Top News Stories The Boss Again!
Published: Tuesday, August 23, 2011, 7:50 PM; Updated: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 03:37 PM
Portland, Ore. - Portland Capt. Todd Wyatt, a rising police supervisor in the Portland Police Bureau, has been removed from his position as head of the bureau's traffic division, while Idaho State Police investigate an off-duty incident in which Wyatt is accused of pointing a pistol at another motorist. Portland police put out a brief news release, saying Wyatt was involved in an "off-duty incident while driving that involved another driver.'' But Washington and Idaho police filled in the details. Wyatt is being investigated for pointing a pistol at another motorist while driving westbound on I-90, near milepost 6 in Post Falls, Idaho. Washington state police were alerted around 11:20 a.m. on August 13.
Washington state troopers said they received information from Idaho law enforcement to be on lookout for a blue F150 pickup with Oregon plates. The other vehicle involved was a gray Toyota Camry. "The call came into local dispatch as a road rage, and possible weapons brandishing incident,'' said Lt. Chris Schenck, of Idaho State Police. “They reported a pistol being pointed at a reporting party on I-90 west,’’ Washington state police Lt. Bob Kerwin. Washington state troopers stopped Wyatt’s pickup about 11:40 a.m. Aug. 13 on I-90 in Spokane, near the Thor/Freya interchange, Kerwin said. They spoke to the motorist, identified the driver and the occupants of the vehicle and forwarded the information to Idaho State Police, Kerwin said.
Wyatt was not taken into custody. Portland police said Wyatt was on vacation at the time, and there were other occupants in the pickup. Washington nor Idaho state police would say if any children were in the truck. "It's under investigation,'' Schenck said, noting that his troopers are conducting follow-up interviews. Wyatt is being temporarily assigned to the bureau's Drugs and Vice Division, working on projects under the direction of Assistant Chief Larry O'Dea. Lt. Eric Schober will serve as acting captain of the traffic division.
The Portland police spokesman would not say if Wyatt has returned to work. A call to the drugs and vice division said he was not there today, but expected in his new assignment tomorrow.
Capt. Bryan Parmon, president of the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association, said he had no comment on Wyatt's behalf, because of the ongoing criminal investigation. Within the last 9 months, four officers have faced DUI allegations while off-duty. Two sergeants have faced allegations of off-duty road rage.
Mayor Sam Adams, who serves as police commissioner, said he met with Chief Mike Reese Tuesday and pledged to work with the chief to "redouble our efforts" to educate officers on the bureau's code of conduct. Adams issued the statement as follows: "The Portland Police Bureau has hard-working men and women that go beyond what it takes to keep the peace. That is why I take reports of officer behavior, both on- and off- duty, seriously. I met with Chief Mike Reese today regarding a recently reported incident, and we will redouble our efforts to educate and train officers of the Police Bureau's code of conduct. Each case is being investigated, and I am confident that there will be a fair and timely conclusion.''
Wyatt faced internal investigations early in his career in response to complaints that he was heavy-handed as a patrol officer and a judge's complaint that he was rude in court. But he rose up the ranks quickly. Before supervising the traffic division, he was a supervisor of the bureau's planning or strategic services division.
Ditchin' da Fuzz!
August 19, 2011 - 01:49 PM PDT
An off-duty Portland police officer, who was driving a car that a Tillamook County sheriff's deputy tried to pull over early Thursday in Pacific City for traffic violations, attempted to ditch the deputy's car by turning off into a trailer park and shutting off his car's lights, according to the Tillamook County Sheriff's office. Sean Sothern (pictured above, center) also refused to take a breath test at the scene. Sothern, 38, was arrested, accused of driving under the influence of intoxicants, attempt to elude police and two counts of reckless endangerment. Sothern is accused of endangering his wife, who was a passenger in the car, and driving into the path of a security guard who was on foot at the Cape Kiwanda RV Resort, Tillamook County Sheriff Todd Anderson said. No injuries were reported. "He tried to turn his lights off and ditch the deputy," Tillamook County's Undersheriff Andy Long said.
Sothern is the fourth Portland officer to face DUI allegations within the last 9 months. All four were off-duty at the time. "Obviously, this needs to stop,'' said Mayor Sam Adams, who serves as police commissioner. "Next week, I will discuss the issue with Chief Mike Reese.'' Reese was on vacation Friday and could not be reached, said his spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.
