Former Mendocino County prosecutor and long-time Ukiah-based attorney David Eyster says he’s running for Mendocino County District Attorney because, “The current District Attorney is a nice person but she's over her head. The office is dysfunctional. Policies in the office are not clear. Ms. Lintott doesn't go to court as a trial attorney -- which is something I will do differently, among other things.” Eyster says he has “great experience at a very high level dealing with the most serious cases in this county. I will be a hands-on district attorney, which is something [DA Lintott] is not. It will be a new experience for the deputy DAs in that office. I know how a good, well-managed office can run and the benefits that flow from that for both public safety and for law enforcement. Currently, the District Attorney’s office is dysfunctional. There are cases being prosecuted that should not be prosecuted and others not being prosecuted that should be. It creates problems for the entire criminal justice system: the police, the district attorney's office, the courts, the public defender's office -- and the taxpayers of Mendocino County. Serious crimes are being ineffectively prosecuted. There also seems to be an emphasis by the current district attorney to go after business owners, ranchers, and farmers in an attempt to get money through Fish and Game actions, water-related actions. I'm not sure that the District Attorney's office should be playing the role of an alternate taxation authority, and that's what it's doing.”
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Do you think it's a drawback that you look somewhat like Al Gore?
Eyster: You're the only person who's said that.
What were the circumstances of your leaving the District Attorney's Office under Susan Massini?
It was March 28, 1996. In the long run, it was beneficial to me. But of course in the short run it was quite traumatic. All my performance evaluations from Massini were outstanding; she always rated me greater than the invention of sliced bread. But we had a fundamental disagreement on how the Hell's Angels case was going to be prosecuted.
(Note: the Hells Angels case was a high profile “cold case” that saw the murder of a Fort Bragg family by members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. But the question of who actually did the murders soon complicated matters as members of the gang started pointing fingers at one another once the case began its travels through the local courts. The case was ultimately tried four times over a period of years, with the first two trials ending up with hung juries. Finally one gang member was convicted when Massini herself prosecuted the first half of the case. The second gang member was convicted by a prosecutor from the State Attorney General’s Office. The first trial of Gerald Lester [president of the Vallejo Chapter of the Hell’s Angels] that ended with a hung jury was tried by Bob Maloney, the contract attorney brought in to replace me on the case. Massini then did the second trial of Gerald Lester that also ended up as a hung jury. On the third attempt, Lester was convicted. Later, the Attorney General (Deputy Attorney General Michael O’Reilly) refiled charges against Charles Diaz, the Vice-President of the Vallejo Chapter, charges that had been dismissed by Massini, and ultimately obtained a conviction against Diaz. Diaz was accused of being the man who slit the throat of the 4-year old daughter of the adult victims.)
Susan Massini was bringing incredible levels of politics into the office at that time. She was running for judge at that time against Ron Brown. Her husband came in to see me and said, 'You can be District Attorney if you support my wife for judge.' I complained about that to others in the county and then Massini and her husband denied his involvement had happened. And all of a sudden I was 'delusional.' She and I finally got into it. After promising me the resources necessary to win, the commitment she ultimately made to the Hell’s Angels case with me at the helm was insufficient to win it. That case took a lot of work. I had to present how I would prosecute that case in front of a room of other attorneys, DEA, the Sheriff's office, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms people... To me it was not so much a case of who did it, but how would we prove it. I made a presentation to the various law enforcement agencies at a joint meeting here in Ukiah -- an hour of a kind of chalk talk -- and I received a standing ovation when I finished. Massini then asked me what I needed to win. I told her I would need an additional attorney, a law clerk, this, that. etc. She agreed to all of what I said I would need, but then I got none of it. The defense had four attorneys, three investigators; they had a good team. I was getting killed. So I went to her and said, 'Either we commit to winning this or I will not stick around to do it.' Just to give you an idea, the preliminary hearing on that case took almost two months. Typically, preliminary hearings are less than a day. We argued about that case and resources. Basically, she wanted me to commit to staying on no matter what.
