A Del Norte County Superior Court jury found former California Highway Patrol officer Brian W. Clemann not guilty of breaking into and burglarizing a CHP evidence room.
The jury was not able to reach a verdict late Thursday on the remaining 13 counts, including receiving stolen property, destruction of records and possession of meth.
The case was prosecuted by the state Attorney General’s Office as Del Norte County District Attorney Dale Trigg recused himself due to a possible conflict of interest.
Deputy Attorney General Peter E. Flores could not be reached for comment as of press time.
According to court documents, Clemann was a CHP officer in charge of evidence from June 2013 to March 2015. Late in 2014, some items turned up missing. Clemann was given time to find the missing items and clear up any mistakes.
Another audit in March turned up more missing items and led to Clemann being removed as evidence officer.
A new evidence officer was processing backlogged and closed case items in June 2015 when more items were discovered missing and tampered with.
According to court records, Clemann was told by another officer that there were errors with some evidence and some had possibly been tampered with.
“Defendant (Clemann) didn’t seem surprised and dismissed it as the normal kind of issues found when there is a change of evidence officers,” court records said.
The following night, the evidence room was broken into and items from the discussed bins were taken.
Eight of the missing items were found weeks later in a storage area above Clemann’s garage, records said.
Subsequent audits found that 137 evidence items, accounting for 223 evidence items were missing or had been tampered with. Many were reported to have been controlled substances totaling 91.2 grams of meth, 8.99 pounds of marijuana, 349 pills, and 30.6 grams of black tar heroin.
Some bags had been cut in such a way as to conceal the cuts and meth had been replaced with an unknown substance which weighed more than meth, according to court records. Clemann reportedly told another officer that a former associate may have committed the crime in order to get him in trouble but added that person would not have the information or means necessary to commit the crime.
A matter of feet
The trial, which lasted over eight days ended at about 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. According to Clemann’s attorney George Mavris, jurors heard the testimony of over 20 CHP officers and Department Of Justice experts before coming back with a unanimous 12-0 verdict of not guilty of any involvement in the burglary.
On the remaining charges, the jury was not able to reach a unanimous verdict and it was determined that further deliberations would have no effect on the outcome.
“I wanted to get this out there because it’s been sitting out there for eight months that my client is guilty,” Mavris said. “The burglary, which was the main charge, is what he was found not guilty of.”
Mavris said deliberation on the burglary charge was short, based on the physical evidence left at the scene. Mavris said a saw was used to cut through a door at the crime scene, which left the floor covered in sawdust. Mavris said footprints which reached far into the crime scene were a woman’s size 8 but his client wears a men’s size 11 shoe. According to Mavris, the prosecution brought in shoe experts and tried to tie the crime to Clemann’s wife but could not.
“It would have been hard to set up,” he said. “It didn’t appear staged.”
Mavris said the ratio of jurors for and against conviction in the remaining counts was “not even close.” He said in times when a hung jury is divided 10-2 in favor of the client, it’s rare the case will be retried.
Clemann had been free on his own recognizance before the trial and remained free afterward.
The matter will return for further review Jan. 6. Mavris said the Attorney General will decide at that time whether or not to retry the hung cases.
Reach Tony Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org