The Tillamook County sheriff's deputy had first spotted Sothern's 2000 Ford Excursion about 12:30 a.m. near Cape Kiwanda near Kiwanda Drive. The deputy activated the lights on his patrol car , intending to stop Sothern for a couple of traffic violations, including failure to signal, Anderson said. Sothern kept driving north on Kiwanda Drive during what the sheriff's office described as a "short'' pursuit, "less than a couple of miles,'' Long said. At one point, Sothern turned right into the Cape Kiwanda RV Park and shut the lights of his Excursion.
A security guard at the RV park noticed the Excursion driving into the park, exceeding the park's 10 mph speed limit with its headlights off. "The security guard was doing his rounds and noticed 'here comes something unusual,' and ran right at the car with his flashlight, strobelight on,'' said park owner Marty Johnson. "He told the driver to stop, and then noticed the sheriff's car behind him.'' Sothern had driven about five to six RV sites into the park when he was stopped. Sothern had been a guest at the park, Johnson said.
Sothern was booked into Tillamook County jail at 2:35 a.m. He posted 10 percent, or $2,100 of his $21,000 bail and was released later Thursday morning. The case will go to a grand jury because the attempt to elude allegation is a felony, the sheriff said. Sothern was given a Sept. 12 court date.
Portland Police Bureau said Sothern has been assigned to the bureau's Telephone Reporting Unit, pending the outcome of the criminal case and an internal investigation. Adams called the reassignment "very appropriate.'' Lt. Larry Graham , of the bureau's Portland Alcohol Recovery Team, said law enforcement officers, whether it's due to stress or the strains of the job, have a higher rate of alcoholism than other professionals. "I think a lot of officers, they find unhealthy ways to deal with the stress and it gets out of control,'' Graham said. He spoke generally and not about any one case.
Portland's team tries to do outreach to educate officers, from the moment they are hired, to let them know there are resources available to them to get help, and provide names of officers who have overcome the problem and available for support. "There is help out there, if you want it,'' Graham said. "Everybody knows that DUI is bad. Everybody knows that drinking and driving is bad. But they don't think it's going to happen to them.''
Strong: 25 Year Liar!
August 3, 2010 | 3:22 p.m.
A former Orange County sheriff’s investigator will be tried in court Wednesday for filing false reports and lying about contacting crime victims. Janet Strong, 53, a 25-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department assigned to Stanton, pleaded not guilty last year to six counts of filing false reports between 2007 and 2009. Strong filed reports saying she had spoken to victims of robbery, theft and criminal threats and found no additional “avenues for further investigation” when she had never actually contacted them, prosecutors said.
The sheriff's department started investigating Strong after an audit showed she had included false information in some closed case reports. Strong had a long career, first as an El Segundo firefighter and later as a patrol officer and detective in Stanton. The Stanton City Council named her deputy of the year in 1991 for her investigative work on gangs, assaults, burglaries and robberies.
She faces up to six years in jail if convicted.
Lying Lawmen Busted!
July 21, 2010
TULSA, Okla. (WCJB) - Federal prosecutors say four current Tulsa police officers and one former officer have been arrested and indicted in connection with a corruption probe. U.S. Attorney Jane Duke in Arkansas said Tuesday two indictments were unsealed after Earnest Bonham, Nick DeBruin, Jeff Henderson, Harold Wells and Bill Yelton made initial court appearances. The indictment alleged Henderson and Yelton persuaded a witness to testify falsely against a man who was convicted in a drug case and sent to prison. Bonham, DeBruin and Wells were accused of planting drug evidence on people they arrested. Henderson's attorney couldn't be reached for comment. Duke was appointed to the case after federal prosecutors in Tulsa recused themselves.
Corrupt Attorney Busted!
July 20, 2010
"Jamie graduated from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1983[.] Subsequently, she was recruited and hired by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, where she remained for the next 14 years in a variety of trial and administrative positions. Eventually, after having gained an insider's perspective into the workings of the prosecutor's office, Jamie sought a way to bring her passion for justice to work for in the private sector."
