Originally titled: Police “cleared” in One-sided Investigation? Not So Fast MJEOL Bullet #179 Originally posted at MJEOL: August 16 2004 In an early report from the Lompoc Record, a sourceobviously from either law enforcement or prosecutorssays that the attorney general (AG) of California has cleared the sheriffs department of abuse leveled against them by Jackson.
Despite Jacksons obvious bruises and probable doctors report, attorney general Bill Lockyer has allegedly sided with the police. But, not so fast. More information is coming out surrounding the investigation. It turns out that this investigation was concluded, either purposely or not, without any statements from Jackson or any confirmed information telling his side of the story.
This information was leaked to take attention away from the fact that Sneddon has been caught on tape breaking the gag ordermisusing his power by sending letters to people around this case in order to keep them off tv defending Jackson; breaking attorney-client privilege; police executing warrantless searches of areas of Jacksons Neverland Ranch; and unlawful searches of a lawyers private investigators office. And who knows what else.
The judge, Rodney Melville, already rebuffed Sheriff Jim Andersons motion to release the findings of the attorney general. So, how coincidental after he gets spanked by the judge, the alleged findings are suddenly leaked to the press The Associated Press(AP) is reporting, in an article dated August 15 2004, that a letter sent to Anderson was leaked to the media, obviously against the judges wishes. But that letter, ironically, provides insight into how the AG could have come to the conclusion: he got nothing from Jackson or his attorneys. While wanting to use this in their favor, the leaker(s) may have actually hurt the impact of the AGs findings as well. The AP article cites a section of the letter which states:
“Despite several attempts to obtain a statement from Mr. Jackson and/or names of potential witnesses through Mr. Jackson’s attorneys, these efforts were not successful,” he said (see AG Claims Jackson Was ‘Not Manhandled’ (Aug 15 2004)).
This means that there wasnt a statement from Jackson and he didnt tell the AG his side of the story, nor provide witnesses, documentation, photographs, etc. So, while the spin may be that the AG cleared the police, it is a shallow conclusionand far short of a vindication–to what was essentially a one-sided investigation. Jacksons attorney, Tom Mesereau, says that he may ask the judge if he can publicly respond to this letter since it was essentially leaked, and the leak could have only come from a limited number of places. The report also makes statements like His chiropractor said his shoulder was not dislocated and the pain he suffered, which likely was caused by being handcuffed, was treated successfully by physical therapy. First, this makes no sense. How would there not have been manhandling if he needed physical therapy afterwards? Is it normal procedure for everyone whos been handcuffed, and allegedly treated with kid gloves, to need physical therapy afterwards?? I dont think so. Second and most importantly is that any chiropractor working with Jackson would have needed to get Jacksons permission to discuss his treatment with anyone. And since, by their own admission, Jackson wasnt cooperatingwhich means he would not be giving his permission to release information to the AG–this alleged chiropractor cited in the letter would be wide open for a multi-million dollar lawsuit. That is, IF the info leaked to the press is correct. So is this information correct, or is it more unconfirmed spin from someone trying to make themselves look good? Most observers cant say that theyre surprised that nothing was allegedly found. Some didnt believe Jackson. But others arent surprised for an entirely different and more suspicious reason. They wont come up with anything. Theres going to be a whitewash, said Gary Dunlap in January 2004 after first hearing that an investigation was going to be done by the AG. Gary Dunlap (or Dunlop ), the attorney–who is currently suing Tom Sneddon, the district attorneys office and a list of others in Federal court for $10Msays the AG may have came to his conclusions very early on in this investigation. Dunlap said back in January 2004 that he didnt believe there would be an extensive investigation. He told a radio show:
These are law enforcement agencies that work hand in hand with one another on a regular basis–and unless if its an internal affairs investigation–if its in the nature of an internal affairs investigation then I think it may be on the up and up and it may be thorough. However, if it is just one of these review these procedures and tell us if you think anything was done wrong, then it wont be. (see Gary Dunlap MJJF Interview )
Whitewash? Maybe. Maybe not. Speaking of abuse allegations, the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Dept.(SBSD) certainly arent strangers to police abuse allegations. In 2002, 8 sheriffs deputies were sued in Federal court by David Allen Richardson. Richardson was hit in the face and knocked unconscious after deputies claimed he threatened them with a beer bottle. The charges against him were dropped. Jim Thomasformer Santa Barbara sheriff and now MSNBC analyst on the Jackson casewas sheriff at that time. Richardson filed a 14-count civil complaint against Thomas, Lt. Jim Dollar, Sgt. Walton, Senior Deputy Hiersche, Deputy Toedte, Deputy Carlson, Deputy McVay and Deputy Allain and John Does 1 through 10 (see Richardson sues eight Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies -archive). Among the charges leveled against the SBSD is unreasonable search and seizure, false arrest/false imprisonment, excessive force, retaliation for exercise of speech and petition rights, conspiracy to violate civil rights, violation of First Amendment right of association, malicious prosecution, negligence, battery and conspiracy and other charges. Sound familiar? They also claimed deputies search the owners bar without consent, took the liquor license and threatened to shut down the bar. The SBSD settled that police brutality case in November 2002 (see SB County, Under Jim Thomas, Settles Police Brutality Case (Archive)). They paid Richardson and co-plaintiff George Beeghly nearly $1 million to settle the claim. The sum was the largest pay-off to settle civil abuse claims by the Sheriffs department in 15 years at that time. And get this, Thomas had the nerve to be mad that this settlement agreement was leaked to the media. Sources say he was involved in spreading a number of leaks from prosecutors and police in his MSNBC role. He was quoted at the time by the Associated Press as saying:
“There’s no doubt in my mind that someone probably had ulterior motives to embarrass me,” Thomas said. “Who would have known the information prior to the time it was supposed to be released? I have my suspicions” (see Jim Thomas: Lawsuit against Sheriff’s Dept. leaked).
