Yolo County DA Investigator Sues DA’s Office For Breach of Privacy and Whistle-Blower Retaliation

reisigYolo County District Attorney’s Office Investigator Randy Skaggs has filed a lawsuit against Yolo County, the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, DA Jeff Reisig and Chief District Attorney Investigator Pete Martin for among other things a violation of right to privacy and whistle-blower retaliation.

In September of 2008, Mr. Skaggs, a ten year veteran DA Investigator was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an administrative inquiry into allegations of misconduct.  Details of the discipline case were then disclosed to Dave Markss, Chief DA Investigator for Colusa County’s DA’s Office who sent the details of the conversation to no less than thirteen other Chief District Attorney Investigators.

“Dave Markss then sent the details of the conversation to no less than thirteen other Chief District Attorney Investigators in California. He indicated in his email that he would provide further updates as they are received from MARTIN, indicating that there was an expectation of further dissemination of confidential information from SKAGGS personnel file.”

According to the suit, Mr. Martin also disclosed this private information to a member of the Davis Police Department. 

“Plaintiff had a legitimate and reasonable expectation that his personal information 16 and his private and confidential personnel information would not be made accessible to members of other police departments and District Attorney’s Offices. Plaintiffs legitimate and reasonable expectation is further supported by the Information Practice Act of 1977, California Constitution, Article 1, Section 1, and California Penal Code § 832.7.”

From the public’s stand point the most interesting claim is the retaliation for whistle-blower activities as this gets to the heard of the issue.

“The Defendant have initiated retaliatory and frivolous administrative proceedings and actions against the Plaintiff, because he brought to the attention of the DA OFFICE, including the District Attorney, exculpatory evidence relating to other criminal investigations and prosecutions, and that thereafter the DA was forced to turn over evidence to defense counsel.”

According to the claim,

“Following these actions by the Plaintiff, the DA OFFICE began treating him selectively, placing him on administrative leave, proposing to terminate him from the department and initiating various administrative proceedings against him. These actions pretextual, wrongful and in violation of the public policies of the Untied States of America, and were in fact done to retaliate against Plaintiff, and in violation of his constitutional rights under 42 USC § 1983 II (Fourteenth Amendment) and other constitutional rights.”

Halloween Homicide Case

In a high-profile Yolo County case, three men were convicted in a October 31, 2002 double murder.  Three men were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the double-killings, although the conviction of one of the men has come under some matter of questioning.

Reported the Woodland Daily Democrat in June of 2006:

“By all accounts, the most shocking verdict was for Olague, whose conviction was mostly based on circumstantial evidence.

His attorney, Dwight Samuel, said he was angry about the verdict and he plans to appeal.

“(Olague) had a very good opportunity for success in this case and I’m quite disappointed in the verdict,” Samuel said, “But we have the opportunity now to appeal because there was not sufficient evidence to convict him.” “

In March of 2008, Investigator Rick Gore made headlines in Yolo County when he sent a letter accusing Jeff Reisig and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office of ethical malfeasance.   One of the charges was that the District Attorney’s office withheld evidence of a gun flash test during the Halloween Homicide trial.

Mr. Gore wrote in his initial letter that was sent to District Attorney Jeff Reisig and reprinted in the local meeting:

“One major disagreement you and I had was when you tried to hide and conceal discoverable evidence about a material witness and refused to discover evidence during an on-going murder trial.

Bruce Naliboff told me, in front of you, to “put a muzzle” on Randy Skaggs for talking about this discovery issue. You and I had extensive email discussion about this. Lt. Skaggs was in the office when Dave Henderson had to order you to comply with the law and therefore discover the evidence. I am sure the date of the gun test and the date of discovery of the report will show the long delay in providing this evidence, shooting and gun test, to the defense.”

In his follow up, Mr. Gore wrote:

“Another shameful finding of the county is that Dave Henderson did in fact have to order Mr. Reisig to discover the gun flash test during the Halloween Homicide trial. Then the county made the finding that the test was not discovered because of my objections. In all my years, I have never had to go to the District Attorney because a Deputy DA was trying to withhold evidence from the court and the defense. The fact that this incident had to be elevated to the District Attorney, Dave Henderson, and he had to order Mr. Reisig to turn it over, is pretty good proof that this evidence was being concealed and was not going to be discovered without my objections.”

As the suit by Mr. Skaggs alleges:

[The defendants] have proposed to terminate him in retaliation for his actions which were in good faith. Claimant brought to the attention of the District Attorney at the time of the incident, the fact that Jeff Reisig failed to turn over exculpatory evidence that Claimant developed, to defense counsel. After Jeff Reisig was forced to turn the evidence over, the department began to treat Claimant selectively.