I think Susan thought I was eventually going to run against her. She might have thought that giving such a big case to me and letting me be successful would be a political threat. I am pretty sure she saw the 'Ron Brown for Judge' sticker on my car when she pulled into her parking space each morning. My then wife had a 'Ron Brown for Judge' lawn sign in front of our house. So I was the senior attorney in the District Attorney's Office and I was supporting Massini’s opponent for judge. I stood on my principles and she finally fired me. Maybe a better word would be purged. The police involved were very upset. The defense attorneys, folks I had been at odds with, thought that it was wrong. But probably 99% of the prosecutors in that office, my friends, my co-workers, never talked to me again. It opened my eyes somewhat to the way the bigger world operates.
If you had a big case today, do you think that experience would affect how you’d handle it?
Susan wanted the Hell’s Angel case to be a death penalty case and I did not. If you have a death penalty case, lots of resources flow to the defense. And it becomes tougher to prove because you need a death-qualified [jury] panel. I was going to have a tough time proving that case as a regular murder case. But she wanted the death penalty. Remember that when it was all said and done and she took over the case, she dropped the death penalty. But I learned that you don't take on big cases like that unless you are committed to win them. That's a fundamental in anything in life. In any business you're in, when you are going to take on a big assignment, when you decide to go for it, it's in for a dime, in for a dollar.
I gather from some cops and a few others that you are perceived now as the pot-friendly candidate. You are a defense attorney. You are defending pot growers.
[Laughs.] I will say that I am the more compassionate candidate. I believe I'm more sympathetic. I am very sympathetic to people coming into my office and saying, ‘I have no clue what I am allowed to do and what I am not allowed to do because they keep monkeying with the laws.’ People come into my office and tell me that they are trying to do their marijuana activity within the law but it keeps changing on them. And they are right. Ms. Lintott and Mr. Finnegan are not sympathetic to that. They think it is all just cut and dry. Well, I'm sorry. Most marijuana people are nice people. I'm referring to locals. I'm not talking about the people who come in from out of county thinking they can just grow some marijuana or they can rip off some marijuana. But I am sympathetic to the way the laws keep changing and of the difficulty people have knowing what's legal and what's not. I think it's outrageous that possession of methamphetamine can be a wobbler [either a misdemeanor or a felony], but marijuana cultivation is always a straight felony.
You mean commercial?
No. Cultivation is a felony.
So that's how trimmers get charged with felonies?
Mr. Finnegan said in your paper, I believe: 'Go on a vacation in Mendocino County and come home with a felony.' I don't think that's right.
How would you handle trimmers?
We have to explain to people before they get here, perhaps in a press release or something. Mendocino County is not a place you should come to as a marijuana playground.
I don't think the doofuses who come here to trim bud are going to be reading press releases from the District Attorney's office.
You may be right. And 'doofuses' is probably the right term for them. Many of them are just limited people being taken advantage of by some large marijuana grower. I have asked the cops to try to move up the ladder a little bit if it's really a commercial operation and there’s an out-of-town property owner growing and selling large amounts of marijuana...
So are you saying that you’d drop the charges on the trimmers?
What I'm trying to say is that you have to review cases very carefully before you bring the charges. Meredith Lintott and Matt Finnegan think that just because the cops arrest someone, you have to charge them. I don't agree with that. Cops have certain things they have to do. The District Attorney's office is the gatekeeper. The DA decides who and what ultimately gets charged. That's where discretion begins. Just because the cops arrested 15 trimmers yesterday on some ranch, doesn't mean that tomorrow we have to charge 15 trimmers with felonies in court. So obviously, we have to look at cases before we charge them. And yes, that means that sometimes people will not be in jail sitting around waiting for the charging decision. Such a decision also should not take forever. Clearly, the system cannot afford to have all these marijuana people coming into it now. I was on a 12-defendant trimmer case recently. They all were charged with two felonies and a gun enhancement. When it was all said and done they each got misdemeanor possession, no probation, a $160 fine plus $75 in attorney fees. If our District Attorney is content on charging felonies on these types of cases, having large numbers of defense attorneys appointed at great taxpayer expense, and then after months of litigation dropping the felonies and settling for $235 in fines and fees, it continues to be my opinion that the cost of doing business this way is not worth the effort and end result. More importantly, the taxpayers of Mendocino County end up being the biggest losers.