-- Harley Defense Associates Website
Once a prosecutor who put criminals behind bars, San Jose lawyer Jamie Harley now finds herself on the other side of the legal system and facing the prospect of time in prison. A federal jury in San Jose on Tuesday convicted Harley of five counts of laundering money for a former client, punctuating a nearly two-week trial and almost three days of tense deliberations that for a time appeared deadlocked. The 53-year-old veteran defense lawyer and former local deputy district attorney is scheduled to be sentenced in October on convictions that could spell the end of her lengthy and often controversial legal career. The jury deadlocked on one charge against Harley, conspiracy, but otherwise rejected her defense arguments that she never intended to launder her client's money and believed she was dealing with a legitimate businessman. Harley, who recently changed her name from Jamie Harmon, bowed her head and wiped away tears as the jury verdict was read, then left the courtroom quickly after a long embrace with her husband. Harley's lawyer, declined comment. A federal grand jury indicted Harley more than two years ago, accusing her of laundering more than $100,000 for Christian Pantages, a client who wound up pleading guilty to charges in the case and testifying against her during the trial. Prosecutors alleged that Harley laundered money from Pantages' illicit business trafficking in stolen computer equipment, after he had been charged with state crimes related to the theft ring.
Outside the courtroom, jurors indicated they simply could not believe an experienced, savvy attorney such as Harley would not know what she was doing with her client's money.
"I think what led people to the other side was as an experienced attorney with history and knowledge of the prosecutor side, she didn't act, she didn't get out," said Mark Porter, the jury foreman. "There were times she could have washed her hands of it, and didn't." Government officials said the verdict sent a message to unscrupulous lawyers. "It's particularly troubling when a person trained in the practice of law uses that legal expertise not for the greater good, but to corrupt the system and enrich themselves," said Mark Wollman, special agent in charge of San Francisco's office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which investigated the case.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, U.S. District Judge James Ware could sentence Harley to two to three years in prison for the convictions, and perhaps more if she receives additional punishment for abusing a position of trust. The judge, however, does have leeway to impose a lesser term if Harley presents so-called "mitigating" evidence.
Harley has been an embattled figure in local legal circles for years, and already faces troubles with the State Bar. In May, a state Bar court disciplined her for nine counts of misconduct involving six clients, unrelated to the Pantages matter, and imposed a punishment of six months suspension from practicing law. A federal felony conviction, however, could result in her being stripped of her law license altogether.
The case against Harley dates back seven years, to her representation of Pantages and his business, Silicon Valley Resale. Federal prosecutors specifically alleged that Harley funneled $127,550 Pantages earned from selling stolen Cisco equipment into her attorney-client trust account, and then turned around and wrote a series of checks back to Pantages and his wife despite knowing the money was from peddling stolen technology. Harley kept a portion of the money for her legal fees. During trial, Harley took the stand and denied knowing that the money was tainted, or that Pantages was involved in an illicit business. The jury, however, did not buy the argument. "Most of us felt like there was a lot of things leaning against her," Porter said.
Report: Riverside Police Chief Received 'Preferential Treatment' After Arrest Probe Finds Chief Given Special Treatment After Drunk Driving Arrest
June 2, 2010
RIVERSIDE -- A probe into the handling of ex-Riverside police Chief Russ Leach's drunken driving crash concluded there was no cover-up by officers, but "deficient decisions" resulted in Leach receiving preferential treatment, city officials said today. According to Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson, a 2,500-page internal affairs report on the chief's DUI crash in a city-owned vehicle paralleled the findings of a criminal investigation into the Feb. 8 incident. Former Riverside County District Attorney Grover Trask headed the inquiry (police chiefs and district attorneys are usually buddies) that examined the steps taken by police department personnel from the moment Leach was pulled over by two officers near Arlington Avenue and Rutland Road.
"The hard questions were asked, and all the requested information was provided immediately and freely," said Trask, who reported his findings directly to Hudson. "I saw no evidence of a cover-up, only tragically deficient decisions by police management," he said.
A California Highway Patrol investigation revealed Leach, 62, was driving under the influence around 3 a.m. Feb. 8 when the city-owned Chrysler 300 crashed into an unknown object at Central and Hillside avenues, severely damaging the sedan.
Leach was stopped by a patrol unit three miles away. No field sobriety test was performed, despite his slurred and repetitive speech, as well as a strong odor of alcohol, according to the CHP.
