Prosecutorial Misconduct History Could Affect Case? MJEOL Bullet #234 The Jackson case isnt the first one where this DAs office has been accused of prosecutorial misconduct. And further information may be made public about past settlements, not with Jackson, but with this DAs office and Santa Barbara sheriffs department In the face of prosecutors and prosecution-sympathizers trying desperately to convict Michael Jackson in the court of public opinion, there seems to be a developing story surrounding the current Santa Barbara district attorneys propensity to level criminal charges and allegations against people who, some say, are in the way of a case hes attempting to prosecute. Renewed speculation of Jackson attorney Mark Geragos being called to testify at a possible trial is running rampant. Some observers have joked that if prosecutors are expecting Geragos to testify against Jackson, that they either must be on something or should have a doctor prescribe something. Prosecutors seem to be seeking to level conspiracy charges against everyone who was present to witness the accusing familys manipulative and threatening behavior during the prosecutions timeline in an attempt to keep them from testifying against the accusing family. If thats now going to include Geragos, then they really must be on something. But theres an undercurrent of information that is bubbling up to the surface. The DAs office apparently has a history of ruining the reputations, practices, and lives of attorneys and others, who they deem as preventing them from pursuing a case, say some researchers. For example, months ago prosecution sympathizer and tabloid reporter Diane Dimond made claims on Court TVs Crier Live that her sources say prosecutors are inclined towards bringing attorney Mark Geragos into this conspiracy charge against Jackson. Now the story has changed to Geragos possibly testifying. Some may not know what to make of this Geragos rumor. For all the public knows, it could be the ramblings of a desperate wanna-be-insider using a lazy and biased tabloid reporter to further their lies. Or there could be some semblance of truth to it. It certainly wouldnt be the first time the current district attorney, cronies in tow, have attempted to prosecute and/or ruin the reputations of a lawyer he sees as standing in the way of them getting what they want. This isnt even the first time prosecutors have been accused of railroading someone, say some observers. We already learned in court the week of August 16 2004 that both the kidnapping/abduction allegation and the threats/intimidation allegation are all but non-existent now given the amount of information that has come out. This was discussed in some detail in MJEOL Bullet # 233: Investigation Clears Jackson as Accusers Story Changes. To review, the stepfather testified in court that Geragoss private investigator, Bradley Miller, came over to his house–where the family was staying–to tape an interview with them. They cant have been abducted and held hostage at Neverland if they were AT the stepfathers house when they did at least one of the audio interviews exonerating Jackson. The stepfather also testified that the accusing family came to and went from Neverland on their own, sometime in April, which is after the prosecutions conspiracy timeline. But what exactly to make of the Geragos rumor? We shall see if Sneddon wants to go down the dangerous road of accusing yet another attorney of a crime in an effort to taint testimony of events that happened while the family is claiming to have been held hostage and conspired against at Neverland. Geragos certainly wouldnt be the first to experience it. __Talk about Prior Bad Acts!__ Attorney Gary Dunlap (also known as Dunlop) gave an exhaustive interview about his experiences with the Santa Barbara County DA. He talked about his opinions on the Jackson case as well. City attorney Art Montandon has also filed a claim against Santa Barbara County for similar allegations. Even Judge Diana Hall is currently battling the Santa Barbara DAs office for these same types of allegations including the current DA wanting her to make an illegal change in her decision regarding a case Dunlap was trying before her. These are very recent allegations and each have very similar experiences to report; allegations which are stunningly similar to whats happened thus far in the Jackson case. If the media wants to find a pattern of prior bad acts, theyre looking in the wrong place. Gary Dunlap is an attorney currently suing Sneddon, some of his Deputy DAs, the District Attorneys office as well as investigators in federal court for $10 million. The lawsuit was recently upheld by a U.S. District Court judge in May 2004 (see U.S. District Court judge upholds suit against DA, county) Observers say if Dunlaps claims were bogus, the District Court judge would have tossed it out the first time. Meaning, for it to even get this far, there must have been something to his claims of prosecutorial misconduct. Dunlap gave a radio interview at the beginning of 2004 about his case. He says that the DAs office wanted him out of the way because he was successfully defending too many excessive force cases against the sheriffs department. The allegation is that certain authority figures, including Sneddon, concocted baseless felony charges against him supposedly in an effort to hinder such acquittals and stave off excessive force settlements. And, according to some observers and sources, there have been a number of settlements; not from Jackson, but from the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Dept. and