Don't they have to be charged as felonies?
The DA let them plead to possession of more than an ounce of marijuana, misdemeanors. If that's what you're going to do to resolve a case, then do that at the start and be done with it. Of course, if you have people showing up here with strong criminal records, you have to look at that background. People with lengthy criminal records are not the same as kids just out for the adventure or a few quick bucks. So you have to look at people with serious records differently. You might bring people from out of the area into the office -- with their attorney if they prefer -- and explain to them that they simply cannot be doing this kind of thing in Mendocino County. This is called DA diversion. We really don't want you coming up here and helping out-of-town landowners with their large marijuana grows. I don't want to see your name again. You don't see these trimmers typically connected with small local growers. From talking to some of my clients I know the bigger picture. I know who is paying them and I know where the money is coming from.
Norm Vroman used to say that there was a difference between a criminal and a lawbreaker.
You can call them naive or screw-ups. Whatever. Sometimes they have mental health problems. I remember once upon a time when we charged people with felonies because we wanted them to be considered for state prison, not because you simply wanted to leverage them into a plea bargain. We used to have people we would charge with misdemeanors and they wouldn't get the message and they would continue in their misconduct or elevate their criminal behavior. There comes a point obviously when you have to consider felonies for those people. After 25 years in this business I have seen the full range of criminal behavior. But yes, I guess I am more compassionate than I was when I was a young bull prosecutor.
Isn't there an awful lot of subjectivity in pot arrests these days?
There is a lot subjectivity and that’s because the cops are in the same [subjective] boat as the people who are out there trying to be legal.
Why couldn't there be a simple cover sheet on marijuana arrests which looks like a checklist where the person arrested gets an opportunity to disagree if they want to? Wouldn't that be simpler? Isn't there a lot of subjectivity in pot arrests these days?
There is a lot subjectivity and that’s because the cops are in the same boat as the people who are out there trying to be legal. Checklists have a habit of starting out small and then getting bigger and bigger.
But if you are in charge of it why can't you keep it from growing?
Because the creative lawyers will always take advantage of things like that and use them as part of their defense and find the weak link. They'll say that there are things missing from the checklist, so things get added. These days, cops are charging people with possession for sale on almost every case. There used to be criteria for that charge: pay-and-owe sheets, scales, large amounts of cash, a brand-new Hummer but unemployed, big screen TV, tickets for a trip to Hawaii, something that shows some form of cash accumulation. Now I don’t see in the police reports much of an effort to find that kind of evidence and, instead, they simply say, 'Well there's a lot of marijuana here. 'But to the credit of law enforcement, I know of two specific cases last year that got raided by cops who you would call 'aggressive' and the cops walked away after finding everything was legit. The documentation was on hand. The plant count was okay. They walked away, which was the right thing to do. The Sheriff calls those compliance checks. Frankly, I would like to get marijuana off the top of the list of topics that law enforcement has to deal with in Mendocino County. The marijuana caseload is nearly breaking the criminal justice system here in Mendocino County.
Everybody says they're against domestic violence, against child abuse, against elder abuse, violent crimes, property crimes, etc. Marijuana tends to be the area where people disagree. So people naturally focus on that. You have asset forfeiture. You have the nuisance questions. Civil penalties. Criminal penalties. Changing laws... It does need discussion.
