For many of you who read this blog this may be old news. Remember that part of the purpose of this blog is to include the old stuff. For those who knew what happened, it was a clear example of the way Gallegos approached his job, and how he handled difficult media attention.
It is also a clear example of a pattern which continues to this day, especially the immediate response and then the spin-doctored response which characterizes all of Gallegos' debacles.
The Martinez-Hernandez case received widespread news coverage during the Recall. But only part of the story was told. (see RELATED STORIES below)
This was no ordinary case. Veteran prosecutors called it one of the biggest miscarriages of justice they had ever seen.
Not a traditional "molest" - this was a father forcibly raping his daughter every day for nine years, sometimes while the girl's young brother watched. This conduct started when she was five years old.
The case was brought in for charging on Christmas Eve. Wes Keat, the overworked Chief Charging Deputy (a position that receives no compensation other than a title) received the case.
Pedro Martinez-Hernandez was in custody, and because he was in custody, the case had to be charged immediately. Unfortunately, there were no other lawyers in the office to help because neither the DA (Paul Gallegos) or the Assistant DA (Tim Stoen) were around or cared enough to make sure the office was adequately staffed.
Charging molest cases is a very complex task even for an experienced deputy. It is usually turned over to someone who specializes in it.
Upon reading the preliminary report from the Sheriff's Department, Keat charged one continuous count of continuing molest covering the entire 9 year period. This was enough to HOLD Martinez-Hernandez in jail, knowing the additional charges needed would be added when the prosecutor looked at the case file.
Keat added a note that there were a lot of stackable charges which would put Martinez-Hernandez away for hundreds of years. "It's probably going to turn out that there are a lot of stackable 288b's [sex offense counts] that can get him into the century club" -- or 100 years in prison. NCJ
Mid January, Gallegos picks up the files, and because he is too inexperienced to realize there is a problem, and apparently fails to read the full report, he lets the guy plead to one count.
Martinez-Hernandez's lawyer can't believe their good fortune, and seizes the deal.
When a few people spoke out, the Times Standard reported that "The Sheriff's Department said investigating deputies found reason to believe Martinez-Hernandez had sexual intercourse with the child 1,900 times over a six or seven year period. Deputies also determined there were about 1,000 counts of crimes like fondling and oral copulation. The child was about 5 when the abuse began about seven years ago.
"Gallegos has said the continuous act charge was made to avoid the necessity of proving each count and to spare the child from testifying."
The Sheriff's Department provided to the Times Standard fifteen other cases with far less serious conduct. In each the guy got well in excess of a life term (like 29 consecutive 15-years-to-life terms). Paul's response was that the guy pleaded to everything that he was charged with so it wasn't plea bargaining and that the U.S. Attorney was going to charge him for being an illegal immigrant who was once deported and that this guy would never get out of jail. In short, Paul admits no error in charging or judgment.
The U.S. Attorney reportedly said that they hadn't received the case and did not know anything about it. A clear lie by Paul, and, an attempt to cover it up failed when Paul sent one of his DDAs down to try to get the U.S. Attorney on board, but was denied.
Then, when the Times Standard called the DAs office, they were told Paul was out of town.
Did the Assistant District Attorney answer questions on the case? No.
He turned it over to Salzman, who acted as the defacto spokesperson for the office. He says that it was handled correctly but, he hinted that if it wasn't charged properly that Wes Keat was at fault.
"Salzman maintained that while Gallegos appeared in court, the actual charging was done by senior prosecutor Wes Keat, using a law passed by the Legislature that allows for instances of long-term abuse to be consolidated into a single, continuous act." TS
And thus began the decline in child abuse prosecutions in the Humboldt County District Attorney's office.
TS - Plea bargain made with molester - Jan 24, 2004
TS - Gallegos responds to molester's plea - Jan 27, 2004
TS - Albin Sheets accuses Gallegos of incompetence - Jan, 2004
NCJ - MOLESTATION CASE TAKES CENTER STAGE:
...a copy of this article is also at watchpaul-articles
TS - Investigating deputy speaks out on molest case - Feb 13, 2004