Hall will return to bench after felony dismissal – Melville

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Hall will return to bench after felony dismissal By Quintin Cushner — Staff Writer 9/21/03 Felony charges against Diana Ruth Hall were dismissed at a hearing Friday, paving the way for her return to the Santa Barbara County Superior Court bench for the first time since her arrest nine months ago. At the beginning of the hearing, prosecutor Kim Smith announced a motion to dismiss the sole remaining charge against Hall, a felony charge of destruction of a telephone, and defense attorney Jack Earley didn’t object. Shortly after the charge was dismissed, Assistant Presiding Judge Rodney Melville of the Santa Barbara County Superior Court contacted the California Commission on Judicial Performance, which approved Hall’s return to duty, according to Gary Blair, executive officer of Santa Barbara County trial courts. When Melville received the all-clear, he rotated Judge James Jennings to criminal court and reassigned Hall to civil court effective Monday, Blair said. Hall had been suspended with pay in April. Hall was reassigned because her presiding over criminal cases “would put the DA’s office in an awkward position” of arguing before a person they’ve just prosecuted, Blair said. Hall didn’t comment on Friday’s hearing, but Earley said he was pleased by the dismissal. On Friday, Koppel-Claypool sentenced Hall for the DUI convictions. For driving under the influence and driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher, Hall received a 90-day license restriction, fines and penalty assessments in excess of $1,400, and a 3-day suspended sentence. The judge also mandated that Hall attend three sessions of a first-time drunken driving offender program and a Mother’s Against Drunk Driving victim-impact class. If Hall completes the MADD class, the suspended sentence will be dropped. Staff Writer Quintin Cushner can be reached by e-mail at qcushner@pulitzer.net “It’s a standard first-time offense disposition,” Earley said. Hall was arrested the night of Dec. 21 while driving her car near her Santa Ynez Valley home, after a fight with Deidra Dykeman, her domestic partner. Dykeman was not present during Friday’s hearing and sentencing, but prosecutor Smith praised her. “I admire Ms. Dykeman’s fortitude and courage to contact police in a difficult situation,” Smith said. Earley took another view. “I think the testimony of Diedra Dykeman from the very beginning was flawed,” he said. When Koppel-Claypool ruled on Smith’s motion to dismiss the felony, she noted the charge could be filed again in the future. “We’re leaving our options open at this time,” Smith said. Both Koppel-Claypool and Earley attended Friday’s hearing via telephone. Hall and Smith were both present in the Santa Barbara courtroom. Staff Writer Quintin Cushner can be reached by e-mail at qcushner@pulitzer.net :nav Source: http://www.lompocrecord.com/articles/2003/09/21/news/news11.txt

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