Yeah, dont we ALL have suspicions about leaks Dennis Ryan is another person who leveled claims of abuse against the SBSD. Ryan was arrested January 19 2003 for felony assault. After Ryan was let go, sheriffs deputies claimed he wasnt arrested, but rather detained for 3 and a half days. Ryan filed a lawsuit against the SBSD in federal court as well. Ryans attorney, Ken Miller, had a few choice words to say about the situation:
“Most Americans would just have their minds blown at the way people are treated in our prisons in our counties,” Miller said. “And I think the only way people go to sleep at night is (under) the assumption that that won’t happen to me because I’m not going to end up there. “And it never even hits home to people until somebody that they know actually is incarcerated or they, themselves, are incarcerated…When it happens to somebody like Jackson, it brings it into the forefront and to that extent it serves a really good pedagogical purpose about how we treat our lowest rungs of society.” (see Commentary: Celebrity or not, S.B. County deputies accused of mistreatment)
The former sheriff is no stranger to lawsuits himself. In 2001, Thomas was sued for misusing taxpayer funds and inappropriately campaigning. The Santa Barbara Libertarian Party sued the then-sheriff for improperly using funds to campaign for a specific Measure:
“The sheriff was trying to rebuild the detention center and jail through the Measure U initiative. Despite [receiving] many endorsements of the sales tax to implement these programs, we saw him riding around in his uniform, illegally using taxpayer money to get himself re-elected. We were strongly opposed to his campaign,” he said (see Jim Thomas Accused of Misusing Taxpayer Funds, Settles out of Court).
The lawsuit against Thomas was settled out of court for $15,000.00. Local tv host William “B.J.” Wagener filed a suit against the city of Santa Maria, Santa Barbara county and former police chief John Sterling in late 2003. Wagener was a member of a group attempting to recall the Santa Maria City Council. He was also running for 5th District County Supervisor. He alleges that city officials violated his civil rights after issuing a warrant for his arrest 5 days before a March 2002 primary. The charges were ultimately dropped, but not after Wagener spent time in the Santa Barbara County jail, from which he was released March 1 2002. While not specifically a police abuse case, it does go to show the mentality of those who may still be sheriffs deputies with the county as we speak. Also no stranger to lawsuits, of course, is Tom Sneddon. There have been a number of lawsuits against both he and the DAs office under his reign. A history of collaborating together Sneddon and the AG have already worked on at least one big case together in the recent past involving prosecuting the nations largest nursing home chain, and getting a settlement out of it. In a press release dated August 1 2002, they talk about the announcement of civil and criminal enforcement actions against nursing home chain Beverly Enterprises. In the press release, Lockyer is quoted as saying:
Todays enforcement action continues my fight against elder abuse and reflects important teamwork with local prosecutors like Tom Sneddon in Santa Barbara. (see AG Lockyer, DA Sneddon Announce Major Enforcement Action Against Largest Nursing Home)
And Sneddon is quoted as saying, also in that press release:
For this reason, it is important to work collaboratively with the Attorney General
Future high profile/high yield cases would be in jeopardy if the AG came down on the side of Jackson against both the police and ultimately prosecutor Tom Sneddon. If this leak to the Lompoc Record proves to the true, this could be the last card police and prosecutors have to play in the PR war against Jackson, whose defense team is holding both prosecutors and the polices feet to the fire for the massive misconduct that has already occurred in this case. Of law enforcement, Dunlap said during that Jan 2004 interview:
Its very difficult to take on law enforcement. They have the power. We, as citizens, give them the authority and we assume that they will exercise it responsibly for all of our benefit and protection.
Dunlap also had more than a few words to say about chief law enforcement during the interview in which he says the old structure in the police force is still in place at the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Department:
What you have is, you have law enforcement that have taken on the role that they are the judges as well as the prosecutors. And they are no longer doing an investigation. They are attempting to build an airtight case. They cant lose. [And its done] to protect the law enforcement agencies.
What also doesnt surprise some observers is the fact that the attorney general, reportedly account to sources, would try to cover to benefit from future relationships. Other sources say Lockyer has future plans to run for governor of California, so the less enemies he makes, the better for him. Of this relationship, Dunlap says:
When you have a chief law enforcement agency protecting the subsidiary agencies, the policing agencies, with that kind of an attitude, its very difficult to do anything about [it] and to catch them.
Indeed. Anderson has been peevish about this situation and even threatened to file charges against Jackson for making a false complaint. The only problem with that logic is that Jackson never made a formal complaint to police and therefore cant be charged with making a false complaint. Anderson doesnt care. Hes said he wants to charge Jackson anyway. More of that special treatment of which Jackson has been the .the .beneficiary, down in good ole Santa Barbara. Jackson may not have been available to tell his side of the story to the AG due to the current pending case. But wouldnt it be something if Jackson does have proof of his claims, which wasnt turned over to the attorney generals investigators? How suspicious would it look if the AG cleared police of abuse that the public later found out to have really happened? Lets remember, Sneddon didnt know he was being taped during a speech he made while he was breaking the gag order and admitting to unethical behavior. Stay tuned for further updates. :cryptic -MJEOL