Sufficient Evidence to Further Misconduct Suit against Sneddon- Bullet #143

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Sufficient Evidence to Further Misconduct Suit against Sneddon- Bullet #143 A U.S. District Court Judge, Dickran Tevrizian, found sufficient evidence to uphold the majority of a huge $10 M corruption lawsuit against Santa Barbara County and specifically the district attorney’s office, which is headed by current DA Tom Sneddon.The $10 M lawsuit filed by attorney Gary Dunlap, alleges the two main prosecutors on the Jackson case, Sneddon and Gerald Franklin, and others were involved in malicious prosecution, conspiracy, and witness tampering in the case against him. The judge dismissed the claims of racketeering and trespass. Dunlap’s lawsuit includes Tom Sneddon, Asst. DA Christie Schultz-Stanley; Deputy DAs Kevin Duffy, Jerry McBeth, Gerald Franklin, John McKinnon, Josh Webb; DA investigators Mary Brizzolara and Tim Rooney (remember that name) are also named in the suit. Make no mistake about it: this is big. Prosecutors are given extremely broad leeway when they are prosecuting cases. So the fact that a U.S. District Court judge didn’t completely toss out the entire lawsuit against Sneddon shows that Dunlap has much more evidence than just his word. Some prosecutors often think they are completely immune from prosecutorial misconduct charges even though they may have done things that qualify as misconduct. Among evidence in existence in Dunlap’s $10M lawsuit are illegal recordings made by investigators at the behest of Sneddon, documented illegal acts, reprimands to prosecutors from the judge in his case for their misconduct, and a number of other documents and related information to back up his claims. If you’ll remember, Gary Dunlap is the attorney who had a bad run-in with Sneddon and his cohorts earlier. He was acquitted in June 2003 of all 6 felony charges against him, which included perjury and witness intimidation. Dunlap alleges Sneddon and others were involved in all manners of corruption in his case, to the point where, he says, it was an emotional drain on both his family and his finances. During a talk radio interview in Jan 2004, Dunlap revealed some incredibly explosive details about the current Santa Barbara DA, why he has run opposed for his past few terms, and the way law enforcement works in the county. As reported in MJEOL Bullet #55, Dunlap told the radio show that there were major violations during the investigation and prosecution stage of the case against him. According to Dunlap, Sneddon was in fact involved in racketeering, conspiracy, and generally riding rough-shot over the north county. Dunlap also says the judge in his case even concluded that there was “substantial government misconduct” on the part of the prosecution. His phone conversations were illegally recorded, people were sent to his office wearing wires in an effort to get him on tape engaging in illegal activities, and they tried to cover-up their misconduct by editing the tapes they made of him. Sound familiar? Dunlap also reveals that the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s department are so close that they have participated in cover-ups together, specifically when a case involved excessive force allegations. He says while he was being prosecuted by the DA’s office, a number of things were discovered during his trial. His attorneys wanted to get the prosecutorial misconduct out in the open and a part of public record. Thus, his case isn’t solely his word against Sneddon’s and there is on-the-record evidence to shore up the misconduct charges. Dunlap says:

See, what’s unusual in my case is that almost everything they’ve done has been revealed during the course of my trial, and so it’s not one of these cases where you have suspicions that they have done something but you can’t prove it. My criminal case, the attorney who represented me in my criminal case was excellent and he just discovered and brought out and got into the record, you know, all of the things the district attorney had done. (see transcript)

Sneddon himself is apparently no stranger to having misconduct lawsuits filed against him and his office. Dunlap reveals Sneddon and his office have been sued numerous times, but normally settle the cases with forced confidentiality agreements as a part of the deal. Could that be why the county is so broke? Maybe. In one other case, Dunlap reveals that Sneddon was successfully sued by a man who won a judgment for “several hundred thousand dollars.” In that case, the man was illegally detained on bogus charges, where the police used excessive force. Instead of prosecuting the police, the allegation is that Sneddon tried unsuccessfully to make the case go away:

… in one instance there is a gentleman in Santa Maria who had announced his candidacy for a public office and shortly thereafter he was illegally detained by sheriff’s deputies on what were pretty clearly bogus charges, and instead of the district attorney acknowledging that, the district attorney attempted to cover up the police officers excessive force by filing charges against him and attempted to prosecute him on those charges and essentially ruined his opportunity to run for public office. He ultimately sued the district attorney as well as the law enforcement officers and won a judgment in the federal court for several thousand dollars and several hundred thousand dollars in attorney’s fees.