In a 500-page report, the agency questioned how the supervisors notified of the chief's condition that night -- Assistant Chief John De La Rosa and Lt. Leon Phillips -- could not have suspected a crime had occurred. Phillips drove Leach home. "Management-level failures associated with this incident require policy development and review, as well as disciplinary action," Hudson said. He said the department has been ordered to revise policy and training manuals "to formalize steps to be followed under circumstances like those which occurred on February 8th."
February 24, 2010Update!
Former Johnston County prosecutor Cindy Jaeger (pictured left, front) will spend at least three years in prison after pleading guilty today to her role in a scheme to fix drunken driving tickets. Jaeger pleaded guilty to 10 counts each of obstruction of justice and tampering with official court documents. She was also sentenced to three years probation after her prison term ends and must pay a $25,000 fine.
"You are a traitor to your office and your oath," Superior Court Judge Henry Hight told Jaeger moments after sentencing her. Five others involved in the scheme pleaded guilty last month to obstructing justice. Lawyers Chad Lee and Lee Hatch were each sentenced to prison for four years. Three others -- Jack McLamb, Vann Sauls and former assistant court clerk Portia Snead -- were put on probation. Jaeger was accused of handing over signed copies of dismissal forms to private attorneys before she left her job as an assistant district attorney in September 2007. The private attorneys then filed the forms in dozens of drunken driving cases, effectively making them go away. Her attorney, David Freedman, estimated that she provided more than 50 signed dismissal forms to Lee and Hatch, close friends of hers.
January 29, 2010
SMITHFIELD, N.C. — Four Johnston County defense attorneys and a former court clerk pleaded guilty Monday to illegally dismissing traffic cases, including citations for driving while impaired.
Chad Lee (pictured left, suit) and Lee Hatch both pleaded guilty to 10 counts each of felony obstruction of justice and altering official case records and one count of criminal conspiracy. Lee was sentenced to at least four years in prison, while Hatch received a prison sentence of at least 3½ years Both men were fined $10,000. They also agreed to surrender their law licenses, cooperate in the state investigation of the ticket-fixing scheme and reimburse clients for the legal fees they collected in the cases – $28,000 from Lee and $14,200 from Hatch.
Vann Sauls pleaded guilty to four counts of misdemeanor obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, suspended to three years on probation. He also was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and to perform 100 hours of community service.
Jack McLamb pleaded guilty to three counts of misdemeanor obstruction of justice, was fined $1,000 and was placed on probation for three years. He will have to serve three weekends in the Johnston County jail, however, because of a DWI conviction he had when he was in college.
Both Sauls and McLamb were ordered not to represent any criminal defendants while on probation, and they agreed to take continuing legal education classes before practicing law again. Sauls agreed to reimburse clients $2,350 for the legal fees he collected in the cases, while McLamb has already repaid his clients.
Former deputy court clerk Portia Snead pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor obstruction of justice. She was sentenced to 45 days in jail, suspended to 18 months on probation. Snead was the only one of the five to apologize in court for their actions.
Along with former Johnston County Assistant District Attorney Cyndi Jaeger, the four attorneys and Snead were indicted last March on charges that they altered court records and knowingly used illegal dismissal forms to get traffic cases against 36 people dropped. Seventy dismissal forms with Jaeger's signature on them were filed after she left her job in September 2007, according to the indictments. The dismissal forms were filed for clients of the four defense attorneys. Snead deleted the attorneys' names from at least two cases from the courthouse computer system. The majority of the defendants involved were clients of Lee, a former Johnston County prosecutor. McLamb's cases were traffic offenses and didn't involve DWI.
State Bureau of Investigation agent Randy Myers testified Monday that Lee, Hatch and Jaeger hatched the scheme when Jaeger put in notice that she would be leaving the Johnston County District Attorney's office. Hatch told McLamb he would get a few of McLamb's cases dismissed and went to Jaeger's house to take care of it, Myers said. Hatch later had his name removed from computer and paper files for one of his dismissed cases, and the name on the files was switched to that of an attorney who never represented the defendant, Myers said.
Jaeger's attorney was in court Monday, listening to the pleas and the evidence laid out by Myers. It's unclear whether Jaeger, who is charged with three counts of obstruction of justice and 81 counts of failure to perform duty of office, will take her case to trial.