the DAs office. Sources allege there have been many settlements between the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Dept. and citizens who have been subject to excessive force as well; some of which have been covered by the local press. Dunlap was acquitted on all 6 felony charges filed against him by Sneddon, but not before prosecutors took him to trial and used the media to try to ruin his reputation. Sound familiar? What started this whole Dunlap case? According to Dunlap, he isnt financially dependant on his law practice. Because of that, he could afford to take hard-luck cases on the merits, which involved cases against the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Dept. Dunlap says that there is a practice of abuse of authority between these two agencies. Being specifically interested in defending excessive abuse cases and trumped up charges, he became a target himself for those who wanted him out of the way. Dunlap says theres a generation of young people charged with felonies that may not have deserved them. And with northern Santa Barbara county being mostly government dependant, those with felony convictions are locked out of any kind of meaningful employment forever. During the interview, he protests: And then, its almost like they take some of these kids right out of high school and throw felonies at them. And Ive always opposed that and I do oppose it. And so the district attorney and I are always at odds with one another He became a target because of the significant amount of successes hes had with defending these clients (see Gary Dunlap Interview). In a 102 page complaint, most of which was recently approved to go forward by a U.S. District Court judge, Dunlap says Sneddon and others are guilty of conspiracy, malicious prosecution, racketeering, witness tampering, illegal searches and violating his civil rights. In a Dec 5 2003 article from the Lompoc Record, Dunlap describes his arrest and prosecution as an emotional drain and a financial fiasco. In the attorneys complaint, he says that:
In fact, it is difficult, if not impossible to discern any ethical standards on the part of the defendants [Sneddon and others]; they appear to have been intellectually destitute and morally bereft during the entire sequence of events giving rise to this complaint (see Dunlap sues over arrest ).
Sound familiar? Intellectually destitute? Well that would explain how, in the Jackson case, everybody was investigating the private investigator (PI) working for Mark Geragos and, according to them, nobody seemed to notice he was working for the defense. But morally bereft? Well that too could put another angle on how they may have known the PI was a defense team member, but raided his office anyway, and then lied on the stand about it. It would also explain how they could raid Jacksons personal assistants office and remove folders labeled Mesereau. Of course, they claimed they didnt look at them, but somehow magically 70 of the defense witnesses just so happened to appear on the prosecution witness list too. Thats not a coincidence. Dunlap told a local paper, The Lompoc Record, that the original ordeal surrounding his case was an emotional nightmare which has tarnished his practice, even though he was never guilty of any crime. He says that Sneddon and company engaged in a sting operation that turned into a witch hunt:
Well, they engaged in a sting operation, which they manufactured and allowed to get out of hand, and it essentially became just a real witch hunt. There were a number of violations of my rights in the investigatory stage as well as during the prosecution stage. And weve additionally alleged that in other cases we have information he has done the same thing. We have alleged the civil RICO violations, which are essentially engaging in racketeering and conspiracy by public officers. (see Gary Dunlap Interview )
RICO violation pertains to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It provides for extended penalties for criminal acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization (see RICO (law)). It is common where a group of individuals use the courts to retaliate against whistle-blowers to try to silence them. Legal experts say that the RICO law could also conceivably be used in situations where lawyers and/or their clients conspired and collaborated to concoct fictitious legal complaints solely in retribution and retaliation. Larry Feldman should be taking note of this. Also notice that Dunlap says his attorneys, through their own investigation, have found similar cases where these types of abuses were alleged to have been committed by the Santa Barbara DAs office. The attorney says that when police raided his building, they had a reporter(s) in tow to capture the event and to make sure it received maximum attention: They are already in my home when I came in from a court appearance in Santa Maria, he says. When I was waiting for them to finish up in my home, they were in my office doing the same thing, breaking into my office with the press present. If youll remember in the Jackson case, tabloid reporter Diane Dimond was tipped off by sources who wanted her to be at Neverlandcamera crew in towto cover the raiding of Neverland on November 18 2003. Of his ordeal with the DA and law enforcement, Dunlap says that what they did when they got a complaint against him was not simply investigate it like regular, unbiased law enforcement would. But they, instead, used it as an opportunity to prosecute him whether it was true or not:
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.
