DOJ

Friday, September 4, 2015 – 09:00 a.m.

This week the San Bernardino County District Attorney announced the filing of charges against three out of ten suspended sheriff’s deputies involved in the apprehension and assault on Francis Pusok.

Even though prosecutors say those charged “could” receive anywhere from 10 to 36 months imprisonment, the single underlying charge filed against all three provides for a maximum punishment of 12 months imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.

All three defendants likely have no prior offenses.

The charge of Penal Code section 149, assault under color of authority, is known as a “wobbler”. The term means it can be disposed of as a felony or misdemeanor.

One can easily see a disposition in this case as no jail time, a hefty fine and probation, with the underlying theme being the deputies lost their careers.

Whether that outcome is appropriate is in the eye of the beholder.

The last major District Attorney prosecution involving the sheriff’s department involved a pay and training fraud scandal, where seven employees were indicted.

Because of the high potential that others could be implicated, the case was ultimately “slow-walked”, meaning a significant time was allowed to pass before all the felonies were reduced to misdemeanors or dropped.

Since then all convictions were dismissed and expunged.

The same outcome is possible here.

After all, Pusok garnered a $650,000 settlement from the county. His defense lawyers will likely pick his pocket of most of that sum fighting the long list of charges thrown at him.

One thing about the timing of the announcement.

It did undercut potential coverage of the now “quietly” unfolding of an alleged cover-up of abuse and neglect allegations swirling around the county Children and Family Services Agency.

Will the U.S. Justice Department, which has its own criminal investigation, be satisfied with all this?