan to exact revenge and ransom, Hollywood and his friends kidnapped Nick, who was 15. The boys took Nick to Santa Barbara, where they partied, hung out with girls. Hollywood consulted a retired attorney about the circumstances. Instead of possibly facing a life-sentence for aggravated kidnapping, it was decided that they would kill Nick and make it look as though he disappeared. Ryan Hoyt, also in debt to Hollywood, and now on death row, volunteered to fire the gun.

The trial started on Monday, May 18, with the usual amount of civility. Throughout the week, that dissolved, due largely to the style of defense attorney James Blatt. In a silk suit, with cropped hair and an ostentatious pinky-ring, Blatt’s tactic is to accuse witnesses of lying, and regularly badgers them until Judge Brian E. Hill intervenes.


[Prosecution witness] Saulsbury said that his wife had received a phone call from Blatt’s private investigator, requesting his home address.

On Thursday—the day after that phone call—Saulsbury’s dog had ingested rat poison and was, he said, “bleeding out of his eyeballs.” He said that, after testifying, he would need to go immediately to the vet and have his dog euthanized.

Blatt began another round of questioning.

“Are you accusing me of poisoning your dog to threaten you?” asked Blatt.

“Yes, I am,” said Saulsbury.

Blatt threw his arms open. “How could you say that?” he asked

Read the rest.


  • I don’t understand why S.B. is wasting so much money on a cut and dry case. It is what it is an it is time for all the familys to rest and heal. I can’t imagine what a toll this has taken on everyone that is involved from the boys that have already recieved life sentences to the mothers that now have holes in there hearts.

  • Well Natasha, It is clear to me that you are talking out of your ass. It is you and others like you that have made Jesse Hollywood the “master-mind, cold-blooded killer” that he is today. Perhaps you should check your facts. For one, Jesse [Hollywood] and Ben Markowitz didn’t play little league together. They only knew each other for a short period prior to the tragic events that occured. It was Ben’s psychotic, violent behavior and gang association that caused Jesse to put an end to their relationship. After listening to testimony of witnesses it is also clear to see that they are all covering their own asses. Their testimony has changed drastically from previous testimony given. Also, those high priced attorneys you mentioned are not being paid a dime. You don’t know as much as you think and you should think of the damage you have caused with the words you print. There is a man’s life on the line here. Jesse [Hollywood] was barely 20 years old at the time of the crime taking place. He has admitted to his part in the kidnapping of Nick Markowitz but has strongly denied from the beginning any part in it’s tragic ending. It is the media that has made it so difficult to see that there may be something more to this story. You tell your story as if it is fact but the testimony of witnesses tell a different story. The defense attorneys for Mr. Hollywood have asked very simple questions with no room for “word twisting” to each and every one of the witnesses; “Has Jesse Hollywood ever ordered you around?” the answer; “No”. “Have you ever seen Jesse Hollywood order anyone else around?” again, the answer is “No.” “Have you ever known Jesse Hollywood to be a violent person?” answer, “No” this type of direct questions over and over again and they keep coming up with the same answers. Up till this event, no one has ever had a problem with Jesse Hollywood. He was a good friend to all of them. Yes he sold pot and from what I’ve heard they all took part it that as they hung out together. There was no “ring leader” thing going on over there. Ryan Hoyt, the shooter was always a bit of a loose cannon from what several witnesses have shared but Jesse and a Him had been friends since childhood and he excused his behavior and tolerated it for the most part. That’s what friends do. However, Jesse never, ever imagined he [Hoyt] would do anything as crazy as this!
    It’s a lot of “he said this, and she said that” going on in the court room. But when asked direct questions as to Jesse Hollywood’s behavior, they can’t say anything that gives their supposed fear of him a leg to stand on.
    If anything, I would guess that their fear may have been the same fear that Jesse Hollywood had. Fear of what Ben Markowitz would do if he found out that they had his brother and Jesse Hollywood being involved in his capture may have given them reason to fear him. Who knows what they were thinking? I don’t even pretend to know as you clearly have done! I do know this though, Jesse Hollywood was stunned by what they had done. He fled due to his fear of many things at that point. The media surely hasn’t helped. Maybe you should give more thought to what it is that you are reporting. The old saying that words can never hurt you is dead wrong. They may cost a man his life.

  • Courtney, you are right on. The media has villified Jesse on no evidence at all. This case is a true tragedy for all involved. It should never have happened. Jesse is being blamed because he was an easy target and he wasnt there to defend himself. He is getting his day in court, and the lies are being exposed.An overzealous prosecution, witness intimidation, etc. have made this so called “mansonesque mastermind” look bad. But we are seeing now that was not the way it was. Time for Jesse to be heard.

  • Sorry, the evidences are solid and the guy, along with his friends, was a pretentious mommas’s boy who thought he was above the law and was smarter than everyone else. I feel really bad about the above comments even despite they being made quite sometime ago. Gladly, justice served this kid right.

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