He has been placed on administrative leave pending the final hearing where the department has proposed to terminate him. This retaliation against him, as a “whistle-blower” has now ended in a baseless administrative and criminal investigation against him. Further, the actions of the County of Yolo and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office are pretextual, wrongful, in violation of public policy of the United States of America and the State of California. These actions also violate the Constitution and laws of the United States and constitute a violation of 42 USC § 1983 and deprivation of the Claimant’s constitutional rights.

This has created a hostile working environment, embarrassment and humiliation that he has had to endure and will continue to endure when he attempts to find other employment.

History of Failure To Turn Over Exculpatory Evidence by Jeff Reisig

Mr. Reisig and his office have a history of failure to turn over evidence to the defense.

In early 2007, the Vanguard received court documents about a 1999 case where Mr.  Reisig had a verdict overturned for failure to disclose exculpatory evidence.

In 1999, a jury found a Woodland man guilty of using a firearm in the commission of an a threat to commit great bodily harm. The man was sentenced to five years in prison but had that sentence suspended and was placed on probation under a variety of conditions including that he serve 250 days in the county jail.

However, the defendant challenged that sentence on the basis that the prosecution knowingly withheld material exculpatory evidence. Mr. Reisig’s defense was that this was inadvertent.

The basic problem was that in this case, the victim never saw a gun when the defendant threatened to shoot her and yet the prosecutors sought a firearm enhancement charge. The jury during the court proceedings twice sent notes to the court concerning the question as to whether the object was actually a firearm (a necessary conditions of this enhancement is that the object actually be a firearm).

One of the key questions that arose after the trial by the jury was whether or not a vehicle had been searched for the gun in question. This only surfaced after the trial in an inadvertent conversation between a juror and Mr Reisig. The juror asked him if the car had ever been searched and Mr. Reisig said that he believed so. The defense attorney came out about the same time and heard that the car had been searched and no gun had been found.

It turns out that the vehicle had indeed been searched and that no gun was found. This information never made it to the jury during the trial. Nor was it given to the defense.

Based on this new evidence, the defense requested a new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence and prosecutorial misconduct–the withholding of exculpatory evidence. The trial judge denied this motion arguing that there was no probability that the jury would have come to a different result “even if this additional information had been presented.”

This decision was appealed and the appellate court overturned the ruling and the conviction.

According to the law, the prosecution must disclose evidence favorable to the accused regardless of whether or not the defendant specially requests the evidence.

Moreover, the evidence must specifically be material to case–in the sense that its suppression potentially changes the outcome of the trial. In this case, the victim never saw a gun but only an object and at least one of the jurors questioned whether even the current evidence was sufficient to prove to prove that the defendant actually possessed a gun (a necessary condition for the enhancement).

The judge ruled that “the duty to disclose this evidence was the exclusive responsibility of the prosecution…, whose failure to do so violated defendant’s right to due process of law.”

“In sum, the prosecutor violated defendant’s right to due process by failing to disclose to the defense the existence of material exculpatory evidence pertaining to the issue of whether defendant used a firearm while threatening to shoot the victim.”

The judge ordered that the firearm enhancement was to be reversed and a new trial. The prosecution then dropped the firearm charge at the subsequent trial and the defendant was given probation.

This case also came up in a May 31, 2006 Davis Enterprise article:

According to [Woodland attorney Larry] Cobb, the jury began its deliberations believing police had not searched the defendant’s car for gun. The jury convicted the defendant, and while speaking with the jury afterward, Cobb said he overheard Reisig tell jurors there was a vehicle search during which no gun was found. Cobb says he believes Reisig knew that information, potentially favorable toward his client, before the jury received the case.

The case went before the 3rd District Court of Appeal, which Cobb said ordered a new trial on the gun enhancement. The charge was never refiled.

Reisig disputes Cobb’s version of events, calling it “outrageous.” He said the jury never received information about a vehicle search, though a police officer mentioned while the jury was deliberating the case that police had searched a car and the area around it, but found no weapon.

The appellate court ruling, Reisig said, reflected the court’s opinion that the jury was entitled to hear information about the car search in case it would have affected the verdict. He added that there was no finding of intentional misconduct or hiding of evidence, and he declined to refile the gun charge because the defendant was performing well on probation.

“It wasn’t the best use of resources to proceed with a new trial for the use of the gun,” he said.”

