Saturday, March 08, 2014

”They have never indicated to me that they wanted to challenge the plea...If they changed their mind, then they need to let me know, and I'll ask the court to reject the plea agreement and set the case for trial.”

Family of slain Arcata chef to challenge plea deal; several district attorney candidates speak out on the case - Will Houston/The Times-Standard

...District Attorney Paul Gallegos said he does not question the grief of a victim's families and friends, but said that justice cannot be personal.

”The toughest part of my job is that I can't bring people back,” Gallegos said. “You can't bring people back, and you can never undo the harm.”

Gallegos said that candidates' statements about the case are common in district attorney elections.

”The thing about running for office is when you're not in office, you can always argue about the resolutions or handling of cases because you know no facts, and you have no duty to anyone,” he said.

Stabbing Case Still Front and Center in DA Race - Thadeus Greenson/The Journal
DA’s Race Heats Up as Deal Struck in Fatal Stabbing Faces Possible Challenge by Victim’s Family - watchpaul (for links)
DA’s Race Heats Up as Deal Struck in Fatal Stabbing Faces Possible Challenge by Victim’s Family - Kym Kemp/Lost Coast Outpost
D.A. Candidate Klein Seeks To Suspend Firpo’s Ferrer Plea - Mad River Union
A Note to Arnie from a Friend of Douglas Anderson-Jordet via Facebook

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And - Paul Gallegos IS still the District Attorney. As such, HE is the one responsible for plea deals in such a serious case. Was it his idea? Did he approve? Sign off on it? Even know about it? He is also supposed to be the spokesman for the office, not the individual prosecutors. And you let him off the hook, getting away with just passing everything off as 'just politics.' Again. And again. And again.

Consider this. 'Politics' is the ONLY chance there is to hold the DA accountable. Don't like what he is doing? Think the Board Of Supervisors can make him do his job? Enhh. WRONG. Think they can sanction him? Enhh. WRONG AGAIN. Think the Attorney General can step in? WRONG AGAIN.

ONLY THE VOTERS can do it. And only once every 4 years. So, OF COURSE that's when the issues rise to the surface, and get aired in the media.

It's serious stuff, not to be lightly brushed off as 'just politics.'

And it is incredibly disrespectful of him to so denigrate the voters.

Fortunately, he has chosen to remove himself from the equation.

23 comments:

  1. I know a judge will occasionally throw out a plea agreement, but this is the first time I have ever heard of a DA asking a court to throw out a plea deal they themselves negotiated. Does this ever happen?

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  2. Looks to me like Firpo's in a tough spot on this one, but I have little sympathy, because to large extent, she's the one who has put herself there. She hung her whole public argument about this plea deal on the notion that the family supported it. Now the family is basically saying that at best they were misinformed, at worst, misled.

    I can't help but wonder if the way Firpo trashed the victim publicly, in order to defend herself politically, has also influenced how the victim's family views the plea deal. My guess is it probably has, substantially.

    It has certainly influenced my view of Firpo, and not in a positive way. I wasn't happy with the plea deal, but the way she hung the victim out to dry in order to protect her own behind in the DAs race...I found that unconscionable. She should have taken the heat, rather than attempting to pass the blame to the victim.

    At any rate, now she's publicly said she'll try to withdraw the plea deal and go forward with a trial, if that's what the family wants. But given her public comments -- which sounded like those you would expect from a particularly sleazy defense attorney, trashing the victim and essentially blaming him for the crime, while accepting the perpetrators' version of events at face value -- how can her family, or for that matter the public, be expected to take her seriously as the prosecutor for this case?

    I assume that for the plea deal to be withdrawn at this point, the judge would have to approve of that. I have no idea whether that's likely or not. I imagine the perpetrators' defense attorneys will strongly oppose that. From their point of view, their clients arrived at an agreement with the DA's office, and now, due to the political considerations Ms. Firpo's election campaign, she's agreed to renege on that agreement. I can't imagine a defense attorney letting that pass unchallenged.

    One thing is clear, if the plea deal is withdrawn and the case actually does forward toward trial, obviously Firpo should be removed from the case, and another deputy DA should be appointed. Bottom line: at this point she has no credibility to prosecute the perpetrators, after having practically acquitted them in the press.

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  3. Exactly. She defended the plea, saying:
    I could have grandstanded that case for my political benefit, for my campaign, but I did not do that,” she continued. “I did the right thing for that case because that still is my first priority – my job as a prosecutor is my first priority, the campaign is my second priority.”
    and also ...
    the facts not previously made available to the public paint a different picture.  After reviewing hours of video, talking with independent witnesses and reviewing the autopsy results, discussing the evidence with law enforcement and the family of the victim, it became clear that this was a case of manslaughter – not murder.

    But whoa, if the family has changed its mind, hey, never mind the hours of video, the autopsy, etc etc, l take it back, let's go to trial.

    C'mon, Mr. Gallegos, a little leadership here.

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  4. Thank you Mr. Klein for taking this on and holding our DA office. And justice system accountable for their responsibilities or lack there of. You have restored some hope in our justice system!

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  5. Rose keeps defending Firpo by saying that Gallegos is at fault. Yes, but do we want someone who performs poorly under poor supervision to be the next District Attorney? Could we please just look at qualifications and history/performance?

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  6. What I am asking is - at what point do you people FINALLY hold that man accountable?

    Ever?

    If you didn't care about all his plea deals, and Cruz waivers, because. pot. then we're supposed to believe you all of a sudden care?

    He's STILL THE DA! He's still there drawing a huge salary until January of next year. Do you think he ought to do his job? Isn't it his job to make decisions like this? Did he make this decision? Did he even know about it? And if he didn't - why not? Too much time at the gym and not doing the job? :Leaving those poor prosecutors to sink or swim?

    It is HIS job to answer to the press for the decisions he makes. That he approves. That he signs off on. That come out of 'his' office. He's not performing even THAT basic function.

    That's been the problem all along, and since there are always murmurings of him being pushed for higher office, including a possible judgeship, I really think you ought to care. If he goes back to private practice, more power to him, it doesn't matter anymore, but if he is going to be given positions of power, it does matter.

    Meanwhile, I guess he just gets to skate, as he always has, and is never held accountable, or even expected to do his job. That baffles me. What mindset does it tale to elect a man to such an important position and then not expect anything from him that you would expect from any other DA?

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  7. Paul isn't running for re-election, so he can't be held accountable at the ballot box. Elan can be held accountable at the ballot box. Thus, even if they are both responsible for this plea deal, and even though he's her boss, she's likely to get a lot of the hear because she's the one people have the opportunity to approve or disapprove of at the ballot box in just a few short months.

    Of course since Elan is sort of running as Paul's successor -- she's running from inside the DA's office, praises her boss and is praised by him, and has the support of his former campaign manager -- her actions are going to tend too reflect on Gallegos, and his on her.

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  8. He can be held accountable if and when he runs for anything else. If he's counting on an appointed position, it's up to the appointer to do due diligence. But if some federal or state patronage in the works, the patron won't really care about what critics say. We are behind the Redwood Curtain, we have nobody looking out for us, no effective media, and who wants to risk getting audited, investigated, or whatever else the powers that be have at their disposal. Just sit back and watch things fall apart, think "Could have told you that would happen".

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  9. Anon at 3:45, that is a fair answer. Much better than the "Rose, Paul is not running, get over it" kind of answer that is usually given.

    And, Paul SHOULD be answering for this RIGHT NOW. He IS STILL the DA. HE should be fielding the calls from the press.

    Is that not still what he is being paid for?

    We already know it's not for properly managing the office, but the reporters let him get away with saying no one can know what it is to be DA and pass everything off as 'just politics.' It's not.

    People's lives, and souls and property are at stake.

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  10. Hi again Rose,

    Anon 3:45 here. I agree, Gallegos has bottom-line responsibility for all cases handled (or mishandled) by his office. Yes, he should be questioned about this by the press. He did offer one comment to the Times-Standard, that it was easy for those outside the office to criticize because, as he put it, "they have no facts, and they have no responsibility."

    Of course that is only half true, it's certainly true that those outside his office have no responsibility for charging decisions and plea deals, the responsibility for those things rests squarely with him.

    But as far as "they have no facts" that is not true. We all have the most important facts about what took place that night, those facts are not in dispute: A fight took place, three against one, and in the course of that fight a member of the group of three shoved a knife into the heart of the one. And then the three ran away, leaving the one to die, they disposed of the murder weapon, and hightailed it out of the area. So, we do know these facts, these facts are not really in dispute.

    Then, attempting to defend herself from her electoral opponents, Firpo offered some additional information, presented as facts, justifying her plea deal. This version of events, in which the victim was the aggressor, is essentially the perpetrators' version of events, but the veracity of that account has not been tested by a judge or jury. And then when that attempt to justify the plea deal didn't fly, and the victim's family spoke out against the plea deal, Firpo's now offering to try to withdraw the plea deal and take the case to trial, despite having basically declared in the media that the incident was just "an unfortunate accident."

    Yes, the media should be questioning Gallegos about this case -- specifically the question they should be asking is this:

    "When are you removing Elan Firpo from this case, and who are you replacing her with."

    Because the idea of her taking this case any further is unthinkable, given that she admits that it has become a political football in her race for DA. Surely the victim's family (and for that matter the defendants,too) deserve to have this case handled by a prosecutor not entangled in a political fray.

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  11. Just 1 question to all the comments trashing Firpo?

    If you don't think she is competent, why attack her based on 1 case?

    Personal axe to grind? Supporter of 1 of the opponents?

    I say we go even a step further, let's drag out every single case Klein, Dollison, Firpo, Fleming have prosecuted. Let's spend hours discussing what we would have done.

    In the meantime, crime still occurs, people do not feel safe, and your comments have contributed nothing as solutions.

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  12. Show me a case where one of the other three candidates publicly dragged a victim's reputation through the mud to protect her political posterior, then reversed course under political pressure, and then maybe you'll have a leg to stand on.

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  13. Anonymous tell me your name and then maybe you will have a leg to stand upon. Not to mention your opinion is not fact.

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  14. Doesn't matter who it is, the observation is accurate, it's not an opinion, and how do you post anonymously but insist anyone who disagrees with you has to tell you their name? As noted above, it's a fact that Firpo laid out all her justifications and claimed to be taking the high road, and then as soon as Klein claimed the family was upset, no more high road, do-over. Which is nuts, cases are not decided on the basis of what the victim wants.

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  15. Anon 5:32 - the problem is - he HAS NO ONE to replace her WITH. See? That's the problem.

    A GOOD DA would have been BUILDING his team. He would be at full staff. He would NEVER have allowed the office to lose all of its experienced, seasoned prosecutors. A big boy would have sucked it up, and kept them.

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  16. Rose,

    I get where you're going with that comment, but strictly speaking it isn't quite true. He has other Deputy DAs, and of course he could take on the case himself if he wanted to.

    In any event, clearly Firpo can't continue with the case if there's any real chance if the plea deal being rescinded and the case going to trial. She's completely disqualified herself with her public comments. How could the victim's family possibly take her seriously as the person to take this case to trial, when she has publicly stated that the killing was "an unfortunate accident."

    Perhaps that's all a moot point, as it's hard to imagine a judge allowing the DA to withdraw a guilty plea that has already been made public. How are the defendants supposed to get a fair trial after the newspapers have already had stories about how they already plead guilty?

    Firpo has tied herself up in knots on this one, and only seems to be tangling herself up further with her bizarre reversal.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of spin her supporters try to put on all of this. Been awfully quiet over there on John Chiv's blog. I guess he hasn't received the new talking points yet...or maybe he just can't make sense of them. ;)

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  17. 12:07 I agree that she must recuse herself. The specter of political motivation alone is a factor that can't be ignored.

    Paul should step in.

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  18. Rose, I agree with you about Paul. He initially made this political by giving it to a candidate. That was his bad. However, if we are to elect a leader then that is what we need to be looking for. Someone who can act on their own accord, ethics, and experience. Unfortunately it appears that at this time she does not have that skill honed yet. I am not saying she is bad I am just saying she is not ready. If she was ready to be DA she wouldn't need a leader, she would be one. It is unfortunate that Paul threw this into the political arena.

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  19. ...and Paul continues to use high profile cases to give firpo press time. He is doing that with Father Freed murder case, which should have been assigned to another procesutor in his office (per their case assignment arrangements )but gave it to firpo. Can we impeach the DA? Because that is what really needs to be done.

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  20. https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1435950943300151

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  21. Mr. Chiv is slamming Paul for plea bargains, and noting that Allison Jackson has appeared for a family disgruntled by a plea in the Workman slashing case. He says nothing about the Klein/Firpo Anderson-Jordet family kerfluffle, in which Mr. Klein has been retained for precisely the same reasons as Ms. Jackson. Meanwhile, kudos to Judge Feeney for doing the right thing.

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  22. The case involving Elmy Workman is also a very important case. Luckily no one was killed, but an innocent local woman was severely stabbed. As the sister of the victim in this crime I appreciate reading coverage of this case. Since Allison Jackson took on this case we have a chance to get the justice we deserve, and that the DA's office has denied our family for the past two years since the stabbing occurred.

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  23. Thanks, V.W. N.P. - You're in the best of hands.

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