Thursday, December 22, 2011

Logan fires back in contempt case - Stanislaus County

by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
Dec 22, 2011

Former Patterson City Attorney George Logan is firing back at the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury, saying he was within his First Amendment rights to speak about his testimony in front of the legal body before the jury published its findings earlier this year.

The civil grand jury is seeking a contempt-of-court charge against Logan for discussing and writing in local newspapers about his testimony in April and May. The penalty could carry a $1,000 fine or possible jail time and added court costs.

“Mr. Logan insulted the integrity, ability and intelligence of the Grand Jury in an attempt to influence the outcome of its investigation,” states an affidavit signed by Denis France, the former grand jury foreman.

The affidavit also accuses Logan of violating an oath and admonition to secrecy.

In the written admonishment that witnesses must sign as they exit their grand jury interview, they are told not to reveal to anyone what was discussed, except as the court dictates. The court requires witnesses to sign the document to indicate that they understand the admonishment.

Below is the question, “Will you abide by the admonishment?”

Logan crossed out that question on his exit document and wrote, “I will abide by the law,” and signed it.

Logan argues in court documents that his First Amendment right to free speech trumps the grand jury’s admonition of secrecy, because his disclosures posed no specific harm to the public.

Citing a 2000 California appellate court case, Logan states in the documents that the grand jury’s admonition was unconstitutional, unless there had been a clear and present danger or an imminent threat to the grand jury.

He also cites a 1978 U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Landmark Communications v. Virginia, which states, “This Court has consistently rejected the argument that out-of-court comments on pending cases or grand jury investigations constituted a clear and present danger to the administration of justice.”

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors approved a $10,000 appropriation at its regular meeting Tuesday, Dec. 6, to hire private attorney Dean Petrulakis to pursue the contempt charge. Stanislaus County Counsel Jack Doering said his office wouldn’t pursue the charge because of a conflict of interest and because it was unclear whether the contempt charge would be civil or criminal. County counsel offices by law cannot pursue criminal charges.

Neither Logan nor Petrulakis has returned calls on the matter. France, reached at his home last week, refused to comment.

In a grand jury report released in late June, the civil grand jury recommended that Councilwoman Annette Smith resign or be recalled and that former Mayor Becky Campo pay back money she received as mayor because she allegedly lived outside city limits.

It also stated that the city should file a complaint with the California State Bar to chastise Logan for alleged improprieties. Those include failing to be in the room when the council voted to reimburse developer John Ramos for $27,000 in legal fees he incurred as he sought to block the Del Puerto Health Center from moving to the Keystone Pacific Business Park in western Patterson. The grand jury suggested that Ramos return that money to the city.

Smith filed a federal lawsuit against the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury and Stanislaus County on Sept. 28.

The complaint for damages — filed in U.S. District Federal Court in Sacramento — seeks an injunction against the grand jury to stop further alleged abuse of authority and to publish transcripts from the investigation. The suit also calls for the jury to revise its findings and seeks unspecified damages and attorney fees. By law, the Stanislaus County Superior Court — which is funded by the state — has purview over the civil grand jury, while Stanislaus County has responsibility for legal defense of the body.

The board voted to pass a proposed Legislative Projects and Issues document for the upcoming year Tuesday Dec. 20 that asks for the state Legislature to support full state funding for the civil grand jury, including its legal defense.

• Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187 or

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