Conclusion

There are two key elements of this case.  The first is the dissemination of the personal details of what should have been a confidential administrative process.  The plaintiff is arguing that the effect of this public disclosure of private facts has “exceeded the scope of what would be reasonable to occur in the course and scope of his employment” and moreover, the effect of it will make “it impossible to seek employment in his desired profession, regardless of the outcome of the administrative or criminal cases.”

The second portion is that this administrative action was done in retaliation for his role in disclosing and reporting the failure to turn over evidence from the gun test that may have proved exculpatory in the Halloween homicide case.

These matters get to the heart not only of the way that this District Attorney conducts public policy, but also the manner in which employees are treated and in this case allegedly mistreated in the disclosure of evidence in the process of conducting criminal investigations for the purposes of prosecution.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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19 Comments

  1. Ashamed

    There is so much dishonesty and corruption surrounding this Reisig guy, how did he ever get elected? Every time you turn around he is involved in something fishy and lots of things seem to stink around him. I hope the voters recognize this. Once people lose faith in the criminal justice system, society goes down hill from there. No surprise it seems like there is no such thing as a an honest politician and he is a lawyer to boot..

  2. Former Yolo DDA

    Randy Skaggs has always been an honest cop who works hard to do his job well. I hope the courts see that and learn what dishonest characters Reisig and Martin really are. Yolo County will have to keep ponying up money to pay settlements and judgments as long as Reisig is in office.

  3. Loha

    Rising in coordinated effort with the Davis police fabricated a case against Ajay Dev. and several others. He has targeted just about every ethnic group in the county. Are his actions not criminal? should he and his copadres’ in corruption not go to prison?. I say have DA office and all the trials since his election be federally investigated. There is a serious need for independent federal investigation. We need to recall this guy and fire his Deputies in crime. People wake up and smell the coffee.

  4. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]Rising in coordinated effort with the Davis police fabricated a case against Ajay Dev. and several others. [/quote]Fabricated? By saying that, you are accusing the DA of the most serious crime possible. I don’t know if it is a crime to make such a false accusation, but I do have to notice that you don’t believe your accusation enough to actually put your name to it. [quote]He has targeted just about every ethnic group in the county. [/quote] That’s yet another crime you are accusing the DA of, a very serious charge. Again, I don’t know if casting about false claims about a public figure amounts to libel, but in case it does, I suggest you continue to hide behind your pseudonym.

  5. Loha

    Did the the Yolo journalists (yellow journalists)who have been enablers of the corruptions in this county by failing to cover stories anything other than the DA’s points of view– letting the county be victimized over and over again. I am wondering if the Yellow journalists provided a fair cover for this one or they still continue to be the corruption sympathizers.

  6. Loha

    Yolo or the Yellow Journalists are the Davis Enterprise and the Woodland Daily Democrat if you did not figure that out already.

    Recently over 100 people gathered to protest the corruption against Ajay Dev by this DA, and these papers failed to provide any level of coverage.

    If we had over 100 people gathered to protest against citizen sneezing in Yolo county, you would have had front page coverage. Shame shame shame to the enablers of the corruption. Thank you for you contribution in terror against just about every ethnic group in this community. I hope the on-line news market drive these village idiot reporting machine out of business.

  7. Former Dep DA, Yolo Co.

    Jeff Reisig is a spin master, get ready for the smoke and mirrors. He will release a press release denying any knowledge and claiming all the allegations are false and politically motivated. When it is good he is always available for credit, when he gets caught, it is “I had no knowledge” or “This is politically motivated”. Remember when three guys accused of Murder were held in jail for over a year and after a long expensive trial, they were all acquitted, amazing enough, Mr. Reisig “was not available for comment”. More tax payer money wasted and no one pursued the truth or made him answer. When will the people of Yolo wake up?

  8. Woodland

    I think it is time to hit the DA with everything we have. Few people on the county’s payroll will defend him; but the evidence against him is to great now. Everyone who can, including formed Dep DA’s should prepare themselves-Once the FBI comes in (which according to highly reliable sources, has already begun preliminary investigations) Jeff is going to end up in Jail.

    Current Deputies and Investigators are readying themselves to expose Reisig.

    We are going to overturn every case jeff wrongfully used our proxy as district attorney to win.

  9. Heard that broken record before

    Jeff Reisig is a spin master, get ready for the smoke and mirrors. He will release a press release denying any knowledge and claiming all the allegations are false and politically motivated.

    I expect him to blame Pat Lenzi again for this.

