A look at closing briefs; Alexander’s fate hangs in balance
Closing arguments filed recently in Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander’s State Bar trial are a study in contrast.
The DA’s 62-page brief contends the prosecution failed to prove its charges and had discriminated against him by filing them in the first place.
The Bar’s 37-page brief contends that, based on the evidence presented during the October trial in San Francisco, Alexander should be convicted and disbarred for repeated unethical acts.
The decision is now in the hands of Judge Lucy Armendariz, who must render a verdict by April 11.
The charges stem from a $14,000 loan given to a probation officer when Alexander was a public defender, receiving a $6,000 loan from a defense attorney, and discussing a case with a defendant without her lawyer present.
Here is a closer look at some of the contentions in the closing arguments of the DA and the State Bar:
Loan to Sanford
Each brief goes into length referring to case law and witness testimony surrounding the three acts that are at the heart of the seven charges brought against Alexander.
The first act addressed is a $14,000 loan given in 2009, while Alexander was a public defender, to assistant probation officer Linda Sanford to help her avoid bankruptcy and losing her home.
This loan is the basis for two of the State Bar’s seven charges against Alexander: improper loan to a court employee and corruption and moral turpitude.
Alexander’s brief references a State Bar rule that giving or lending to a judge, official or employee of a court is allowed if a personal or family relationship exists wherein gifts are customarily given or exchanged.
Sanford on several occasions gave Alexander gifts during their friendship, including cash for gas and pet food for Alexander, several used suits estimated to be worth $8,500, and a Salvadore Dali lithograph estimated to be worth $4,500, Alexander’s brief asserts.
It references Sanford’s testimony that she considers Alexander to be like a brother.
Alexander also contends Sanford is not an employee of the court by definition, so the rule regarding gift exchanging is not applicable to their relationship. The State Bar’s stance is that Sanford is an employee of the court.
The Bar contends that although the two are friends, they have never exchanged gifts worth anywhere near $14,000. The Bar contends that as a result of the loan, Sanford wrote presentence investigation reports that were favorable to Alexander’s cases either as a prosecutor or a defense attorney and that Alexander attempted to conceal the loan.
The Bar highlights two cases involving Alexander in which Sanford wrote reports.
One regards a domestic violence case involving a parolee. District Attorney Katherine Micks testified Sanford’s report seemed uncharacteristically lenient and that, although Micks was unaware of the loan at the time, she suspected it resulted from Sanford and Alexander’s close relationship, according to the Bar brief.
Had Micks known about the loan, she would have suggested another probation officer, states the Bar brief.
Alexander’s brief contends that the defendant in the case did exceptionally well during and after probation.
Overall, it asserts that considering Sanford only occasionally produced reports and if Alexander wanted to bribe an official, then “he picked the wrong horse.”
The Bar also stated that both Sanford and Alexander failed to inform anyone of the loan.
It draws on testimony from former Del Norte Judge Robert Weir and current Judge William Follett, who agreed a loan between the two was a matter of concern.
Weir testified that the type of loan doesn’t "look good "and should have been disclosed, states the Bar brief.
He testified that a prosecutor would want to know about such a loan and that it would raise questions about the partiality of a probation officer’s decisions, states the Bar brief.
Alexander’s brief also draws from Follett’s testimony, when he was asked about being concerned after learning of the loan and stated “I really wasn’t. I knew that they had a close personal relationship and I had known that for quite some time. So as a judge, when I know people have close personal relationships that’s something I often will keep in mind if I think something is going askew ... I never had occasion to think that was going on with any cases that were appearing before me that involved Ms. Sanford and Mr. Alexander.”
The Bar contends Alexander did not begin asking Sanford for repayment until the loan “became a public scandal.”
An e-mail exchange between Sanford and Alexander provided to the Triplicate shows that Alexander began asking for repayment of the loan in January 2011, shortly after he was sworn in as district attorney.
