Tuesday, December 18, 2007

City could face hefty bill for Douglas' defense

So much to say about this one. So little time: City could face hefty bill for Douglas' defense

EUREKA -- If the City Council decides to pick up the bill for former Police Chief David Douglas' legal costs, one former prosecutor estimates it could reach the $1 million mark for the city's already-pinched general fund budget.

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office announced last week that a criminal grand jury convened to look into the 2006 shooting death of Cheri Lyn Moore indicted Douglas and Eureka police Lt. Tony Zanotti on charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Legal experts said the indictments might be a first, as they target the incident's commanding officers rather than those who shot Moore.,,,

...Zanotti, who is being represented by Redwood City attorney William Rapoport, is covered by the Peace Officers Research Association of California Legal Defense Fund, which covers most EPD officers. The extent of that coverage isn't exactly clear.

Rapoport confirmed Monday that he was being paid by the legal fund “so far,” but declined to elaborate. He said there is no telling what his final bill might be, as the case could be thrown out in the coming weeks or end in a lengthy trial.

The case of who is covering Douglas, represented by local attorney Bill Bragg and the Santa Ana firm of Ferguson, Praet and Sherman, is a bit more complicated.

Councilman Jeff Leonard said the shooting of Moore occurred at a time when Douglas was not covered by the association's legal fund, leaving it unclear who will pick up the bill.

Bragg said Monday that he was under the impression the city of Eureka “has accepted the responsibility to pay for Mr. Douglas' defense.” But, Eureka City Manager David Tyson indicated it was not a done deal.

Tyson said in civil suits, the city is obligated to pick up the bills for legal defense funds, which are paid through the city's insurance carriers. Criminal matters, like the case of Zanotti and Douglas, are different, Tyson said, and the council has the choice of whether to cover the costs.

”I think it's a choice because the council, not just our council but any council or board of supervisors, would want to have the opportunity in a criminal matter to hear at least some of the facts and make an informed decision on whether they want to provide a defense,” Tyson said.

The determination the council will likely have to make, Tyson said, is whether Douglas was acting within the boundaries of his position as police chief. Tyson said the city has no insurance carrier for criminal cases, and any money it offers for Douglas' defense would come directly out of the city's general fund.

City Attorney Sheryl Schaffner said any discussions regarding funding Douglas' defense would be held in closed session, and would not be made public until a final decision is made by the council. The council has a closed session agenda item at Thursday's meeting about Douglas' case.

If the council did decide to pick up Douglas' tab, Schaffner said a budget adjustment would be in order to ensure the funds were available.

And that could be a hefty sum, said local attorney Jeffrey Schwartz, a former prosecutor in the district attorney's office.

Schwartz said an attorney of Bragg's caliber probably demands between $300 and $400 an hour for criminal defense, and estimated Douglas' defense team would put in at least 2,000 hours on the case, assuming it goes to trial. On the low side, that comes out to $600,000. But, Schwartz said that is far from the total.

In addition to straight attorney fees, Schwartz said, in a case like this especially, the defense is going to need experts, and lots of them. Not only do each of the experts command fees, Schwartz said, but there are also the travel, hotel and meal expenses associated with attorneys traveling the country to speak with them.

”I'd say, minimally between both (fees for attorneys and experts), you're talking a million bucks easy,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz also said it is likely, once news of the indictments hits the wires and is widely disseminated, police chiefs and departments around the country will start up a defense fund, fearing a guilty verdict could set a precedent for tactical situation police commanders across the country.

Officers at a Dec. 10 court hearing, where Zanotti and Douglas appeared before a judge for the first time, said no such fund was in the works. An arraignment, where the officers will enter pleas, is set for Feb. 21.

While Schwartz was hypothesizing about what a full blown trial might cost in legal fees, Douglas' lawyers were readying to attempt to ensure it doesn't come to that.

Bragg said Monday he received word from the court that the grand jury transcripts had been compiled, and he would pick them up today. Those transcripts, Bragg said, will have a lot to say about how Gallegos lead the grand jury through the proceedings, and consequently about whether this case will make it to trial.

”Chances are there will be some things we will want to challenge pre-trial,” he said. “Given the DA's unique theory, which, frankly, I don't know what his theory is in this case, if I were a betting man, I would bet we are going to take a very hard look at this (transcript) and probably file a motion of dismissal.”

If the case does make its way to trial, Schwartz said law enforcement officers from around the country will likely pitch in $100 here and $50 there for a legal defense fund, which might not be bad news for Eureka.

”Really, the city should be the one out there trying to rally police chiefs,” he said.

***

Rose's note: How to contribute to city's defense fund for David Douglas: Send checks made out to the City of Eureka, with David Douglas written in the “for” line, to City Hall, 531 K St., Eureka, CA 95502. Councilman Larry Glass said the checks would only be cashed if needed.

16 comments:

  1. ”Really, the city should be the one out there trying to rally police chiefs,” he said.

    Why?They're supposed to remain non-partisan.

    So should they rally other city councilmembers for Larry Glass's case as well?

