Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Board backs Stanislaus grand jury's legal press

Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

Ex-Patterson lawyer divulged his testimony
By Garth Stapley

Stanislaus County civil grand jurors want Patterson's former city attorney held in contempt of court for publicly divulging the focus of a grand jury investigation before it was complete.

County Counsel John Doering said his office thinks George Logan broke the law and should be prosecuted in criminal court, but the district attorney's office refused.

County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously agreed to let grand jurors spend up to $10,000 hiring private lawyers to go after Logan in civil court.

Logan and District Attorney Birgit Fladager could not be reached Tuesday.

In a court document, Logan says his constitutional right to free speech trumps a grand jury's admonition to keep quiet about an ongoing probe.

"I plead not guilty and refute all charges," Logan said in an Oct. 14 court brief.

At issue is the grand jury's June 29 report criticizing Logan, former Patterson Mayor Becky Campo and Councilwoman Annette Smith. Smith subsequently sued the grand jury, saying her rights were violated and that she hoped to force an overhaul of the grand jury system.

A report to the Board of Supervisors on the grand jury's request for $10,000, submitted through Presiding Judge Ricardo Córdova, fails to identify parties. Tuesday, Doering offered details.

He said his office initially represented the grand jury but backed away because of a potential conflict of interest and because his office cannot pursue criminal matters.

Logan, an Atwater attorney, pre-empted the grand jury's report by writing a point-by-point summary of his testimony to some jurors, published April 28 in The Bee and the next day in the Patterson Irrigator.

"They told me I could not reveal any of the discussions before the grand jury. I told them that the prohibition only applied to grand jury members — not witnesses," Logan wrote. "They were dead wrong on every assumption about the city and even about their own rules."

In a separate Irrigator news story about Logan's decision to go public, he is quoted as saying he feared grand jurors "were just going to try and crucify me and my reputation."

When grand jurors issued their report two months later, they said Logan should have recused himself from advising a councilman summoned by the grand jury, because Logan had himself already testified. Logan also violated a grand jury oath by talking about his testimony, grand jurors found.

Grand jurors also claim Logan mishandled a matter involving a developer whose legal fees were paid by the Patterson council and told the city he would testify for the developer should he sue the city. Jurors recommended that the city complain to the California Bar Association.

In a November affidavit, former grand jury foreman Denis France said Logan "disobeyed the admonition … with the intent to frustrate the dignity, authority and the processes of this court."

Logan told The Bee that grand jurors didn't understand the law.

He resigned as Patterson's city attorney in May 2010, citing medical reasons.

In a court document, Logan said newspaper articles amount to hearsay and are not suitable as evidence.

In an August affidavit, France said Logan signed an oath and admonition form after receiving this instruction: "You are admonished not to reveal to any person … what questions were asked or what responses were given or any other matters concerning the nature or subject of the grand jury investigation … until such time as the report is made public. Violation of this admonition is punishable as contempt of court."

In a rival brief, Logan said state law "recognizes the First Amendment right to criticize any judicial office as long as it does not actually interfere with its proceedings."

Hearings are scheduled in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at or (209) 578-2390.

Read more:

No comments: