DA Selectively Prosecutes Supervisors on Form 700 Omissions
In what may be a career altering decision by a young DA, the appearance of biased and politically motivated prosecution solidifies as more facts are entered into the record. Every DA is criticized by the defendant and that is the way it should be, but that does not mean that some have not earned the criticism.
Recently the DA was accused of offering to trade favors with a drug dealer if he would wear a wire to catch a local politician of taking a bribe. A drug dealer is a good bust, but a sitting politician is even better. Trading one criminal for a bigger criminal is stock-and-trade in law enforcement. After issuing several press releases, he dropped the case and turned what he had over to Federal authorities. The case was found to be no crime, because the Tahoe council woman had already publicly stated that she would support the accused drug dealer's requested project before the claimed bribe took place. Therefore, there was no 'quid pro quo.'
Several months ago the Tahoe News reported that Supervisor Santiago had alarming expenses and unreported donations. the story went on to say that it was inexplicable why the DA had charged Supervisor Ray Nutting for the same violation made by Santiago, but declined to charge her in the same vigour as he is Nutting.
In part it reads:
The latter was the case for Santiago when she went on a trip in July 2012 to Santa Fe, N.M. Several West Slope chambers of commerce went to the Urban to Rural Connection conference. The cost was $2,100 per person just for the four-day seminar. On documentation from the July 30, 2013, Board of Supervisors meeting handwritten is “$1,000 previously paid by 3rd party sponsor.”
But a sponsor or any monetary gift must be documented on what’s called Form 700. Santiago has not done so.
Supervisor Ray Nutting had a criminal complaint filed against him by the district attorney in part for not filing a Form 700 for money he received. District Attorney Vern Pierson did not return a phone call. http://www.laketahoenews.net/2013/08/santiago-travels-extensively-on-taxpayers-dime/
Just a week ago the news blogs were afire with responses to the DA's public statement that regardless of conviction that would take Nutting out of office, he would pursue other means to get him out of office. Questions ranging from the contemplative, "I don't understand. If the District Attorney had a real case, why would he be out talking about it failing?" to a cacophony of, "Double Jeopardy", "Unfair", "Political", and"Vendetta." The general consciences was that the DA had strayed away from Justice with actions that give credence to the claims of the DA playing political favoritism with the office and the misappropriating taxpayer funds to do so.
Recently some blogs reported that the DA is spending so much on the prosecution of Nutting that he is asking for more money from the BOS. It is not known if the recent "secret" large fund request was related to the DA at all. In part that is because the item was without any description and the BOS did not say. Thus leading to the speculation of clandestine funds request. Requests for information from the DA regarding the cost of prosecution, have been turned away in a disdainful manner.
Cost is a complaint made by Supervisor Nutting. He has said that only now did he understand how the District Attorney's office has a tremendous, and seemingly unfair, advantage. The well known axiom of our legal systems is that you can get as much justice as you can afford. Of all the flaws in the American system, this may be the most egregious. Nutting expressed bitterness that the systems is slated to give fair justice to the well heeled, but those with less may spend everything they have, and still not be able to afford a fair Justice opportunity against a litigant like the District's Attorney's office.
Supervisor Nutting says that the current court battle with the DA is a serious strain on his finances, but he is glad he has the ability to fight. He adds the he is "All In."
That fight has already included higher courts when Nutting appealed the Grand Jury proceedings. He claimed that the DA had intentionally slanted evidence in an effort to make the juros lean one way. Intentionally withholding, or obscuring exculpatory evidence. The higher court agreed with Nutting, but did not giver him the result he sought, that being a reversal of the Grand Jury's decision. Rather the court said that it was clear the proper procedure was not followed resulting in the presentation of evidence presented to the Gran jury members was skewed. The court did not opine about intent. They said no to the reversal stating that the later court proceedings with address those issues.
The higher court also admonished Vern Pierson and the El Dorado County DA's office to correct the errors of procedure that caused the unfair presentation of the exculpatory evidence.
Even this decision is being challenged by Nutting. He has appealed the higher courts' decision to an even higher court. He said it is crazy that a DA can hide the evidence that shows I am innocent to get a Grand Jury Indictment. By manipulating the process like that he could let a friends DUI case get 'lost' on a back shelf and to 'lose' exculpatory evidence of enemies on that same back shelf. Nutting says that by doing so, he has caused me to be charged with things I should never have been. That not only has disrupted his home life, but has caused him unnecessary stress and very significant expenses he says.
One thing is clear, the case can go well or badly for Vern Pierson. If he wins, he will have a notch in his gun-belt suitable for stepping up to an office in the State's Attorney's office. But if it goes poorly, and he continues to make errors, and most critically today, he looks weak because he is perceived as a political pit-bull, set to attack those that won't, "Get Along" with the power elite.
This week we will see who will, and will not, be running for elective office in the county. By the end of the day on this Friday the papers and fees must be filed for candidates. Some that have been in the race, some familiar faces will no longer be in it. Other last minute candidates will be added. Last week we saw popular elected Treasurer/Tax Collector, Cheri Raffety, receive the first challenge in many years when Supervisor Ron Briggs announced he would run against her for the office. This week we learn that even more popular Veteran Bill Schultz has a challenger from El Dorado Hills.
The last two or three election cycles in El Dorado County have been a decidedly "Anti-Incumbent" energy. Popular and connected politicians like former EID Director Harry Norris and former Supervisor John Knight were unceremoniously shown the door. Many new, and unorthodox, candidates have come forward in the "turn-the-bums-out" environment to challenge establishment norms.
Even 4 different traffic/land use initiatives are being shopped around to the voters.
Now we shall see if the frontier reputation of El Dorado County still exist. Has the county gone lily-livered? Will someone step-up and challenge DA Vern Pierson by sundown on Friday?
We will have to wait and see.