Saturday, May 24, 2008

Innocent men must not only worry about the false accusers but about obstructionist prosecutors as well

A very disturbing allegation out of California. We are all aware of the Durham travesty where an unscrupulous district attorney was bent on destroying three young men for his own political gain. Perhaps that's not an isolated case. Here, an innocent man was convicted of raping a 15-year-old girl. An investigator for defendant's attorney spoke with a man who told her that the girl recanted her accusation against the defendant, but the investigator lost track of the witness. The allegation is that the prosecutor didn't tell the defense counsel that he and his investigator had already found and interviewed Smith.

We may not know all the facts and we won't assume the prosecutor is culpable. But if he was, why would a prosecutor be bent on convicting an innocent man as opposed to a lying false accuser? Sadly, I think I know the answer, and it's a painful one. Rape is a politically correct crime to prosecute. False accusations of rape are not -- they are the district attorney's little dark secret, the crime whose name must not be spoken lest we conjure up the wrath of the radical feminist sexual assault lobby.

In any event, here is the story:

Investigator testifies before state bar that Santa Clara County deputy DA withheld information


By Leslie GriffyMercury News
Article Launched: 05/24/2008 01:39:21 AM PDT

An investigator for the defense in a controversial rape case testified Friday that she was unable to find a witness before an important 2003 hearing. State bar attorneys say the prosecutor could have provided that information, but withheld it on purpose.

Investigator Sandra Coke's testimony about her difficulty finding witness Stephen Smith is key to the state bar case against Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Ben Field, who faces misconduct charges that could lead to his disbarment.

State bar attorney Donald Steeman alleges that Field intentionally withheld Smith's whereabouts from the rape defendant's lawyer because he feared it would hurt his own case. When Smith was eventually located, he provided information that helped lead to dismissal of the rape charge.

But Field's attorney, Allen Ruby, has suggested throughout the unusual hearing this week that Coke and Cliff Gardner knew where Smith was all along, and that he could prove it.

State bar attorneys also allege Field used false or misleading information to arrange several search warrants that were not allowed under the law, and that he disobeyed a judge who ordered Field not to conduct searches without the judge's approval.

The state bar is responsible for evaluating misconduct charges against lawyers in California. While the bar investigates hundreds of complaints against lawyers every year, officials said charges against a prosecutor are extremely rare. Field could be forbiddento practice law if a state bar judge agrees with the charges.

Speaking in a San Francisco bar court Friday, Coke detailed how she and attorney Gardner spent months fruitlessly searching for witness Smith.

Coke acknowledged she interviewed Smith in 2002, but said she then lost track of him and didn't find him again until about a week after Damon Auguste's appeal of a rape conviction had been continued.

Coke said she visited a Fremont address she had found for Smith, tried to contact his mother and interviewed his ex-wife.

Auguste was convicted of raping a 15-year-old girl. In 2002, Coke said Smith told her that, in a conversation with him, the girl recanted her accusation that Auguste raped her. Auguste was eventually released from prison and had his charges reduced to misdemeanors.

On July 18, 2003, Field and Gardner met in Judge James Emerson's chambers to discuss the Auguste case. Gardner told Emerson they weren't ready for a July 28 hearing because they hadn't located Smith.

Field allegedly failed to tell Emerson or Gardner that he and his investigator had already found and interviewed Smith.

But using a July 11, 2003, fax that a research company had sent to Coke with Smith's address, Ruby sought to prove the investigator did know where Smith was at the time of the July 18 hearing.

"When you talked to Mr. Gardner on the 14th you would have told him you had an address for Smith," Ruby asked Coke.

"I may have," she replied, but went on to say that the address faxed to her July 11 was one of many she had been given since she started trying to re-locate Smith in June 2002

"This was not the first address that came out," she said. "This one would not have stood out."

Coke is working for Auguste's family in a civil suit related to the case.