The problem in the District Attorney's office currently is how they use the court system. The current District Attorney is charging everything and throwing good and bad cases into the court system, saying: We will figure this out later.
I know of some cases where people are charged but nothing is happening on their cases. They descend into limbo wondering what's going to happen. Their legal bills mount. If the case can sit after charging for a year or two, why is it so serious?
I agree. There are very few reasons for a normal case to sit around over a year, whether it's before charging or after. What police want is for cases that enter the system to be taken seriously. They know the facts of the case. They want to know the status of cases. Too often, there is little trial preparation by the prosecutors and the police have complained to me that they are not even spoken to before they are called to the witness stand to testify. They want to see a case handled properly with standard trial preparation. So you have to use your discretion to make sure that the cases you allow into the system get the time and attention they need to be properly prosecuted. At present, there are too many cases coming into the system without adequate thought given to each of them ahead of time. The courthouse has become a big box with a bunch of cases thrown in to it. And, later, when the prosecutors start paying attention to what has been thrown into that box, they start throwing cases out, cases that should not have been allowed through the 'gate' to begin with. Some of those are cases that may have sat around for five months in the system with costs running up, investigators, public defenders, private attorneys, probation… And then they get dismissed, or they get small fines, or they get reduced to minor charges. Whatever. Then why were those cases filed and brought into the system to begin with?
The current District Attorney also says that she can't provide statistics on the nature of cases or how they are handled because the case management system is too cumbersome to do that.
I was instrumental in overseeing the installation of the case management system the DA’s Office is currently using. That happened while I was in the District Attorney's Office. I think that was in the late 80s.
She says that it doesn't provide the necessary information and statistics.
Then she needs to get a better computer person. The J-LAN system is old at this point. But I was the person in the District Attorney's Office back then who made sure that that system had what we needed. You can get the information you need out of it if you know what you are doing.
[Last Friday DA Lintott was the guest on KZYX’s Friday morning public affairs show with Karen Ottoboni. Ottoboni asked her about the accusation that she was not charging consistently. DA Lintott replied:
“Norm Vroman did not read every case. There's no way the District Attorney can read all the cases. As to the charge that there is inconsistency, and that my opponents are going to read every single case, that's not possible. 7,000 cases come in every year. They are not going to sit around reading every DUI case, every suspended license case; that would be a waste of the elected District Attorney’s time. You have deputy DAs who are trained to do it. Drunk driving cases are standard cases, perhaps higher levels of alcohol, children in the car, those call for enhancements. Deputy District Attorneys handle those, with supervision, and we have a Chief Deputy, we have an Assistant Attorney, we have myself. And we have our senior deputies, the deputy DA IVs -- they assist in training and showing the younger deputies how these charges work. In the criminal law world these are not the most difficult. Same thing with many of our misdemeanor type cases. There's not a large injury, but we clearly have a wrong that needs to be righted by the criminal justice system. There are standard charges and standard sentences when you are looking at domestic violence. Things of that nature. It's a sad but truthfully large portion of our caseload. Those things are straightforward and consistent. So I would say the public should be satisfied that this is being taken care of. When you step into the felony realm, typically the chief is looking at what we call the in-custodys, The cases that have to be charged out right away. Someone's been arrested. So the chief who has over 20 years experience and is a top-notch prosecutor, or the assistant, also over 20 years, is going to be looking at those. All right? And I'm going to be consulted. And I'm going to be looking at those. So that's sort of the other end of the types of cases that are going to come in. Then you have the cases that are coming in on a regular basis but don't have the pressure of the time limit. Those cases are looked at by the attorneys who are assigned to them. We have two teams that we have established, A Team and B Team, according to the courtrooms. And within our teams, we have people who tend to focus more on the sex crimes or the gang crimes, the drug-related crimes. So we are talking about very experienced prosecutors. You have to be able to trust their work. They obviously need to be supervised by people who have spent years on it. There are very standard ways we can handle these cases. I think this claim that this is about inconsistency is simply a way to make noise in the news and it's not about running a good, solid District Attorney's Office which is what I have been doing for the County of Mendocino for the past three years."]