Dunlap says he became a target of prosecution because his law office specialized in handling excessive force cases against the police for the past few years; the very thing Sneddon and others allegedly had a history of covering up. They wanted him out of the picture:

… my practice has been, for the last few years, been specializing in excessive authority cases, or exercise of excessive authority by the district attorney’s office because of what I have seen as a practice of engaging in office that I’ve seen over the last few years, and ultimately I think I became such a thorn in his side that they just decided that the easiest way to handle this would be to take me out of the picture.

The attorney says there was a complaint against him that needed investigation because that’s the police’s job. Instead of during an actual investigation, they saw it as an opportunity to get rid of him by trying to add legitimacy to the faulty complaint. Sound familiar? :

What I think is that they got a legitimate complaint. They got a complaint, which they had to investigate. However, rather than looking at that complaint and doing a straightforward and honest investigation, they saw it as an opportunity to prosecute me. And what they did, is they tried to add legitimacy to an illegitimate charge.

As earlier noted, a part of Dunlap’s complaint is the illegal recording of his conversations and sending people to his office wearing wires:

They sent in people wearing wires under the pretext of being supposed clients who made up false scenarios, and they recorded some of the conversations and did not record others of the conversations in order to basically cover up their misconduct and created this false scenario in order to get me to give what they alleged was illegal advice and assistance.

Dunlap found out about these tapes because, during the discovery portion of his trial, prosecutors had to turn them over to the defense. Although prosecutors couldn’t bring the tapes into trial as evidence, some of these tapes were brought in by the defense as an example to illustrate prosecutors’ illegal activities. Apparently Santa Barbara County’s illegal acts extended to include cases Dunlap was trying as well as the case against him, of which he was later acquitted. Another illegal act Dunlap says he has proof Sneddon was involved in, was deputies secretly recording the court proceeding in a case he was working on for a client. This is a crime, folks. Dunlap says they did it so that they could have instant access to what was going on:

Of course it’s under his authorization, and he was familiar with the people who were investigating me, and the things that they were doing, and all of that. And so the first crime they committed, you know, was illegally recording the court proceedings. And the reason they were doing this was because the district attorney, the deputy district attorney who was investigating me wanted to have instant access to everything that I was doing in court so that they could figure out their next move against me.

Not only were they involved in illegally taping court proceedings, they went so far as to go to the judge in a case that Dunlap was trying before her, the Salas case, and told the judge they were investigating Dunlap for criminal activity. That, too, is illegal. You cannot have ex-parte communication with the court to try to taint the reputation of the person trying the case:

The bottom line is they went and they talked to the judge privately, which is against the law and in violation of the rules of professional conduct. They have an ex parte conversation with the court, told the court about the fact that they were investigating me for criminal activities, and they tried to get the judge to release Salas from custody. Which would have been an illegal activity on her part because once a judgment is entered it’s final, and the judge loses jurisdiction, but they wanted her to do it anyway. Fortunately, she did not do it. She thought about it and at first agreed to do it but then she realized that she was being put in a very compromised position and so she refused to cooperate with that.

As it has turned out, that same judge became a whistle-blower and has had her career ruined by the district attorney’s office. There were claims of bogus charges leveled against her in which they stacked trumped up charges onto allegations involving a domestic disturbance. Supposedly there was absolutely no significant evidence, but they wanted to get into a position to ruin her career. You’ll probably hear more about that in the very near future. Dunlap also revealed that prosecutors prosecuting him were so desperate that they even tried to get him disbarred solely based on the unsubstantiated charges against him during his own case. He says:

They tried to get the state bar to take action against me just based on their charges… Their unsubstantiated charges, and the state bar essentially took a hands off position pending the outcome of the case. That’s pretty much it. I understand the charges have been filed now with the state bar for their conduct for some of their conduct in my case – those against some deputies and the assistant district attorney who supervised my prosecution, but I haven’t had anything personally to do with that.

So not only has the DA’s office settled a number of misconduct cases against them, but also other people have won judgments against him for his own misconduct. Complaints to the California State Bar have been filed as well as a result of the Dunlap case. Dunlap, who has been practicing law for 37 years, says they really wanted him out of business/disbarred because he’s one of the few lawyers who are not solely financially dependant on his law practice. Thus, he can take the cases he wants based on the merits of that case. He could afford to take the excessive force cases against law enforcement without worrying about whether or not his clients could afford high legal fees. He’s had a significant amount of success with those cases as well, hence the reason why Sneddon were trying to get him disbarred. The attorney says the situation in the north county is “very bad” because Sneddon and his assistants have “pretty much dominated the justice system in Santa Barbara for several years.” So much so that Sneddon has run completely unopposed for the office of district attorney. Dunlap says public officials are totally intimidated by him. Something which may have to do with the Jackson case, Dunlap says the excessive force is almost, in a sense, promoted by the fact that the DA’s office will try to cover it up:

And the problem with it is, they do not take any kind of a leadership role with regard to law enforcement in the sense of protecting the public interests against excessive force. Rather, they promote excessive force by the various law enforcement agencies, by their attitude of protection and prosecution of cases that are clearly inappropriate.

