Friday, March 14, 2008

DA mistake violates victims’ rights UPDATED


Former Blue Lake Police Chief David Gundersen has been cleared of all major charges first filed against him in 2008. - Arcata Eye MARCH 2012


DA mistake violates victims’ rights

ER In a mistake that the District Attorney admits to, the names of both alleged sexual assault victims in the case against David Gundersen found their way into the public record. This happened despite both women’s request that the information remain confidential.

In cases like the one against Gundersen, confidential personal information is required by law to not be made public. One of the reasons for this is that revealing personal information could have harmful effects to victims of sexual violence.

Gundersen, chief of the Blue Lake Police Department, awaits trial on suspicion of 19 charges, including 12 counts of spousal rape with an intoxicant and one count of kidnapping to commit another crime.

Confidentiality laws are in place to protect victims of sexual assault, so they can feel comfortable coming forward to testify,

Yet several documents, found in Gundersen’s case file, reveal the identity of the victims.

One document was a request by one of the alleged victims to have her name kept confidential, although the form not only has her name but also her address and contact information.

“That should not be there,” District Attorney Paul Gallegos said of the document. “That’s an error on my part.”

Another court record — the statement for probable cause, which led to an arrest warrant issued against Gundersen — had repeated uses of the same alleged victim’s name.

Gallegos said he was unsure how the name had gotten placed into the document as it had been given to a judge by his office.

No law enforcement agency is allowed to make public the name of any victim of a sex crime who chooses to keep it confidential, according to Section 293 of the penal code. The confidential names of victims are only supposed to be made available to the appropriate people, mainly law enforcement officials.

Victims’ addresses are also not intended for public viewing when sex crimes are involved, according to the same penal code.

The second alleged victim, who, according to other court documents, is known as one of the confidential victims, had her name on a confidential report from the Eureka Police Department.

“If you have identifiable information in there, it’s not supposed to be in the record,” said Executive Director of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault Suzanne Brown-McBride regarding confidentiality.

Despite the error, Gallegos said he doesn’t believe it will affect the case against Gundersen. That case’s preliminary hearing was moved forward two weeks to April 11.

With the names of the victims clearly identified in court records, one could look at other reports where they are called “Confidential Victims” to get full details into the crimes that allegedly happened to them.

“It’s fairly easy to sort through who that is,” Brown-McBride said.

Protections for sexual assault victims don’t go away after trial, she said. These protections are also in place for victims when the sex offender is released from prison.

Publicly revealing the details, and personal information, of someone who was sexually assaulted can have grave consequences, said North Coast Rape Crisis Team Community Outreach Coordinator Paula Arrowsmith-Jones, who spoke in general and not about the
Gundersen case.

“It could be a discouragement for those people coming forward,” she said. “It can’t help but affect the decisions that they make.”

It’s rare for cases involving sexual assault to receive widespread publicity, but when it does, hundreds of survivors watch to see how its handled, Arrowsmith-Jones said.

A survivor can be victimized twice when their identity is revealed and scrutinized publicly, said Executive Director of the Emma Center Marybeth Bian.

“Once it’s out,” she said, “it’s a snowball effect.”

Although California provides protection to survivors of sexual assault, Arrowsmith-Jones said it doesn’t do enough to give the person privacy if they don’t want their identity known. Examples of this are cases of spousal rape — a different charge from rape in California —
that identify the person harmed in the charge.

Gallegos, who said he was surprised that this information was in the case file, said the first step was to notify both victims of what happened. Then he would “act accordingly,” which includes having the documents with the victims’ names sealed by the court.

He said he reviewed the case file and that it was clearly an oversight on his part.

His office works hard to not reveal the names of those who want confidentiality, but couldn’t guarantee that mistakes wouldn’t happen, Gallegos said. “By and large we are successful.”

Maintaining the privacy of survivors is critical to the healing process, Arrowsmith-Jones said. Allowing for public scrutiny does the opposite.