    With Woodland cops shooting young men walking home, the Dev case debacle, Rick Gore’s allegations and now this?

    It’s time for a candidate to stand up and be ready to run against him. Supporters await you, whoever you may be!

  10. typhoid mary

    Wow an exculpatory evidence case that is 10 years old and one that never happened because his boss told him to comply with the law which he did. Do you have any exculpatory misconduct charges from the time he was DA?

    People get fired and file suit all the time. How many employees does the DA’s office have? Not only that but it sounds like the buck is going to stop below Reisig at the guy who opened his mouth when he shouldn’t have. Although you might have a legitamate issue here with the DA’s office outing advasaries as they did releasing information in the Bazayan case. If you can establish a pattern of behavior, and, I don’t think these two cases establish that pattern of behavior, you might have something you can use against the DA. Do you have any more examples?

    Former Deputy, what was the case of the 3 guys who beat the wrap? Did anyone ever get convicted in the case?

    When people get elected lots of jobs change over. How many left the DA’s office because they didn’t like the new DA’s style? How many filed suit?

    I still think the most vulnerable thing is to take the DA on over his willingness to pursue the death penalty, the way they add a transportation charge two simple possession for simply walking with drugs in your pocket. I think he is also vulnerable on his opposition to medical marijuana.

  11. Bill

    Nice Job David, had it not been for you this would still be unknown. It appears the local papers know Jeff Reisig too well and are fearful of his retribution, so they dare not cross him and print something against him.

    **salutes to you **scratches his head to local papers

    –watch out, it was said Lt. Skaggs would be next, now you will be next…

  12. Whats up

    Mr. Dev was sentenced to 378 years for raping his “daughter” by the Trial Judge, Hon. Timothy Fall, not the DA. Mr. Dev was found guilty for raping his “daughter” by the Jury, not the DA. Randy Skaggs’ lawsuit says that personal information about him was leaked to others. What you all are missing is that Randy Skaggs never denies the accusations about his misconduct, Randy is only upset that others in law enforcement found out about his misconduct. The Attorney General is investigating Randy’s misconduct. You people need to wake up and realize that this is nothing but two-bit Yolo County dirty politics. You should thank Reisig for getting the murderes, rapists and gangbangers off your streets. You are safer today because of the way Reisig protects the citizens of Yolo County.

  13. Sentencing law and other lessons

    Hey “What’s up” –
    The judge has very little discretion in selecting the sentence in sexual assault cases, especially those involving child victims. The sentence is heavily dependent upon the charges the DA chose to file and the way the DA phrased the charges. Therefore, the DA has more authority in that realm than the judge, once a verdict is reached.

    The DA is an advocate for one side of the facts, but is supposed to serve the ends of justice even as an advocate. The DA is the ‘presenter of the facts” as one DDA in the Yolo DA’s office is so fond of saying. Now, where a DA ignores exculpatory evidence, or presents the evidence in an improper fashion, you can get a guilty verdict where that result was not really warranted based upon the evidence.

    What if the phone conversation in the Dev case was truly mis-interpreted? What if the jury based its verdict on flawed evidence? Should the verdict stand in such circimstances? Arguably not. That is where the appeals process comes in. Cases do get reversed and DDAs are found to have committed violations of ethics and prosecutorial misconduct in these cases in many instances.

    As for Randy Skaggs’s suit – what [u]you[/u] are missing (or deliberately ignoring) is that the internal investigation process is governed by rules and law, and in this instance it is alleged that the DA’s office chose to deliberately ignore the rules and law by turning confidential information into workplace gossip. Stating as fact that the AG is investigating Randy’s conduct smacks of inside baseball. You must work in the DA’s office. If so, you very well may be perpetuating the same unethical and illegal behavior that Reisig and Martin are accused of in the lawsuit. How inappropriate of you.

    If it is possible that Reisig is violating the law while selectively prosecuting alleged offenders, then he is not doing his job well enough. Everyone has some good in them, so the fact that he may personally be responsible for prosecuting some people is nice and all,(since you seem to think none of the attorneys working in his office deserve recognition as his staff that prosecutes the murderers, rapists and gangbangers) BUT IT NOT ENOUGH ‘GOOD WORKS’ ON HIS PART TO PERMIT HIM TO VIOLATE RIGHTS OF ANY PERSON. EVER. PERIOD. END OF STORY.

    That means he does not have license to violate the rights of Skaggs, Gore, Dev, Halema Buzayan, Luis Guitierrez, or countless others on his staff, formerly on his staff or in his office’s caseload.

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