Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Griesa cuts a deal; sentencing in 2 months

by Tom Nadeau

The beleaguered Joseph Griesa canceled Tuesday a second trial in Yuba County Superior Court on charges relating to his alleged conduct with under-aged female employees at Mitchell Towing Service.

After some last-minute waffling and sidebar dickering between his attorney, the prosecutor and the judge, Griesa told visiting Judge Ersel Edwards that, all things considered, he would settle instead for a light sentence for the 10 crimes he’s already be convicted of.

The most serious penalty Griesa will face when he returns to court for final sentencing at 11 a.m. Aug. 20 stems from count #11 in his original 18-count charge sheet. That count charged him with Penal Code Section 278:
Every person, not having a right to custody, who maliciously takes, entices away, keeps, withholds, or conceals any child with the intent to detain or conceal that child from a lawful custodian shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both that fine and imprisonment, or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or both that fine and imprisonment.
The other heavy-duty penalty Griesa is looking at is he will now forever more have to register authorities as a sex offender.

All other penalties would be waived in the arrangement, Deputy District Attorney John Vacek said.

Other issues...

Vacek had initially insisted that Griesa, 45, also give up any right to appeal. Having to forsake that last, sinking-ship hope appeared to be what prompted Griesa’s dramatic 11th-hour stall. Following some in-chamber discussions, Vacek dropped that demand.

Informed court-watcher Sam Pierce noted that Vacek had actually conceded very little, since any appeal Griesa might mount would, based on the appellate court’s record, probably be rejected anyway.

Defense attorney Kenneth Rosenfeld said Griesa will present character references and other exculpatory information at the August sentencing hearing.

Griesa hopes to persuade visiting Judge Ersel Edwards to hand down a sentence that involves a multi-year probation period and a possible middle-term prison sentence of two years, which would be suspended pending successful completion of probation.

It's been a tough couple of years

Griesa was tried last year onPeople v. Griesa. That proceeding ended with a decision split three ways.

He was found guilty of 10 charges relating to: annoying a child; contributing to the delinquency of a minor; unlawful detention; failure to report earnings, and; failure to pay taxes.

He was found innocent of four criminal counts, including sexual battery, penetration with a foreign object and oral copulation with an underage person.

A hung-jury mistrial was declared on the remaining charges. The remaining charges included allegations of indecent exposure, intimidating a witness, sexual battery, false imprisonment and assault with a deadly weapon.

It was on those last charges that Griesa was to be tried, but his Tuesday agreement ended that fight.

Prosecution pleased; defense reconciled

Vacek seemed pleased with the outcome. The most serious charge stuck; the court’s time was saved; justice was served over all, and; best of all – after two years of paperwork fighting that requires 20 pages of computer printout to list – the matter of People v. Griesa was finally over.

“It closes a chapter,” defense attorney Rosenfeld agreed.

Griesa was clearly irked at how life had treated him and seemed ready comment, but Rosenfeld cautioned him not to. Hence, we have nothing straight from the defendant.

However, Rosenfeld had some interesting observations on the whole circus surrounding the intricately linked cases of People v. Griesa and People v. Santana, Vasquez.

Those cases have so far stretched over two years, directly involved several prominent attorneys, has riveted the attention of lawyers up and down the state and the end is not expected soon.

This is a 'Big One'

So important is this seemingly endless Saturday afternoon double feature horror show, it will likely lead to a “landmark” published opinion by the state appeals court and possibly some kind of written opinion by Attorney General Jerry Brown.

In California state law, you can’t get much higher that.

As background: Yuba County District Attorney Pat McGrath sought and got a 2008 grand jury indictment of attorneys Santana and Vasquez for alleged bribery and ethical violations in their handling of a sex claim one “SA” had brought against her boss, Griesa.

It allegedly involved a payment of $100,000 that was never consummated.

While settlements may be fairly common in civil cases, they aren’t in criminal cases, Rosenfeld explained.

Having read through the documents in both cases and followed the proceedings closely since taking over as defense attorney, Rosenfeld called it, “kind of a unique situation.”

'Someone is lying'

From a professional point of view, Santana and Vasquez may have acted wrongly, Rosenfeld said, but he reserved any further comment until the case was decided.

But he did offer a plainly-worded opinion based on his direct observation of attorney Timothy Evans’s testimony at one pre-trial hearing on Santana, Vasquez.

“It was nonsensical.” Rosenfeld said.

Rosenfeld did offer a general conclusion about the mammoth legal case.

"Someone is lying," he said.

For the moment, the next action in People v. Santana, Vasquez remains somewhat vague.

Visiting Judge John Darlington, who is handling the matter, has set for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 8, but he may issue his crucial ruling on a defense motion to dismiss the case as early as some time this week.


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