Notice the similarities between what Dunlap is saying and what some observers of the Jackson case have said. Attorney Joe Tacopina previously commented that if an unbiased set of prosecutors and police looked into the so-called case against Jackson, theres no way it would have gotten this far. Could prosecutors be using the complaint by the accusing family to further a case against Jackson even though the case may be all but non-existent? While they were investigating Dunlap, he says they engaged in unreasonable search and seizure and illegally recorded phone conversations. They also sent people to his office wearing wires in an effort to get him to say something incriminating:
DUNLAP: 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. SWEET, Radio Host: What evidence do you have of the illegal recording of the phone calls, you know, were you able to obtain that somehow? DUNLAP: Well, yes. Because the calls were all recorded and during the course of the prosecution, during discovery, we obtained the phone calls which they had recorded SWEET: Without your knowledge or permission? DUNLAP: Right. SWEET: So obviously they werent able to use that as evidence, correct? DUNLAP: Well, that is correct. Although, some of the phone calls we allowed them to bring in [the court case] because we wanted to demonstrate what they had done.
Looks like unethical behavior as alleged by Jacksons attorneys isnt the first time the prosecutions credibility has been called into question. Watching Sheriff Jim Anderson, and later former sheriff Jim Thomas, talk about a press conference claiming vindicationfrom a one-sided Attorney General investigationbrought to mind Dunlaps recounting of another case involving the sheriffs department. It also sheds light on the mentality of these people. Dunlap says a person in Santa Maria announced his candidacy for public office, and was illegally detailed shortly thereafter by sheriffs deputies on bogus charges:
DUNLAP: Well I dont feel comfortable talking in too much detail about them, but 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 sheriffs 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 [the man] and attempted to prosecute him on those charges, and essentially ruined his opportunity to run for public office.
So what of the unnamed mans claims:
He ultimately sued the district attorney as well as the law enforcement officers and won a judgment in federal court for several hundred thousand dollars and several hundred thousand dollars in attorneys fees, according to Dunlap.
For the record, it is not an easy task to win a judgment of any kind against a DAs office or against law enforcement. Thus, something egregious must have occurred for there to have been a judgment in the complainants favor. And what about the crimes the DAs office is alleged to have committed in Dunlaps case? What exactly did they do? Their first illegal act was secretly tape-recording the court proceedings of a case Dunlap was trying, according to Dunlap. Another thing prosecutors–who later charged himdid was talk to the judge privately in a case being tried by Dunlap. They tried to undermine Dunlaps credibility and convince her to change a decision she made that they didnt think was correct. Dunlap says:
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 who was that judge? Diana Hall. Remember that name because she too is currently fighting her own battle with this DAs office, partially because she didnt bow down and cower to this prosecutors will. On a side note, Hall was assigned to shadow another judge possibly so that they could keep an eye on her. Who is that judge? Rodney Melville. Small world, isnt it? Again, Dunlap supposedly has documented the same type of conduct which was recently investigated and brought out in open court by Jacksons defense team. __If this is standard grand jury procedure, no wonder you can indict a ham sandwich __ There is also a pattern in how Sneddon and prosecutors handle grand juries. Dunlap says that some of the grand jurors in the case against him wanted to ask questions about some of the fishy things that occurred. And the district attorney would shoot them down by saying thats not important. There were some things that sort of stood out as exculpatory, or exonerating towards me. And a few grand jurors asked about, well, what about this? Or what about that? he says. He continued, And the district attorney said, well, youre just suppose to ignore that. Dont worry about that. You know, Well try to get around to explaining that later, which they never did. The defense in the Jackson case says that Sneddon was determined to get an indictment no matter what they had to do to secure it. Thats the problem, of course: they did whatever they had to do to secure it. The attorneys say prosecutors presented a mountain of inadmissible evidence like Larry Feldman being allowed to essentially misled grand jurors (AP Report). But this is from the defenses motion:
Determined not to fail to obtain an indictment with a third grand jury, the District Attorney presented the grand jury with a mountain of inadmissible evidence and displayed an unprecedented lack of courtroom decorum. Attorney __________ and __________ were called in the early stages of the proceedings and were invited to prejudice the jurors with inflammatory and irrelevant testimony about matters that poisoned the well and eliminated any chance that the grand jury proceeding would be fair (Motion for Recusal, pages 8-11.) (see Defense’s Reply to DA’s Opposition to Motion for Recusal | pg 4)
