Thursday, April 12, 2012

(Stanislaus County) Patterson's ex-attorney sees contempt case tossed

By Rosalio Ahumada -
Patterson's former city attorney said Wednesday that he feels vindicated after a judge threw out a civil contempt of court charge on accusations of divulging secret grand jury proceedings.

George Logan said he argued before Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge William Mayhew on Tuesday, saying the county counsel had presented evidence — letters published in newspapers — not admissable in court.

Mayhew dismissed the case.

In a court document, Logan said newspaper articles amount to hearsay. "You can't convict someone of a crime based on a newspaper article," Logan said Wednesday.

The civil case stemmed from the Stanislaus County civil grand jury's June 29 report criticizing Logan, former Patterson Mayor Becky Campo, Councilman Dominic Farinha and Councilwoman Annette Smith.

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, 2011, in The Bee and the next day in the Patterson Irrigator. He had resigned as city attorney in May 2010, citing medical reasons.

County Counsel John Doering has said his office thinks Logan broke the law and should be prosecuted in criminal court, but the district attorney's office refused to prosecute. Doering on Wednesday did not return a phone call from The Bee. Previously, Logan said only grand jurors, not witnesses, are required to keep testimony secret.

The county counsel's office initially represented the grand jury but backed away because of a potential conflict of interest. County supervisors in December unanimously agreed to let grand jurors spend up to $10,000 hiring private lawyers to go after Logan in civil court.

Logan said the private attorneys removed themselves from the case about two weeks before the civil trial started Tuesday.

Deputy County Counsel Dean Wright represented the grand jurors in court.

According to the Patterson Irrigator, Wright told the judge, "We believe the articles are self-authenticating, and he has not denied he wrote the articles."

Logan said Wednesday that the county counsel should have asked newspaper reporters or editors to testify instead of submitting the articles as evidence. He said the county counsel did not, and the case was dismissed based on the technicality.

In response to the grand jury's report, Smith filed a lawsuit seeking an overhaul of the grand jury system, but a federal judge rejected her complaint in February. The lawsuit claimed that last year's grand jurors acted on behalf of the county when publishing "negative and false statements" about her.

In his order, District Judge Lawrence O'Neill wrote that "grand jury members are not employed by the county." Smith has said she plans to file an amended complaint in federal court.

No comments: