Sunday, May 2, 2010

Griesa ‘takes the 5th’ to avoid disclosing
his role in Santana, Vasquez indictment

With his own separate, but related criminal trial nearing, Joseph Griesa invoked his right to remain silent Friday in an evidentiary hearing on charges brought against two lawyers who accused of arranging a $100,000 bribe to make a teenage girl’s sexual harassment lawsuit go away.

Griesa initially objected to testifying at all on a defense “points and authorities” motion in People v. Jesse Santana and David Vasquez, Yuba County Superior Court, case #08-825.

Kenneth L. Rosenfeld, Griesa’s Sacramento-based attorney, told Judge John Darlington that any questions defense attorneys might have for his client had either been asked and answered in grand jury hearings, or would be refused that day under provisions of the Fifth Amendment.

Griesa was previously convicted of some charges related to his alleged unlawful sexual conduct with a 17-year-old girl who was working for him at Mitchell’s Towing Service. A second trial on unresolved charges in that case is expected to begin June 8.

Vasquez’s attorney, Michael Barrette, countered that defense questions would be narrowly limit. The 14-page document Barrette presented that day stated:
“The only area of inquiry by the defense is whether Joseph Griesa committed perjury at the Grand Jury proceedings by denying any ‘deals’ had been made through Mr. Griesa’s attorneys Timothy Evans and Charles Smith. It is expected that Mr. Griesa will invoke the Fifth Amendment ... and exercise his right to remain silent. Of course, the only grounds for doing so would be that his testimony was false at the Grand Jury on this point.”
The defense hoped that either the prosecution or the judge would grant Griesa immunity from prosecution for any perjury he may have committed in the November, 2008 grand jury inquiry that led to the indictments of Santana and Vasquez, so the truth could emerge in this complex case, Barrette said.

Michael Canzoneri, the supervising deputy state attorney general heading the prosecution team, immediately objected. He forcefully threatened to bring perjury charges against Griesa if he testified.

The state Attorney General’s Office took over the case to avoid possible allegations of conflicts of interest by the Yuba County District Attorney’s Office.

Rosenfeld said Griesa might testify provided he was granted “transactional immunity” from any prosecution on any charges that might arise from his testimony.

There are two types of immunity: transactional immunity and use immunity. Transactional immunity shields the witness from any prosecution based on any testimony he might give. Use immunity limits the protection to any charges that might derive from a single, specific statement the witness might give.

A seasoned lawyer, prosecutor and state court judge, Darlington said he could think of no instance in which any judge had granted such a blanket immunity.

The prosecution has previously denied that any special considerations were given to Griesa for his testimony to the grand jury, while previous testimony in the Santana, Vasquez matter “has already established two such grants of consideration” were given, the defense’s points and authorities pleading stated.

The felony charges of conspiracy and bribery the lawyers face spring from a grand jury proceeding the prosecution had divided into two sessions – one in which it was made clear to Griesa that nothing he said in the first session would be used against him in the second session.

This amounted to “a classic grant of immunity,” Barrette contended in the document filed Friday.
[T]he prosecution now seeks to insulate Joseph Griesa from giving the very testimony that will demonstrate that his assertion that there was not ‘any deal cooking for [his] testimony’, was patently false, by threatening to prosecute him for perjury for lying to the Grand Jury. This appears to be the height of chutzpah where the prosecution denies it has any deals with Joseph Griesa but will only allow him to stand behind the Fifth Amendment to cloak his own misconduct. That misconduct consists of using known perjury in the Grand Jury proceeding, knowing use of perjury in denying the existence of any deals with Joseph Griesa before this court [i.e., this current proceeding] and compounding that perjury by seeking to threaten to prosecute the very witness who will expose the misdeeds of the government prosecutor.
That more or less sums up the complex legal concepts and system manipulations that underlie this case – issues that could make People v. Santana, Vasquez a landmark case, whichever way it goes.

For one thing, depending on the outcome, it could change the way courts distinguish a civil settlement (a common resolution in many disputes) from bribery, a crime.

Numerous legal careers and reputations are imperiled by the ultimate outcome. How many and which ones depends entirely on how Darlington rules on the defense motion when court resumes in Department #7 at 1:30 p.m. June 3.

Darlington’s ruling could also determine whether this two-years-and-counting case ever does go to trial. Santana and Vasquez have not even been arraigned yet on the bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges alleged.

Tom Nadeau


Blogger Dinah said...

Nice site, very informative. I like to read this.,it is very helpful in my part for my criminal law studies.

May 3, 2010 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger EG said...

Interesting case. The irony is that if a retired judge had been hired to resolve the matter, the outcome would not have been that different.

Sounds like some slimy politics from the DA's office on this whole matter.

May 3, 2010 at 8:49 PM  

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