The defense's view
In a statement issued to police chiefs and sheriffs across California, defense attorney Bruce Praet of Santa Ana-based law firm Ferguson, Praet & Sherman said his firm doesn’t view the indictment against former Eureka Police Department Chief David Douglas and EPD Lt. Tony Zanotti as any sort of precedent. Praet is defending Douglas.
Praet said in the words of one Supreme Court justice, “Even a semi-competent district attorney can get a grand jury to indict a peanut butter sandwich.”
Praet was making the point that the criminal grand jury’s decision to indict Douglas and Zanotti was based solely on evidence presented by Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos, and is therefore one-sided.
The EPD lieutenant and former chief remain, by law, innocent until proven guilty. At this point, an indictment only means that Gallegos successfully presented his case, without the defense being present.
Gallegos said on Thursday he’s confident both Douglas and Zanotti will be represented by highly trained and expensive attorneys.
Praet worked as a police officer for 10 years and has been defending law enforcement personnel for the past 25 years. The Police Officers Research Association of California has appointed William Rapoport, through its Legal Defense Fund, to represent Zanotti.
The city of Eureka will pay for Douglas’ attorney fees, according to a “Client Alert” memo from Praet. It is unknown how much the case will cost taxpayers through the city budget in the end.
There is a chance the lieutenant and retired chief will never go to trial. The defense plans to present its case to the jury and request a motion to dismiss it based on insufficient evidence.
It is nearly a guarantee that Douglas and Zanotti will be tried together, Rapoport said.
The decision is ultimately up to the court and — because the officers were involved in the same incident, and the same witnesses and evidence will be presented — it will most likely rule to try the case as one, he said.
Gallegos said on Thursday it would be easier for him to prosecute both Douglas and Zanotti in one trial. Interestingly, Praet would also like the trials to be combined because the evidence presented by each defense will strengthen his case, he said.
Gallegos, on the contrary, said he believed it would strengthen the defense to split the trials up because it would make his job more difficult — as two trials would exhaust the staff in the District Attorney’s Office.
Gallegos was asked how prepared his staff is to deal with this high-profile case, but he didn’t return a comment by deadline.
Praet said he firmly believes Gallegos will not win this legal battle and succeed in setting a new precedent for law enforcement. That statement was the purpose of his memo, which answered the many inquiries he’s recently received from many police chiefs in California and parties in law enforcement outside the state, he said.
Police indictments raise basic questions
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.
I've assembled as complete a list of articles covering this case as I can, you'll find them at the end of a number of the related posts, just click on the label below.