Picking up on Feldman related information, Nov 4 2004 Jackson attorney Tom Mesereau also revealed more of what Sneddon allowed Feldman to tell grand jurors earlier this year. In an AP article dated November 5 2004 titled Judge Refuses to Remove Michael Jackson Prosecutor from Case, reporter Linda Deutsch reported about the current Judges previous decision and about what defense attorneys said in court. Besides learning that prosecutors have spent a large amount of money trying to prosecute Jackson, the public also learned of the misrepresentations about the accusing familys motives:
Mesereau said that Sneddon was so personally invested in pursuing Jackson’s case that he misrepresented to grand jurors the potential motivation of a boy’s family in accusing Jackson. Mesereau said that Sneddon brought attorney Larry Feldman before the grand jury and had him tell the panelists that a criminal prosecution of Jackson would diminish the chances for the boy’s family to win compensation in a civil suit against the pop singer. (see Judge refuses to remove Michael Jackson prosecutor from case (Nov 4 2004) AP)
Besides it being a flat-out lie that a conviction hurts the chances of compensation, prosecutors didnt correct this misconception. Prosecutors were also accused of bullying, intimidating and arguing with witnesses who didnt agree with him in front of grand jurors. One of the most brazen illustrations of this involved the testimony of attorney Russ Halpern. Although the name was redacted, the educated guess would be that the person subject to questions was Halpern. The defense highlighted this in one of their motions:
Witnesses who contradicted the prosecutions incredible theory of a conspiracy to cover up a child molestation, following by the child molestation itself, were subjected to bullying by Mr. Sneddon. (Motion for Recusal, pages 11-21.) The claim that Mr. Sneddons conduct with _________ and __________ amounted to apparent impatience with two distinctly hostile witnesses (Opposition, page 7) is simply not supported by the grand jury transcripts. (see Defense’s Reply to DA’s Opposition to Motion for Recusal pg 4)
That argument was also highlighted in a previous defense motion to throw out the indictment. Heres a snippet of the conversation with one of those hostile witnesses and you decide if this was impatience or if he was actively substituting his own story for the under oath testimony of the witness. From the defenses 995 Motion:
Taking only one example from dozens, no Court has ever condoned the kind of grand jury decorum exhibited by Mr. Sneddon during an exchange with witnesses:
Q. Did you at the time that you heard that these serious charges had been leveled against a worldwide known entertainer, ever come to the DAs office and say, Hey Mr. Sneddon, Ive got these_____, or I heard about these _____ or You might want to know this. Did you ever do that before you went on national TV? A. No. I found the DAs office to be hostile when I called. I found the head DA, that being yourself, to be very uncooperative. In fact, I called your office in the beginning to find out whether my clients son was the person who was charged with molestation. You initially refused to tell me. I asked you if my clients son was dying. You initially refused to tell me. I was only after I told you that I might have to tell the press of your reaction that you called back and then told me. I found your attitude, conduct to be very hostile, and not an office that would be wanting to hear from me, period. Now, I have other information. And if you want to ask me other information, Ill provide Q. That is totalthat is not the way that conversation went and you know it. A. You know it too. Q. I explained to you why at that time we couldnt tell who the victim was. Because nobody knew the family at that time, did I not? A. No, you didnt. Q. And then you said, Wouldnt you as the father want to know if the child was sick? And I said to you, Okay. Im going to tell you. And I did tell you the child was fine, did I not? A. Ill tell you, I remember the conversation specifically because I took notes. Q. So do I.
The transcript reveals Mr. Sneddon was personally upset by the fact that [Halpern] had embarrassed him by making public statements to the media. (see Defenses 995 Motion | pg 4-5)
And this is only what the public was allowed to read. The defenses original 995 Motion was about 127 pages long with only approx. 45 pages released. But all of this misconduct doesnt seem to matter to a judge hell bent on taking this case to trial, a prosecutor who doesnt want to listen to anyone that isnt telling him what he wants to hear, and higher-ups currently too worried about their own asses (careers) to do whats right. As for the white-hot spotlight being shown on the current DAs choice to seek the secrecy of a grand jury in the Jackson case, Dunlap commented:
And I think in this case, the DA wants to avoid the glare of a probable cause hearing, because it will be extraordinarily embarrassing to him if he cant even get past a preliminary hearing. And so he doesnt want to have a regular preliminary hearing while his officers will be subject to examination.
That same spotlight has been used by prosecutors and their PR firm, Tellem Worldwidewho once represented Rent-A-Wreckto taint the jury pool in this case. Part 2 will continue to look at the similarities in the behavior of prosecutors in both the Jackson case and other cases/claims in Santa Barbara county; including previous settlements with the Santa Barbara sheriffs department; the judge overseeing Dunlaps case likening Sneddon & co.s behavior to a John Grisham novel; and the close relationship between the DAs office and the sheriffs department. Stay tuned. -MJEOL Your comments?