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Eyster: What does she do then? That sounds like a lot of people are doing charging. And that's where a lot of the inconsistency comes in.
But a charge of inconsistency in the District Attorney's Office is hard to prove.
Of course. It's subjective. I don't have any proof. I rely on my experience and the experience of others. All this stuff is hard to prove. For proof, you would have to go back and do statistics. Instead, you can simply look at cases where one prosecutor charged one way and another charged another. As a defense attorney, what we all see is that one prosecutor charges a case and you get a disposition of A. Then you get another prosecutor charging a similar case and you get a completely different disposition.
I was the first person in Mendocino County to be a deputy DA-IV. I did all the charging. I was the most senior trial attorney. I was doing the Hell's Angels case. Susan Massini did not do a lot of charging. She did not need to. She had me. We did not pass it all around. It was basically being done by me. Until I figure out who is going to be my David Eyster in my office, a person I can depend on, I will do my own charging. Meredith says it's a waste of DA resources to have the District Attorney doing the charging? I don't think so.
The most experienced person should review the cases and make sure it's being done right, to make sure the assignments are correct. There is more than just charging. Meredith’s radio interview talked about Team A and Team B and categories of crimes. So she is letting cases be assigned based on which court a defendant’s matter is assigned. That's letting the court decide the District Attorney’s assignments. When cases came in when I was making the charging decisions, we made sure that we assigned cases properly and that the most experienced attorneys got the tougher cases. Especially felony cases. We had people who did prelims, a lower level, less experienced group of prosecutors. And then you had the more senior ones pick them up for trial. That way you get two different people’s viewpoints on the case also. And the younger ones get educated as the case proceeds.
If it's a really big case, then that could be vertically prosecuted where someone takes it from beginning to end. I personally don't think people should be specialized and focused primarily on certain kinds of crimes. I don't like that. In a small county I prefer Deputy District Attorneys who are firemen who can do all types of cases and put out the legal fires wherever and whenever they are needed. You lose flexibility with specialization. You don't want people waiting around for certain kinds of cases to come in or charging bad cases just to justify their position. Sometimes the grants restrict the kinds of cases people can work on. If you sell your soul and you take the grants then you have to be willing to accept the good with the bad. But in general, we need generalists.
Some marijuana growers say that the system at present is arbitrary. That people can just come onto their property and have their marijuana declared a nuisance and taken. And no due process.
There are criminal nuisances and there are civil nuisances.
I think Pinches was talking about the criminal nuisances when he suggested that the cops simply take the excess marijuana, charge them a fine, and be done with it. Why can't that be done?
Because we have a Constitution. It requires that certain rules be followed.
But nobody else on the board was interested.
Mr. Pinches should be commended for thinking outside the box. The marijuana situation now presents a new age. We cannot continue doing business as usual. We can't afford it. Anyone who's willing to ask questions and come up with interesting ideas should be commended. And it should get serious consideration. I hope Supervisor Pinches pursues his ideas with County Counsel Jeanine Nadel and if she needs input from the District Attorney's office then she should get it. The District Attorney can also ask the Attorney General for an opinion. County Counsel can also do that. Anyone can do that. If the Attorney General considers it to be a matter of statewide interest than he can assign some staff to it and develop a formal opinion.
Who are your supporters these days -- your political and financial supporters?
I have grassroots support. The same people who have been supporting me all along. Skip and Barbara Newell of Performance Coatings. Retired police chief Ron Caudillo from Willits. Former Assistant DA Keith Faulder. Captain Smallcomb at the Sheriff's office. Recently retired Sheriff's lieutenant Ron Welch from Willits. Former employees of the District Attorney's Office like Emily Valentini, Raylene Neustel; others who have worked with me. Emily was big in politics for a long time. She's a pistol. I rely on her. She has the history of the DA's office in her head. A very smart woman. Raleigh Vroman [widow of former DA Norm Vroman]. Norm and I didn't get along on everything but I did consider him a friend. I liked Norm because he was a straight shooter; he didn't tell you things just because he thought you wanted to hear them. I hope to get the endorsement of the County employees union – SEIU Local 1021. We went through a process with them recently. I think I'm supported by businessmen, ranchers, vineyard folks -- a cross section.
