Twists and turns continue as state Bar prosecutes Alexander
A key witness in District Attorney Jon Alexander’s State Bar trial refused to speak to attorneys who travelled from San Francisco to the Del Norte County Jail on Thursday.
Alexander’s trial, in which he is facing seven charges of misconduct, was put on hold about a month ago following more than a week of testimony from several attorneys and local community members. The delay was to allow to allow a deposition of county jail inmate Michelle Taylor, who is at the heart of four of the charges.
The DA’s charges stem from three events: giving a $14,000 loan to a probation officer when Alexander was a public defender, receiving a $6,000 loan from a defense attorney, and discussing a case with Taylor without her lawyer present.
Alexander could be disbarred if he is found guilty.
Taylor took the Fifth Amendment refusing to speak to the attorneys, said Kurt Melchior, an attorney defending Alexander in the trial.
Taylor was expected to speak about a recorded conversation she and Alexander had about a methamphetamine-related case involving her and another man. Taylor apparently unexpectedly made a visit to Alexander’s office to speak about the case and try to convince him the drugs were hers and not the co-defendant’s. Taylor claims she was unaware of an audio recorder in her pocket.
“At the trial the State Bar said they wanted to make a deal with the (Attorney General’s Office) to give her immunity from any criminal prosecutions for the taping and then they wanted to depose her again and she would talk,” said Melchior. “The judge adjourned trial in order for that to happen.”
There weren’t any negotiations about immunity for Taylor between Bar prosecutors and the Attorney General’s Office, said Gerald Engler, senior assistant attorney general.
“In a non-criminal case, if one party wants to get immunity for a witness, they apply to the court for the opportunity,” said Engler. “We did not object or make an appearance in the case, which is not unusual.”
Taylor was seeking immunity from charges of illegally recording the conversation.
“Apparently she said she wanted immunity also for the crime in which she is now in jail,” said Melchior.
Earlier this year, Taylor was 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 county jail.
Engler stated the AG’s Office didn’t oppose immunity regarding the recorded conversation because Taylor had already been convicted “in an underlying drug case.”
The trial, however, will linger on as an appeal made by the Bar prosecutors regarding a rejected motion is reviewed, Melchior said. The Bar is trying to prevent two of its prosecutors from testifying about alleged discriminatory prosecution, which is a defense Alexander is taking, Melchior said.
Then written closing arguments will be submitted to the court from both sides. From that point, the judge will have 90 days to make a decision.
Meanwhile, Alexander has chosen to withdraw his lawsuit against the State Bar in San Francisco Superior Court, which accused the Bar of inflicting emotional distress and violating his civil rights as a recovering meth addict. He was seeking a halt to the prosecution and undisclosed damages.
The lawsuit also named as defendants former deputy District Attorney Mordechai Pelta, former District Attorney Mike Riese and defense attorney Karen Olson, who previously worked in the District Attorney’s Office with Alexander. The suit alleged the three filed false complaints to the Bar against Alexander.
In a prepared statement, Alexander stated he withdrew the suit for procedural reasons and that he can refile it after his trial.