“I am always troubled when the publicity regarding a case exceeds the evidence,” Levenson said. “It creates these incredibly high expectations, and it’s very damaging to the defendants, and we don’t even know if the evidence will support the charges.”
Laurie LevensonFormer Federal Prosecutor and Professor of LawLoyola Law School(Excerpt from article printed in The Sun on 08/26/2010)
Sunday, September 26, 2010 – 3:00 p.m.
Last Updated: September 26, 2010 – 9:00 p.m.
What a difference six months can make.
After nearly a year and a half of making claims of political retaliation. The facts seem to be coming home to roost.
The defendants in the alleged conspiracy case involving the $102 million dollar settlement between the County of San Bernardino and Colonies Partners have now received substantial evidence in the case, including the grand jury testimony of current and former county supervisors, former county administrative officer Mark Uffer and his moral and ethical compass, various county staffers, and other witnesses.
The best word for me to describe what I have read is “amazing”.
By the use of the word amazing, I mean, how could any legitimate law enforcement agency in their right mind level allegations, let alone bring charges, against any person with the so-called evidence they have?
Without getting into detailed discussion of grand jury testimony evidence and angering some attorneys, here are my observations.
The bulk of the thousands of pages of grand jury transcripts and other evidence such as recordings, transcripts, emails and text messages unleashed by San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos and Attorney General Jerry Brown over the past two months, show a prosecution team desperate for headlines and grandstanding.
For those of you out there wondering why Former county assessor Bill Postmus and I were charged with numerous felonies, and five others referred to as “John Does 1-5” were not, the answer is now clear.
There is no evidence. After all, there’s either a conspiracy or their isn’t. The evidence either supports the charging of all seven or none of the seven.
Commonsense right? Not here.
But, charging the remaining John Does would be taking on people, who are viewed as truly have the means to defend themselves, and would aggressively do so.
Ramos and Brown probably don’t have the stomach to do that.
They also figured since Postmus and I were already charged and thus damaged goods, the downside on our arrests would be minimal. A national news conference and great election headlines for both Brown and Ramos appears to be the sole purpose. Ramos secured reelection in June. Brown faces a tough battle in November against Meg Whitman.
The meltdown of his first show-piece alleged corruption case might be enough to help Whitman blow a hole in Brown’s campaign.
The new problem for Brown is that he didn’t expect this case to start falling apart until after November. Yet it has now began.
To put it simply, several individuals, their families and businesses have all been damaged because of the politics of Ramos and Brown. Both men could care less though.
Now some general points about the evidence.
The Colonies litigation and related-law is a complicated area and required people to take the time read and understand the issues in detail, which based on the testimony of many, clearly did not occur.
County staff, including former administrative officer Uffer, county land use, flood control, real estate services employees, and county attorneys displayed limited knowledge of the legal issues involving county easements and their ultimate extinguishment by surcharge. An appalling display of incompetence to say the least.
Phraseology such as, it was my understanding; or that’s what I heard; and No, I don’t have any first-hand knowledge; were characteristic.
The commonsense hiring of county staff with appropriate subject matter expertise went out the door twenty years ago, thus the need for consultants galore to handle complex county functions and tasks. For San Bernardino County, the era of in-house brain power is long gone.
For example, the in-house ability to draft and execute a decent RFP or request for proposal doesn’t exist. Ask county adminsitrative officer Greg Devereaux. He’s finding out just how little his high-paid staff really knows.
But, what is even more clear is the fact that prosecutors didn’t have a clue as to the legal concepts involved and what questions to ask witnesses regarding their own investigation. Nor did they seek out experts to assist them.
Transcripts filled with innuendo, speculation, hearsay, and opinion rule the day. The concept of fact-based questioning seems to have went down the toilet in one gigantic flush.
Most of the prosecution witnesses make statements which actually aid the defense.
Prosecutors only sought to capitalize on the animosity and hatred various individuals had for one another, and they did. They even went as far as to use two people to try and extract information from targets, who were already represented by counsel.
Using an agent against a represented target throws the rules of evidence out the door. But all rules in this case were thrown out long ago.
Staging recorded interview questions and answers involving the cases key witness, who appears to even had an assigned investigator-handler, is a mockery of what the justice system is supposed to stand for.
A main constitutional freedom understood by most of citizens of this country, the right of free speech, in other words the “First Amendment”, seems to have somehow skipped prosecutors minds. The right to participate in the political process, campaign contributions and all, is one of the most protected rights under the law, and a standard that our founding fathers were determined to ensure.
Please see “Constitutional Law 101”.
On another front, sources say the materials subject to attorney-client and mediation privilege, will only aid the defense, not the prosecution. As you will recall, Ramos and Brown engaged in another media spectacle over their offices seeking of the material.
From the onset, this case was all about the means to an end. Not the truth.
It’s even questionable as to whether or not prosecutors ever thought they would have to try any of the cases. A calculated risk at best. Reckless disregard and worst.
Several months ago a close source told me that Ramos and his staff expected all of their targets would be forced into plea bargain arrangements. The DA employeee was described as arrogant. Arrogance as if going to a western standoff.
The prevailing belief being that all the defendants wouldn’t want to be embarrassed in open court.
News alert here: The embarrassment has already happened and secondly no crime was committed.