Peterson DA guilty of misconduct

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Grand jury cites DA misconduct By SUSAN HERENDEEN BEE STAFF WRITER Last Updated: July 3, 2004, 07:11:46 AM PDT Stanislaus County’s top prosecutor committed nine acts of willful misconduct when he made threats against two Bee reporters and intimidated potential whistle-blowers, according to a grand jury report released Friday. But District Attorney James Brazelton is not likely to face a public rebuke from the Board of Supervisors, as the civil grand jury’s report recommends. County officials said they had never seen such a request from the government watchdog group, and do not have the power to punish an elected official. “That’s why we have an election every four years,” Supervisor Ray Simon said. The grand jury, which interviewed numerous staff members in the district attorney’s office, said Brazelton displayed a firearm in the palm of his hand while making threatening comments about two reporters. Brazelton also used his right hand to simulate drawing and firing, the report states, then pointed to a wastebasket and said “this is what I would like to give” those reporters. The report states that Brazelton denies that the events occurred. Brazelton, 62, was elected in 1996 and re-elected in 1998 and 2002. He earns $150,030 a year. Reached Friday night at his home, Brazelton said prior investigations found nothing amiss. He said he had not seen the grand jury report, noted that he had 60 days to make an official response, and said he would have no further comment at this time. Although not named specifically in the report, sources previously told The Bee that reporters Michael G. Mooney and Garth Stapley were targets of the alleged threats. In August, the two conducted a review of the prosecutor’s office credit card receipts. Some time after the alleged threats, Brazelton learned that county officials were investigating the incidents. So he started looking for snitches in his office, the report states. Brazelton entered the office of one employee, closed the door and said, “somebody has talked to the CEO’s office and I’m going to find out who it is.” Brazelton told another employee that he would never brandish a weapon at work and was “just trying to find a rat” in his office. The report states Brazelton joked about the incidents, contacted witnesses even though County Counsel Mick Krausnick warned him not to, and made another threat against one of the reporters. “The district attorney made comments about having missed an opportunity to strike one of the reporters with his vehicle when the reporter had walked across the street in front of him,” the report states. The grand jury declined to file an official accusation with the court, which could have led to criminal charges of willful or corrupt conduct by a public officer. Instead, the panel recommended that Brazelton be publicly chastised for violating the county’s workplace security and antiviolence policy, which says threats will not be tolerated, and the county’s harassment policy, which frowns on derogatory comments. The grand jury also found that the prosecutor’s office needs a stronger policy on firearms and training to ensure that there will not be retaliation against whistle-blowers. Brazelton had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but his office policy, as well as state licensing laws, say such weapons should not be displayed unnecessarily. The prosecutor’s office is not bound by the panel’s recommendations. But Brazelton is required to respond. No complaint at state level Krausnick forwarded the findings of his internal investigation to the state attorney general’s office in February, but prosecutors there are not pursuing any complaint, spokeswoman Halle Jordan said. The California Bar Association, which disciplines attorneys for misconduct, would look into the matter if it received a complaint. “An attorney has a duty to perform competently,” bar association spokesman E.J. Bernacki said. “That’s one of the very basic rules of conduct.” Krausnick said county policies apply to Brazelton, but are toothless in his case because the supervisors cannot discipline an elected official. Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at 578-2338 or :nav Source:

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