If they were assured that any excessive force allegation would be pushed under the rug, maybe some officers would have been bold enough to manhandle and taunt Jackson while in their custody. For the record, the Attorney General (AG) of California, Bill Lockyear, is STILL investigating some 4 months later. Had Jackson been lying, some say the investigation would have been over months ago and the AG would have long since come down on the side of the police. Back to Dunlap’s case and the reason for the $10M lawsuit against Sneddon, Franklin, and others: He says that even before the trial against him started, he was lucky enough to have a retired judge from the Court of Appeals appointed to hear his case. This judge wouldn’t be subject to intimidation from Sneddon. He says his lawyer made a motion to dismiss the case against him. That judge, Judge Andreen, did in fact indicate—as part of public record—that there was substantial government misconduct:

In fact, before my trial even began, one of the big advantages that we had is that the California Supreme Court appointed a visiting judge, a former, a retired court of appeals justice to hear my trial and Judge Kenneth Andreen retired from the Court of Appeals and before my trial began, my lawyer made a motion to dismiss the case based on outrageous governmental misconduct and there was a three day hearing on a dismissal motion. At the conclusion of it, it was very interesting because Judge Andreen indicated that there was, in fact, governmental, substantial governmental misconduct. And, in fact, he said that their conduct, the district attorney’s conduct was so bad that it read more like a John Grisham novel than it did a criminal prosecution.

Dunlap says because the charges against him were so serious and the conduct of prosecutors were so corrupt, that the judge felt the case needed to be decided by a jury:

Well, in the prosecution against me before my trial began there was this motion to dismiss the charges against me, and the judge agreed that there had been, you know, a lot of misconduct. And, in fact, so much misconduct that he said that it read more like a John Grisham novel to him. However, because the charges were so severe and he felt that it needed – that the case needed to be tried. And that’s why I ended up in trial and ultimately the jury did acquit me. And so, that’s where, you know, that’s where that was. And in the civil case, I think that my lawyer in the civil case, you know, he basically has picked up the same things that the criminal court judge picked up on, is that their conduct was just very inappropriate, I mean, and blatant.

In the so-called “case” against Jackson, some experts have said the added conspiracy charge looks to be one of those “kitchen-sink” charges where prosecutors try to throw in every charge imaginable in hopes that a jury would convict on something…anything. They say that Sneddon may be hoping to get a conviction on the conspiracy charge even if there’s no evidence to convict on the actual molestation charges. Other sources say, however, that this conclusion is premised on the fact that they don’t know what evidence Jackson has in his favor to combat these conspiracy charges. If there is more than sufficient evidence to conclude that there was no conspiracy—and the attorneys for all the men apparently named as “co-conspirators” have denied all of the allegations—the ‘kitchen-sink’ risk could come back to seriously bite prosecutors in the ass. If the family is shown to be lying about this elaborate “held hostage” story, then how can they be believed regarding the death threat and the molestation charge? One attorney for two of the so-called “co-conspirators”, Joe Tacopina, has said repeatedly that there is more than enough evidence and documentation to “shred” and “shatter” the conspiracy allegation against his clients if they are indicted. These ‘kitchen-sink’ type of charges are what Dunlap addressed during his interview. He says there’s a pattern with the current DA to stack charges into an indictment or charging document in hopes the jury will convict on something:

… I don’t know if you realize how difficult it is when they throw the kitchen sink at you, I mean, when they throw seven felonies against you, how difficult it is to get an acquittal on all charges. You know, I mean it’s one thing to be charged with one crime and have a trial and be acquitted on it, but the district attorney in Santa Barbara has a policy that if they throw enough charges against you, the jury is bound to convict you on something.

All of this to say that Jackson isn’t the first person to fall victim to this district attorney’s office, or law enforcement in Santa Barbara. Dunlap’s attorney told the AP in that May 10 2004 article that what Sneeddon and others did was to attack “a successful criminal defense attorney for practicing his profession.” The next step is left up to Sneddon and the other defendants. The report says they can either answer the complaint or appeal the 16-page ruling by the district court judge. Freeman says the DA and others are unlikely to prevail in an appeal because the 16 page opinion is very “well-reasoned” and has evidence to substantiate the lawsuit. -MJEOL

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