I gather that the morale in the District Attorney's Office is not the best it could be.
It's tough to have good morale in a dysfunctional office. It's tough when leadership is not very good. It's tough when you know more about what's going on than your boss does. That is not a good situation.
Do you have an opinion on the way the Denoyer case was handled?
I think the prosecutor on that case is well known to be an animal activist and animal lover. When you assign a prosecutor to a case, you do not want them to have emotional, financial or personal attachments to it. You want them to be objective and legal about it. I thought her assignment to the Denoyer case was wrong. It should not have happened, because she has preconceived, not to say wrong, beliefs. She is a little more than just your average animal lover.
One of the jurors in the case complained in a letter to the editor that there should not have been 36 separate felonies charged in that case, one for each starving horse.
This goes back to experienced charging. An experienced prosecutor does not go through a report looking for how many crimes he or she can charge. That's not the name of the game. Instead, the charging attorney has to ask, What is this case really about? What does justice require? If you file all those charges, it makes the District Attorney's Office look dumb if you are going to resolve it at a much lower level either by a plea arrangement or by jury verdict. In that case, the office looks foolish resolving a case for one felony, or even one misdemeanor, when it started with 36 felonies. That's what we call splash charging. The charging decision and resulting accusatory pleading creates a great splash, especially in a high-profile case, and then, what do you do? You have the publicity, but now you are painted into a corner. It's kind of like Bruce Anderson’s case when we started with 13 charges for what may have been one punch? Or a push? I once had a child molest case where the DA’s Office came up with 54 charges. 52 of those were felonies and then they threw in two misdemeanors. Why? 52 felonies were not sufficient?
I followed a case once where the prosecutor was charging a pot grower with failure to pay workers compensation and tax avoidance. I thought that was pretty silly. If they had a decent pot case why not just charge it as that?
If you do the core business of the office – protecting public safety -- you'll stay plenty busy in Mendocino County. You don't have to go out and manufacture novel charges. You don't need new interpretations to allow for more charges. This gets back to having someone with experience at the helm and making the charging decisions. One of the advantages of being directly involved in the charging is that you know who people are and you get to see patterns. I was responsible for charging for eight years. I walk around this town today and I see people I know from those days. And they know me. They remember my name on the charging sheet. You get to know who you should be somewhat sympathetic with and who you should not be. You know when cases were not pursued in the past but the person is now claiming that it's their first offense when in fact you gave them a break one time before. When you get a package for charging, it has to have the police report, a charging sheet, a rap sheet, and an index from the DA’s internal records. Charging is not as time-consuming as Meredith Lintott says. She's correct that much of it is standard and conventional. Meredith says that she has to do some charges under a time deadline. Well, that doesn't mean that you can't let someone out and decide what the charges will be later. Especially if it's not a serious crime. I had a little dispute with Tiffany Revelle at the Daily Journal the other day when she wrote that I was advocating "premature releases." I don't think I said that. The point is that some people think that if a cop arrests somebody, the DA must charge them. No, not necessarily. The cops arrest and they turn it over to the DA’s Office and the prosecutors then apply discretion, if appropriate. Cops used to complain about my charging at times. Okay. Fine. Come see me. Let's talk about it. I'm not perfect. If I made a mistake I will fix it. Sometimes the elected District Attorney uses the fact that charging is done by someone else to avoid having to answer questions. 'Oh, I didn't know we were doing that. I will look into it.' It gives the elected DA a certain distance so he or she doesn’t have to be directly responsible for his or her office’s decisions. If you are an inexperienced District Attorney and you want to cover yourself, just let others do the charging for you because you can say you don't know about the particulars. You then have an opportunity to look into it and give an explanation later. But if you're the District Attorney and you have done the charging then you simply explain why you did what you did. It's much simpler. You can give examples of other cases in explaining why you made a particular charging decision. One of the important criteria to be considered in making charging decisions is 'jury appeal.' Jury trial experience is pretty much the only way you can measure what has jury appeal. Given her lack of jury trial experience, how can Meredith know anything about jury appeal? Meredith is a nice person but she's in over her head as this county's District Attorney. She simply does not have the experience I bring to the table. She does not have the qualifications I bring to the table. Talk about morale in the District attorneys office? What does a young attorney do when he or she goes to the boss with a trial question or about a problem and the boss cannot answer the question because she lacks experience?