The Bar filed charges in May 2012. It also referenced the same e-mail exchange as proof that such a loan would allow Alexander to send a “really ugly” e-mail to Sanford, which asserted “insidious” influence over her.
Loan from Mavris
The second act that the State Bar used to filed another count of corruption and moral turpitude revolves around a loan from defense attorney George Mavris and a subsequent dismissal by Alexander of a misdemeanor case against Jackie Zlokovich, who was represented by Mavris.
Mavris loaned Alexander $6,000 in December 2010, which was repaid shortly after.
Alexander became DA the following month and dismissed child concealment and obstruction of a police officer charges against Zlokovich in March.
Zlokovich picked up a child from preschool after observing her mother being arrested, then took the child to a family friend’s house after getting authorization from the child’s father. She refused to tell police or the child’s grandfather where she took the child and lied to the pre-school staff that she was authorized to pick up the child, according to court documents.
The State Bar contends that Alexander failed to notify the court of the loan Mavris gave to Alexander and that Mavris was representing Alexander in State Bar matters. It further states that Alexander dismissed the case in the face of a conflict of interest.
Alexander’s brief contends there is no rule or law that states Alexander must recuse himself from a case under the circumstances and that the Zlockovich case was unprovable.
Talking to defendant
The third act the State Bar used to file charges of communication with a represented party, moral turpitude and corruption, suppression of evidence and incompetent legal services revolves around a taped conversation in 2011 between Alexander and a defendant he was prosecuting in a drug case.
Michelle Taylor met with Alexander about a meth case in order to confess drugs that were found during a traffic stop were hers and not Damion Van Parks’, who was a codefendant in the case. Last year, Taylor told the Triplicate she was unaware she had an audio recorder in a coat she wore, claiming that Van Parks snuck the device into the pocket.
The Bar states Alexander improperly met with Taylor, concealed information that would have exculpated a co-defendant in the case, allowed the co-defendant to be incarcerated without informing the court about the information, dismissed the case against the co-defendant and then attempted to dispose of the Taylor case through “low-ball settlement” offers.
Alexander’s brief contends that the tape of the conversation between Alexander and Taylor, which Alexander did not know was being recorded, must be excluded. It also states that Alexander had permission to speak with Taylor and that his conduct was legal since Taylor sought him out.
The Bar contends that if Alexander did have permission to speak with Taylor then he would have been expecting her for a meeting instead of being caught off guard like a “deer in headlights,” as his testimony related.
Prosecutors also drew from defense attorney Leroy Davies’ testimony that he was not surprised that Alexander spoke to Taylor outside of the presence of her attorney, Darren McElfresh, because “he does it all the time.”
Davies was the attorney who delivered a copy of the audio recording to the District Attorney’s Office after Van Parks gave it to him in August 2011, the Bar states.
Alexander failed to remember the conversation when asked by Assistant DA‚ÄąMicks, who then played him the recording, the Bar states.
Alexander decided to dismiss the case against Van Parks after hearing the recording, though prosecutors stated Alexander failed to notify the court of exculpatory evidence during a preliminary hearing the month prior.
Alexander then delivered a copy of the recording to McElfresh — the first he learned of the conversation, the Bar states.
After learning of the recording, McElfresh contacted Alexander to express that he may have violated Taylor’s Sixth Amendment rights by speaking to her while she was represented, the Bar states.
A week later, Alexander and McElfresh met and Alexander agreed that he had violated Taylor’s rights, that her confession would not be used and he would provide a written statement to that effect, the Bar states.
After a series of requests made by McElfresh, Alexander provided the statement in October 2011, the Bar states.
Alexander’s defense regarding the Taylor conversation relies mainly on the premise that she barged into his office and caught him off guard, initiating the conversation and therefore waiving her Sixth Amendment rights.
As for suppressing evidence, Alexander contends that Van Parks knew about the conversation because he was the one who insisted Taylor go speak with Alexander.