Trial continues in SF with character witnesses from DN
During a jailhouse interview this week, inmate Michelle Taylor gave her account of the secret audio recording and conversation that led to some of the misconduct charges District Attorney Jon Alexander is now fighting in State Bar Court.
Alexander is expected to take the stand in San Francisco next week, where he is facing seven charges of misconduct alleged by State Bar prosecutors — four of which stem from a conversation he had with Taylor, whom he was prosecuting, because her attorney was not present.
Taylor and Damion Van Parks were arrested on suspicion of drug-related charges on March 31, 2011, after a truck driven by Van Parks was pulled over for having a broken tail light. Van Parks threw two baggies, one containing a small amount of marijuana and another holding 12 smaller baggies with various weights of methamphetamine, into Taylor’s lap for her to hide, according to court documents.
Taylor told Van Parks that if they were found she wouldn’t cover for him; she later told officers after handing them the baggies that the drugs were not hers, according to court documents.
After the arrest, Van Parks convinced Taylor to say the drugs were hers, insisting she would only get probation while he would get prison time because of his criminal history, Taylor said.
In June 2011, Taylor said she went to tell Alexander that the drugs were hers, so Van Parks, who was her boyfriend at the time, wouldn’t get in trouble.
The conversation was recorded, unbeknownst to Alexander and to Taylor herself, she claimed this week.
“I didn’t take any wire knowingly,” said Taylor.
She claims that Van Parks gave her a jacket to wear the day she went to speak with Alexander because she didn’t have one and slipped an apparently activiated audio recorder into one of the pockets. She said she assumed he later took it out when he retrieved his jacket.
Van Parks could not be reached for comment this week.
She said she tried calling Alexander two weeks after their conversation, and he told her that he couldn’t speak to her without her attorney.
She said she became aware of the audio recording when Van Parks’ charges were dismissed in August 2011.
Despite being co-defendants, their cases were split after Van Parks failed to show up on time for their preliminary hearing July 19 and was remanded to custody.
A couple of days later, Van Parks was assigned a new attorney, Leroy Davies, who he gave the audio recording to in August, according to one of Davies’ employees.
Davies told the Triplicate on Friday that when Van Parks gave him the recording, he gave it to one of his employees to copy onto a CD, and then take a copy to the District Attorney’s Office. Davies retained the recording he received and gave it to the State Bar last week while testifying at Alexander’s trial.
Van Parks’ charges were dismissed Aug. 19.
According to court documents, a plea deal for Taylor was rejected by the courts, and two others were accepted, then withdrawn, by Taylor.
Taylor said one of the plea deals called for her to serve no jail time upon completion of a drug rehabilitation program. She said that Alexander encouraged her to take the deal or else her children would be taken away from her if she was convicted. She said she ultimately rejected the deals because she was innocent.
It wasn’t until November that Alexander handed the case over to assistant District Attorney Katie Micks, and in January the Attorney General’s Office took over the case, acccording to court documents.
Taylor was eventually convicted by a jury for transportation of methamphetamine, possession of a dangerous drug and being under the influence of a controlled substance. She is now serving a year-long term in the Del Norte County Jail.
Court documents filed to the State Bar by Alexander’s defense regarding the charges revolving around the conversation state Alexander had spoken to the Taylor’s attorney, Darren McElfresh, about persuading her to go into a drug diversion program, and that McElfresh agreed to allow Alexander and the woman to speak about the program.
Taylor agreed that this did occur.
Some time later, Taylor pushed herself into Alexander’s office and “accosted him,” the defense states. A couple of weeks later, he became aware of the illegal audio recording, made a copy of it and sent it to McElfresh, the defense states.
He subsequently transferred the case to the California Attorney General’s Office, the defense states.
Taylor is expected to give a deposition to the State Bar about the conversation and recording Nov. 5.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco on Thursday and Friday, Alexander’s attorneys called a parade of witnesses — 18 were scheduled — to attest to his good character and to say that he should not be disbarred even if punishment is meted out.
They included a schoolteacher, two dairy farmers, and Mayor Kathryn Murray, according to a report in the San Francisco Daily Journal, a legal industry news organization.
“I see (Alexander’s disbarment) as punishment to the community,” said dairy farmer Blake Alexandre, the Daily Journal reported.
Del Norte County Counsel Gretchen Stuhr said Alexander could not serve as district attorney if his law license is suspended or if he is disbarred.
The charges against Alexander include three counts of corruption, failure to perfom with competence, suppressing evidence, communicating with a dedendant and lending to a court official.
From the onset of filing disciplinary charges against Alexander in May, the Office of Chief Trial Counsel announced it would be seeking disbarment if Alexander is found guilty. The Rules of Procedures of the Bar state if an attorney has a record of two prior Bar convictions, another conviction will result in disbarment “unless the most compelling mitigating circumstances clearly predominate.”
Alexander has had his bar license suspended twice since 2003.
Alexander’s character witnesses attested to how invaluable he is to Del Norte County because of his decisions as district attorney, but also as a community leader, the Daily Journal reported.
“He’s a bit of a godsend,” Blake Alexandre testified.
Prosecutors finished calling witnesses Wednesday, with the exception of Alexander, whose testimony was postponed so his character witnesses could quickly take the stand while in San Francisco, the Daily Journal reported.