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  2. Well, I guess it's clear why Mr Schwartz, who blew into town gushing about how he always wanted to be a prosecutor, and how PVG was just America's mostest smartest prosecutinator, decided to
    go back to the defense. It's all about being green, baby. But he probably takes plastic too.

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  3. I don't know about Glass, but Douglas was acting as a sworn agent of the incorporated city of Eureka. If he is convicted the city is hung out to dry BIG TIME $$$$$.This is not a "partisan" matter. Mr Konkler in his visceral hatred for law enforcement has blinded himself to the legal ramifications of this fiasco.

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  4. thanks for costing the city a million bucks douglas and zanotti. if you are found guilty, the city better sue YOU for that cash.

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  5. A city councilmember is indeed a sworn agent of the incorporated city of Eureka.
    And since Douglas had given his resignation the city isn't obliged to pay for the defense.
    I do feel that the council will not take Mr.Bragg's advice and will remain non-partisan,as they should.

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  6. you FUCKING idiot Konkler,

    The City may very well be responsible, as the time that is in question is during the time he was chief, not that I would expect
    a "afghani women prefer the taliban to us troops" kinda ignoramous to understand.

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  7. Well here's one take from the TS.

    "Councilman Jeff Leonard said the shooting of Moore occurred at a time when Douglas was not covered by the association's legal fund, leaving it unclear who will pick up the bill.

    Bragg said Monday that he was under the impression the city of Eureka “has accepted the responsibility to pay for Mr. Douglas' defense.” But, Eureka City Manager David Tyson indicated it was not a done deal.

    Tyson said in civil suits, the city is obligated to pick up the bills for legal defense funds, which are paid through the city's insurance carriers. Criminal matters, like the case of Zanotti and Douglas, are different, Tyson said, and the council has the choice of whether to cover the costs.

    ”I think it's a choice because the council, not just our council but any council or board of supervisors, would want to have the opportunity in a criminal matter to hear at least some of the facts and make an informed decision on whether they want to provide a defense,” Tyson said.

    The determination the council will likely have to make, Tyson said, is whether Douglas was acting within the boundaries of his position as police chief. Tyson said the city has no insurance carrier for criminal cases, and any money it offers for Douglas' defense would come directly out of the city's general fund."

    "afghani women prefer the taliban to us troops"

    Please find the text of that comment and I'll re-explain it for you.The distorting of that is getting out of hand.

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  8. Saving mouse clicks for the non sentient again Mark?
    A city council member patronizing a local eatery is NOT acting as an agent of the Eureka Corporation. The chief law enforcement officer remunerated by the city and supervising personnel called to a scene to enforce the laws is ACTING as an agent of that city. The city may not be obligated to provide Douglas' legal defense but has a fiduciary obligation to the taxpayers preventing a conviction from being used in a substantial civil settlement. This is why local governments have traditionally been careful to screen applicants for these positions.
    Occasionally, those ineligible or rejected for law enforcement employment become what we term "cop haters".

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  9. The City is obligated to defend their policemen. they are not supposed to play politics with something like this, nor are they supposed to get involved with the mob mentality. These men are innocent until proven guilty.

    If you do not stand behind your police force, you will not have anyone coming to work for you. the job is bad enough as it is without the support of the people who you are being hired to protect.

    And, no - that doesn't mean you excuse corruption if you find it or give carte blanche to go shooting everyone in sight, for all you one issue cop-haters. So don't even try to interpret it that way. It's possible for reasonable people to walk and chew gum at the same time - it is possible to judge each situation on its merits. But it is not up to us Monday morning quarterbacks to decide who is guilty, or to deny support under any circumstances.

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  10. Innocent until proven guilty. Good system. Who is denying support? I think this case will be judged on it's merits regardless of the cop haters, Gallegos haters, Monday morning quarter backs, or anyone else who reads news papers, and stays informed. But if you want to banish opinions that oppose your opinions, bashing is not going to work.

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  11. Nobody is trying to banish opinions here - it is an open forum.

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  12. Really the problem here is that the TS reporter is listening to Schwartz. Why would you DO that? But, hey, since you're talkin' to him Thadeus, why don't you ask about his prowess as head of CAST.... ask him for those CAST documents... the agendas, sign-in sheets, and minutes....

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  13. You do see what's going on, don't you? Scwartz is planning to run for Paul's job.

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  14. You know 6:07 PM that is sooooo crazy it just might be true.

    Jeffie is pissed that Paulie pushed him off the grave train and took away his $80,000.00 a year job (that he sucked at). But then Paulie hired that moron in the first place.

    Seriously I do not understand why the T/S would talk to and quote Schwartz's opinion. That's like asking one of the hookers down by the library to give a book report on War and Peace.
    '

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  15. Don't compair an honest hooker to that piece of shit youGofree. Hookers work for their money.

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  16. You got me there. Schwartz is in a catagory all his own. The single most worthless piece of shit in Humboldt County. What dumbass reporter would quote, or even talk to, sucha loser.

    ReplyDelete

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