How can someone like you whose recent experience is all defense work suddenly turn around and be a prosecutor?
It's a constitutional job. It just depends on which side of the Constitution you're working on. As a District Attorney, you are defending the rights of the community and the victims. As a defense attorney you are defending the rights of the individual which in turn, in the long run, protects the community also.
I thought you might have said that you would be a better prosecutor by understanding defense tactics.
That's part of it. I was talking philosophically. You are talking about practical considerations. I’m a better defense attorney because I understand prosecution tactics so, yes, I will be a better District Attorney because of my understanding of defense tactics.
Are you familiar at all with the pot bust they did at Dan and Laura Hamburg’s property couple of years ago?
Somewhat. When I was a prosecutor I routinely went to crime scenes for homicides, officer involved shootings, and very violent and serious crimes. I don't recall ever going on a marijuana search warrant. Yet here we had two deputy DAs, Matt Finnegan and Lee Nerli at a pot grow? The problem in the Hamburg case was what they put in the search warrant or, perhaps, what they didn’t put in the warrant. It is always better to put more information in a search warrant than less. It's always better to tell the whole story and try to avoid leaving things out that will subject the warrant to later attack in the suppression proceedings.
What about the potential that if you don't rush in and get the evidence [the marijuana], it might disappear?
That might be true. But with search warrant situations, you're allowed to have people stand by while the search warrant is being prepared. I don't think there's much risk of a panic harvest. In the Hamburg case, Judge Luther had to decide whether the information that was not included in the warrant would have affected the magistrate’s decision to sign it. And the answer was Yes. I was taught that the job of the District Attorney is to do justice. What we had with Finnegan and Nerli out there was that they were acting like wannabe cops looking for a trophy. They were not acting like DAs tasked with doing justice. As soon as you become a wannabe cop, you have lost your focus as a prosecutor.
At one point in the budget hearings, Ms. Lintott said that one of the factors driving her budget was the number of motions the defense attorneys were filing. And that was running up the amount of work she had to do to prosecute cases.
Damn those defense attorneys for trying to defend their clients and trying to ensure things are legal! If you file legitimate cases and not trash, you will have less motions and less work.
I know of a case where felony pot and gun charges were filed more than a year ago but nothing happened for months. It was recently settled for a minor misdemeanor.
This is another example where the defendant was charged with possession of a lot of marijuana and felon in possession of a firearm. And then it’s resolved as a misdemeanor. So, were the prosecutors really serious about this? The system simply cannot afford to have felony charges like this pending in the court for a long time and then resolve it at a very reduced level. Those kinds of dispositions embolden the defense attorneys. Defense attorneys see this weakness and just keep working on the prosecutors, running up the cost for the defendants, dragging thing out, and eventually, the felonies disappear. And if they do not disappear, the DA is left wondering why one defense attorney wants to go to trial because another defense attorney had similar charges on his or her case dismissed. The question becomes what’s the difference between the two cases? Which brings us back to the question of consistency. Inconsistency is a manifestation of inexperience.