Lee has suffered emotionally since his indictment, said his attorney. "He is struggling for what he's done. He's a broken man, but he's not beaten. He's not through," said the attorney, noting Lee wants to pursue a new career in repairing heating and air conditioning systems.
As he handed down sentences Monday, Superior Court Judge Henry Hight said the episode was a case of "stupidity born of arrogance." "I don't understand why anybody would think this was a good idea," Hight said.
Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement Monday that such corruption among court officers threatens the integrity of the state's judicial system. “We expect those who serve as officers of the court to have the highest ethical standards," Cooper said. "When the people we trust to uphold the law break it, our system of justice is threatened. Rooting out this corruption in the courts will help restore the system’s integrity.”
Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle asked the SBI in early 2008 to look into the high rate of dismissed drunken-driving cases in the county. A tracking system installed in October 2007 found several discrepancies in cases that were scheduled for trial but had been dismissed months earlier, she said. A 2008 investigation by the media found that 46 percent of the DWI charges filed in Johnston County in 2006 were dismissed, compared with 21 percent statewide and 20 percent in neighboring Wake County. DWI cases require two signed forms before they are dismissed, and dismissals are filed with the court clerk's office.
A 2006 state law requires specific information be listed on dismissal sheets in DWI cases, including the driver's blood-alcohol concentration, any other pending impairment charges and an explanation for the dismissal. A copy of the dismissal is supposed to be sent to the district attorney and the head of the law enforcement agency that brought the charge.
Thirty-two cases that were part of the SBI probe involved alcohol-related charges, primarily DWI. Some of the defendants had alcohol levels in their system that were more than double the 0.08 level at which drivers are considered intoxicated in North Carolina. Eleven of the defendants had been charged previously with drunken driving or have had subsequent DWI arrests.
January 25, 2010
SEATTLE, WA - A Seattle police officer fired last May for dishonesty will get his job back, along with back pay, after the city's Public Civil Service Commission ruled that termination was too harsh. Officer Eric Werner, 31, instead will be assessed a 30-day suspension, which will mean a deduction from his back pay.
Werner maintained he forgot about punching an agitated man when he was initially questioned in 2007 by Seattle police during an investigation into the man's complaint that he was repeatedly tazed. Werner, during testimony last year before the commission, said he later remembered striking the man and decided to come clean while applying for a job with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office in May 2008. The hiring process included polygraph examinations.
The Sheriff's Office didn't hire Werner. But it notified the Seattle Police Department of his disclosure and, after an internal investigation, he was fired last May by interim Police Chief John Diaz for violating the department's honesty policy. Werner appealed his firing in what was viewed as a key test of the honesty policy, which presumes officers will be fired for dishonesty in their official duties and was a cornerstone of new rules adopted in 2008 to address community concerns about police accountability.
Though the city and the Police Department could appeal the commission's ruling in King County Superior Court, such a move is extremely rare. "The City Attorney's Office is analyzing the decision, and considering whether to appeal. No decision has been made yet," a spokeswoman for City Attorney Peter Holmes wrote in an e-mail today.
However, Werner's name has now been added to the so-called "Brady list," a list kept by the King County prosecutor's office of potential witnesses whose honesty has been called into question, said spokesman Dan Donohoe. Most of the 52 names on the list are law-enforcement officers, though the list also includes two former State Patrol crime-lab employees and a former employee of the King County Medical Examiner's Office, he said. The prosecutor's office will be required to notify defense attorneys whenever Werner is called to testify against a criminal defendant, Donohoe said.
Sgt. Rich O'Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, was pleased with the Public Civil Service Commission's ruling. He said the department didn't follow its own rules in applying the dishonesty policy.
"Dishonesty is a very serious charge," he said, and to fire an officer, the department has to prove there is "clear and convincing evidence" that an officer lied about "a material fact" — something O'Neill insists didn't apply in Werner's case. Werner will receive back pay for all but a 30-day period that constitutes his unpaid suspension, O'Neill said. Werner, who joined the Seattle police in 2000, earned nearly $106,000 in 2008 in regular and overtime pay.
Two of the three commissioners believed "that termination was the inappropriate form of punishment given the facts and circumstances of the case," according to the ruling issued Thursday. Instead, they ruled a 30-day suspension — the most severe punishment short of termination — was more appropriate.