“These protections are very important,” she said. “The best all of us can do is respect that.”

TS - Gundersen hearing pushed to April

Blue Lake Police Chief David Gundersen's preliminary hearing has been postponed -- again....

Russell Clanton, Gundersen's attorney, said the defense requested a continuance at a Wednesday hearing because the District Attorney's Office had yet to provide it with all the case's discovery -- a court term for the exchange of information between the attorneys involved in a case.

updated Related coverage, with links

Separate, but related, tragedy: CHP: Teenager hit while lying in road
A 16-year-old McKinleyville boy remained in critical condition Monday, two days after being hit by a car while he was reportedly lying in the road, the California Highway Patrol said.

CHP Officer Paul Dahlen identified the boy as Stuart Christopher. He said Christopher was near McKinleyville High School on Murray Road in the center turn lane Saturday at 8:23 p.m. when a car turning into the school's parking lot hit him.

The driver, 48-year-old Margaret Gundersen of McKinleyville, wasn't cited or arrested, as there were indications the teenager was lying in the roadway on his back, the CHP said....

Car’s wheels miss teenager lying in road
Outside the McKinleyville High School entrance Saturday, at a dark intersection with no street lights, a 16-year-old boy lay in the road with his legs badly contorted after being run over.

Stuart Christopher was lying in the turn lane to the school’s entrance around 8:30 p.m. when a driver switched into it from the westbound lane of Murray Road.

She hit a bump and thought it was a dog, according to her statement to California Highway Patrol Officer Chis Nelson.

She got out to look and heard someone screaming, “You’re on top of me.” Christopher’s leg was pinned underneath the carriage of the car, Nelson said, but the wheels had not run over him.

The driver, McKinleyville resident Margaret Gundersen, put her car in reverse and backed off Christopher.

Nelson said the procedure helped pull Christopher’s leg back down, as it was pushed up to his chest.

The major injuries he incurred are a broken femur and a broken pelvis, Nelson said. He is currently being treated at the UC Davis Medical Center.

Gundersen was traveling about 10 mph and had no way to react to the body in the roadway, Nelson said.

Christopher told paramedics that he liked to go jogging and when he’d get tired, he’d lay down in the road, Nelson said.

He reportedly saw the car coming, but thought it would stay in the westbound lane, Nelson said.

It’s an accident that he said he hasn’t seen in his 13 years on the job.

A Mad River Community Hospital ambulance and Cal Fire crew were on the scene very quickly, Nelson said.

“I was really impressed with how quickly paramedics arrived — within five minutes,” eyewitness Rebecca Kimber said.

When asked why he was in the road, Kimber said that Christopher stated that he’d “just had a really crazy day and it was stupid what I did.”

She said that she asked if he was suicidal, and he laughed and said no.

“You don’t go play games in the street, it’s just not a place to play. He was lucky — big-time lucky,” Kimber said.


Former Blue Lake Police Chief David Gundersen has been cleared of all major charges first filed against him in 2008. - Arcata Eye MARCH 2012



  1. Well, I guess that answers the question I posed a couple days ago, i.e. "Can Humboldt count on PVG to not screw this up?"

  2. Y-y-y-up - and I think there'll be more, based on the points you raised on a previous post...this case was charged on the basis of one or two interviews over one day with on eyewitness, the victim, with no physical evidence, no medical evidence, no corroboration in any form. Gunderson was arrested before the search warrant was served. That is ass-backwards at best.