In their majority opinion, the two commissioners — Seattle police Officer Joel Nark and Herb Johnson, a retired assistant Seattle police chief — pointed out that other officers in past cases involving dishonesty "either received no suspension of duties or only temporary suspension of duties." Concluding that the department doesn't apply the dishonesty rule in an evenhanded way, Nark and Johnson also pointed out that to date, "no other employee has been terminated based on dishonesty."
Terry Carroll, the third commissioner and a former Superior Court judge, authored a partial dissent and disagreed with the decision to overturn Werner's termination, saying common sense and the law "require we give some deference to the Chief's decision." He also wrote: "Although my colleagues are sincerely motivated, the opinion as to discipline appears based principally on sympathy for an officer with an apparent good record."
The original excessive-force investigation involving Werner cannot be reopened because of time-limit rules governed by the city's contract with the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, according to the Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability.
January 23, 2010
NEW YORK (WCJB) - Two NYPD officers were suspended after they were caught brutally beating a handcuffed suspect on video tape, officials said. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly confirmed to reporters Thursday that officers John Cicero and William Green were suspended after the Bronx District Attorney launched an investigation on the alleged beating. In addition, two other unidentified sergeants were also suspended, Kelly revealed. The sergeants are reportedly accused not stopping the assault as it took place. In the disturbing video obtained by the New York Post, Cicero is seen punching suspect Jonathan Baez, during an undercover drug operation in the Bronx on Jan 5, 2010. At the time of the assault, Baez was face down on the ground in handcuffs. Green is also seen assaulting a helpless Baez later in the video. Charges against Baez in connection to the bust were reportedly dismissed.
January 23, 2010
In an extremely rare rebuke of a sitting judge, Santa Clara County District Attorney Dolores Carr instructed her staff Friday to stop bringing all criminal cases before Superior Court Judge Andrea Bryan, who recently angered prosecutors by finding that a trial prosecutor committed numerous acts of misconduct, including giving false testimony. Carr took the unprecedented step of publicly confirming her "blanket challenge," or boycott of Bryan, in a news release, saying her decision was based on a "number" of unspecified rulings over the past several years, not any single embarrassing ruling. "We must safeguard the ability to prosecute our cases and do not believe we can fulfill our responsibility to the public if lawyers from this office continue to appear before Judge Bryan," Carr said in the release.
Public Defender Mary Greenwood said Carr's edict seeks to punish the independence of the court. "This action by the district attorney is very serious," Greenwood said. "Effectively, it forces the judge out of the criminal court because she has not ruled in a way the district attorney favors."
Earlier this month, Bryan ordered the release of Augustin Uribe, who had been sentenced to 38 years to life on child molestation charges after finding Deputy District Attorney Troy Benson had woven what she called "a tangled web of deceit," including testifying falsely.
Carr's (pictured left) decision to boycott Bryan means that any time a criminal case is assigned to Bryan's courtroom, prosecutors will invoke their right to issue a peremptory challenge and get the case assigned to another judge. State statute permits any party who believes that a specific judge would not be fair to object to one judge in any case, without identifying specific facts in support of the request. Bryan could not be reached Friday for comment. But Presiding Judge Jamie Jacobs-May defended Bryan's objectivity and integrity. "I continue to have the utmost confidence in her abilities," the presiding judge said. Bryan, a former prosecutor and San Jose deputy city attorney appointed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, has on occasion irked prosecutors by granting requests by defense attorneys to suppress evidence they said was improperly collected.
In her statement, Carr noted that her action is not unprecedented, stating the Public Defender's Office has challenged at least one judge in recent years. The office sought to have Judge Joyce Allegro removed from trying domestic violence cases, saying she had ties to advocates and organizations sympathetic to victims. But because the public defender does not represent all defendants, the defense action did not extend as broadly as the prosecutors' blanket objection.
Jacobs-May said the bench has no choice legally but to accept the disqualification and transfer Bryan to civil cases eventually. In San Diego County, the presiding judge there recently refrained from immediately reassigning a judge who was the target of a similar boycott, and the district attorney dropped its objection after four months. In contrast to Carr's public disclosure, the San Diego boycott of Judge John Einhorn, which followed two rulings that displeased prosecutors, was both effected and rescinded without any public announcement or explanation by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
Uribe's conviction on charges he sexually assaulted a young relative was overturned by an appellate court in 2008, after a finding that the District Attorney's Office had improperly withheld a videotape of the purported victim's physical exam, which was turned over only after Uribe had been sentenced. A defense expert then reviewed the videotape and said it contradicted the prosecution witnesses' testimony that the child had been assaulted.
Prosecutors have since acknowledged the existence of about 3,300 of those videotapes, dating to 1991, that were never provided to trial attorneys, as required by law (violating the law and the rights of individual citizens is the norm). They have insisted that most of the tapes are of little value. But Bryan's decision reinforced the contention of legal experts that dozens of other child sex abuse convictions in the county are at risk of being overturned.
Consider the story the media previously published: According to CHIEF Assistant District Attorney Karyn Sinunu, a "win-at-all-costs" culture festers in the Santa Clara district attorney's office which causes some prosecutors to lose sight of justice and pursue wrongful convictions of innocent people. For example, a news series highlighted a 1990 case that Judge Carr (now District Attorney) prosecuted as a former deputy district attorney. Carr, the story goes, had charged a young man with rape even while evidence arose that suggested his innocence.
In 1990, Sinunu prosecuted a former Palo Alto police office, Robert Montez, for allegedly molesting his 6-year-old granddaughter. She won her case and had the man sentenced to 10 years in prison. The story didn't end there, though. A year and half later, the 6th District Court of Appeals overturned Montez's conviction and released him from state prison. Tulsky pointed out the rarity of full reversals in his series, yet he wrote nothing about this case.
The appellate court pointed out several errors in the trial that convicted Montez: for one, the prosecution did not provide sufficient reasoning to excuse the plaintiff from testifying in court. Because the young girl expressed anxiety at being questioned by the defense counsel, the jury only heard a transcript of her closed preliminary hearing. Sinunu says the girl was very fragile and unfit to testify. In addition, the appellate court criticized Sinunu for including hearsay testimony and providing the jury with subjective information that might have predisposed them to believing Montez was guilty. Sinunu now calls the ruling "very technical," and says if she had a chance to retry the case, she would have "laid a better foundation."
LAST YEAR'S LIARS!
January 29, 2009 (Exactly one year ago!)
An Army veteran's robbery of a Mountain View pharmacy has become the latest Santa Clara County case marred by allegations that a prosecutor withheld evidence that could have helped the defense. There was never any dispute in the case that the veteran, Sargent Binkley, had robbed the pharmacy. But the jury convicted Binkley last month of using a gun to commit the robbery -- a finding that makes the crime far more serious -- -- after prosecutor Deborah Medved told them they could use the grainy photographs from a store surveillance camera to help reach that verdict. Now, a Santa Clara County crime lab examiner has come forward to testify that a day before Medved made that closing argument, he told her that he was unable to detect a gun in any of the photographs, after examining them at Medved's request.
"It's unethical and it's misconduct for a prosecutor to knowingly mislead on an issue of fact.'' The examiner, Christopher Corpora, described their conversation under oath during a post-trial hearing earlier this month. Medved has responded, in a sworn declaration, that she has no recollection of Corpora telling her his conclusion during that conversation -- creating an odd sworn dispute between two officials who both work for District Attorney Dolores Carr.
Medved, in an interview, reiterated her sworn declaration that she does not recall Corpora mentioning that he did not see a gun in Binkley's hand: "I have zero recollection of that." The case has drawn wide attention because of the potentially precedent-setting way in which the jury viewed Binkley's stress disorder. It is also the latest case to raise questions about local authorities' compliance with their legal duty to turm over any evidence it gathers could potentially help the defense contest the defendant's guilt.
The DA's office is currently reviewing some 3,300 videotapes of medical exams of alleged child sex abuse victims dating back to 1991 that never were turned over to defense attorneys, after one case was overturned based on an appellate court finding that the prosecutors had a duty to provide copies of those videotapes to the defendant. Deputy District Attorney Peter Waite became the first Santa Clara County prosecutor in memory to be publicly disciplined when the state bar issued a public reproval against him last week for withholding from the defense in 1999 an exculpatory medical opinion as to the sanity of a defendant who killed his mother.
Ben Field, a high-profile prosecutor, is in the midst of rare disciplinary proceedings by the state bar, with charges that include his failure to turn over potentially favorable evidence to defense attorneys.