    Now, "he" (or someone sounding very much like him) says "As for the way he has handled the case, let's take a look at that. A victim of crime reported that she had been raped. Acting on that information, an Arrest Warrant was prepared. The suspect was arrested. Multiple search warrants were executed, leading to the discovery of additional evidence. A complaint was filed, and the Defendant was charged with crimes. When after completing the additional investigation, additional crimes were revealed, the complaint was amended, and the Defendant's bail was raised. I don't know about you, but that appears to be the way to investigate and prosecute people for crimes. Clanton, the Defense attorney gave a freakin press conference that you can still watch on the T-S website. That is what is improper. Exactly what would you have done differently? Not investigate the guy? Not charge the guy? Not do additional investigation? "

  3. The victims names getting out was inevitable given the relationships between the perp and the victims. You don't seriously think this will have any effect on Gundersen's trial, do you? It just kills you rightwingers to admit that a cop did anything wrong or PVG did anything right.

  4. 8:48, did you read the story? HE LEFT DOCUMENTS WHICH CONTAIN PERSONAL INFORMATION ABOUT EACH VICTIM IN THE COURT FILE. Sory, didn't mean to shout. Doesn't make it better that, according to the story, at least one document was the actual request for confidentiality. The word for that is inexcusable. Here is a possible consequence: each vicitm now has a civil cause of action for invasion of privacy against PVG. That might have an effect on things, no?

  5. It's a pathetic attempt at spin to say that anyone who can see Gallegos' failings is a "rightwinger" - what an insult to all thinking intelligent Democrats that is.

    Or are you saying that the only people who really care about the law and due process are right wing Republicans? I don't think so. The only people who care about the people's office of the District Attorney are right wing Republicans? I don't think so.

    The only people who think there is something wrong with a DA plagiarizing his own My Word's are "rightwingers?" I don't think so.

    Pathetic. Absurd. Stupid. Unforgivably stupid.

  6. 8:48 you're not even close. If it's a bad cop or a bad teen or a bad pot grower or a bad teacher or a bad DA,it's all the same. You call it like it is. As the bard said,"a rose by any other name". Get it?

  7. "Pathetic. Absurd. Stupid. Unforgivably stupid".....SCHMUCK.

    I what M'Lady should have said. My second She-Cub was raped by one of her step-creepers when she was fifteen.

    Name got out. That sucked. Compounded the horrible feelings she had. Inexcusable, Schmuck.

    (No....he'll never perpetrate that again....)

  8. It is the DAs responsibility, not the judge's, to ask that the documents be sealed. Gallegos either didn't know this or wanted the publicity, front page drama. The judge doesn't actually make those decisions, except by default, if the DA doesn't it's public and he made it public, he wants it public, or doesn't understand what it means. Particularly where it involved the alleged victim, things do not get sealed by the court unless it is by motion by the DA, and then only in limited circumstances. Search warrants can be sealed, defense generally asks to have them opened. Lay people wouldn't know it and assume it is the judge who did all this.

  9. Is 8:48 part of Gallegos' staff?
    It just seems like he's smart enough to be...

  10. Rightwinger Vs Leftwinger.

    Is that what it really has boiled down to? I thought that Gallegos said "And justice for all" not "Some, if they give me money" But with some of his actions, including a sit down meeting with people who admit to breaking the law, I don't feel that's right. This guy is a police officer, would you act the same if the guy was a doctor? 215 doctor? How about a outspoken left-winger? I'd be pissed if the guy was Charles Manson and Gallegos was running around doing the same shit.

  11. 8:48 - are you for real. You don't think that this will have any impact on a trial. Newsflash, because of this there will probably not be a trial. Gallegos has so screwed the pooch here that even if Gunderson is guilty, he really can't be prosecuted.

    His wife, the complaining witness, isn't playing ball with the DA. She says he took what she said and blew it out of context. She doesn't have to worry about being incarcerated for contempt because the law protects her. She will probably plead the 5th if he tries to put her on the stand. Any prescription drugs in the house seem to have a built in reasonable doubt given that they could have even belonged to her. The guns, well Gallegos is going to have to prove that his possession of them was unlawful, not vice versa.

    Now lets look at the effect on other trials. What a way for the "idiot" to insure that he won't have to try rape cases in the future. After screwing this up so badly, who is gonna come forward and report from now on with him in office?


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