Charges of Taliban and Prosecutorial Misconduct Permeate Yolo Assault Trial

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Yolo-Count-Court-Room-600It is something that you do not see everyday in Yolo County, but the Niazi trial contains all of the elements of a full-blown spy novel, except without the spies.  What was a commonplace assault with attempted murder charges, as factions of a family fought, has become much more than that.

Charges have flown that part of the family had Taliban ties and sympathies, and this apparently brought Homeland Security and the US Marshall’s Office into the investigation of an incident that is now nearly seven years old, having occurred in March of 2004.

Now with charges of prosecutorial misconduct, stemming from the fact that facts about the Federal Task Force’s involvement were withheld from the defense prior to the original trial date in 2006, have caused Yolo County Judge Stephen Mock to throw out attempted murder charges and leave the case as a simple assault case, as it was in 2006 when then Judge Lebov dismissed the charges.

At this point, I cannot say that the Taliban Case is not there, but the alleged victims are the only ones who have testified so far and to this point there has been no independent corroborating evidence.  There is also no active federal investigation that we know of.

One side is arguing that this dispute was motivated by a Taliban and Islamic Issue, the other side was saying it had to with family and the disrespect between two elders of the family.

According to Corporal Eric Thruelsen, who was the investigating detective on that case, he first became aware of the Taliban charges through reviewing patrol reports and victim statements.  As a result he contacted the Joint Terrorism Task Force to make them aware of what was occurring.

A US Marshall apparently was conducting his own investigation that involved some of the individuals in this investigation.

At a separate hearing on January 7 and 11th of this year, Corporal Thruelsen testified that he was not directed as to how to conduct his investigation but acknowledged he was told to be “vague about Taliban references.”

He also mentioned that because they were conducting a secret investigation that was a matter of national security, he was told to discuss it with no one.

However, when asked why he was discussing it now, he said that it had been made public by the DA’s Office several years ago.  He then suggested that revealing this information potentially endangered “not only [the] investigation, but the lives of the investigators.”

He argued that the motivation for the assault was clearly political or religious, at least according to the statements he received in his investigation.

The problem is that he was apparently told to be vague or not go too deeply into the Taliban angle “because it would lead to exposure of their investigation.”  He argued that while he may not have disclosed it in his report, he did not alter or omit anything from his investigation.

It as at this point that we learn of the alleged involvement of a former Deputy DA, Tim Wallace.

Corporal Thruelsen testified that he told the Federal Agent that he needed to discuss it with his supervisor and with the DA who was handling the case.  He testified to a three-way conversation on speaker phone with the agent and the DA, with the DA on the phone and the other two in the room together.

He further testified that the DA had directed him to write up the interviews he had observed from the federal task force, but he did not do that.

Corporal Thruelsen then testified that he had discussed the issue with the DA that that the federal investigators did not want him including or exposing their investigation and he said that the DA “never indicated to me that he had any issues with that until the eleventh hour before this case initially went to court.”

It was at that point that Corporal Thruelson was contacted and told, based on how the DA wanted to proceed with the case, he now wanted all of the information included.  As the Corporal testified, “It appeared to me that he had changed his focus or strategy in trying the case.”

One of the defense attorneys, Stewart Katz, made a request to Judge Mock that the court dismiss the case for prosecutorial misconduct.  Charles Swift, another defense attorney filed the motion based on testimony from the hearing on Friday January 7, 2011.

Judge Mock declined to dismiss the entire case but did dismiss the attempted murder charge.  He believes that the prosecutorial misconduct that was identified at the previous hearing “could” have caused Judge Lebov to dismiss the entire case, but we will never know.

He ruled that there was complicity between the prosecutor and the investigating police officer.

He said, “What I’m trying to do is to make sure that the People don’t benefit from what I see as the prosecutorial misconduct that occurred at that time.”

Judge Mock pointed out that he could only see that the misconduct may have allowed the attempted murder charges, which were not filed in 2006 and were not filed until the grand jury issued an indictment, to come forward.

He argued that it would be in the interest of justice to dismiss the attempted murder charges and proceed to trial with the original charges. 

He did so over the objections of current Deputy DA Robin Johnson, who argued that the grand jury had decided that attempted murder should be added in this case and that is what the community thinks should be prosecuted.

Finally, Judge Mock made a very interesting statement, basically stating that he took Corporal Thruelsen’s testimony at face value and that he found him to be a credible witness concerning this particular issue.

Thus, Judge Mock ruled that Tim Wallace “made intentional misrepresentations to the Court about his knowledge of the existence of the parallel joint task force investigation.”  He is forwarding this complaint to the State Bar association.

However, we find this a bit troubling.  Deputy DA Tim Wallace, who has long since left the DA’s Office, seems a convenient target here as a scapegoat. 

Judge Mock made a ruling simply on the word of the Corporal whom he found credible.  But the Corporal is not some disinterested party.  Both the Corporal and DA probably recognize that putting the blame on the investigators leads to more problems for their case than putting the blame on a long since departed DA.

The court never brought in Deputy DA Tim Wallace to explain his side of the story.  The defense requested it, the court requested it, but the DA objected.  Why is that?

Is the Taliban a real player in this case?  It is hard to know.  So far the only evidence of Taliban involvement is the word of the alleged victims.  The Niazi’s have been in this country since well before the Taliban emerged in Afghanistan.  They do not have criminal records.  And there is no known active federal investigation.

Mr. Thruelsen even made the point to suggest that the DA had put the federal investigators in peril by announcing their investigation in open court.

The whole case is troubling.  And it still has a number of days left in it to find out just who assaulted whom and whether there really is a Taliban presence here or whether that was the card played by the alleged victims to spur the involvement of the feds and law enforcement.

It is far from clear to me that the complicit party is Mr. Wallace.  Fortunately, he will have a full Bar investigation looking into it, and they will not simply take the word of a police officer, who may have withheld evidence himself.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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5 thoughts on “Charges of Taliban and Prosecutorial Misconduct Permeate Yolo Assault Trial”

  1. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “Judge Mock made a ruling simply on the word of the Corporal whom he found credible. But the Corporal is not some disinterested party. Both the Judge and DA probably recognize that putting the blame on the investigators leads to more problems for their case than putting the blame on a long since departed DA.”

    So you believe there is collusion between Judge Mock, Corporal Thurlson and the DA? Really? How about Judge Lebov?

    Under what circumstances did former DDA Tim Wallace leave, if you know?

    A sitting judge referred DDA Tim Wallace to the CA State Bar for discipline – a very serious charge. Judges do not do that lightly…

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Actually that was an error, “Both the Judge and DA probably recognize that putting the blame on the investigators leads to more problems for their case than putting the blame on a long since departed DA.” Not sure how the Judge got put into that sentence.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “Actually that was an error, “Both the Judge and DA probably recognize that putting the blame on the investigators leads to more problems for their case than putting the blame on a long since departed DA.” Not sure how the Judge got put into that sentence.”

    Glad we caught the error!

  4. Roger Rabbit

    ERM: when someone makes a allegation to state bar on someone other than the DA, it is very serious. If I recall correctly, when two senior Detectives, one a Lt, that worked for the DA made complaints to the State Bar on DA Reisig for hiding evidence, it was dismissed as not a bid deal.

    As normal, people will see what they want. This is simply typical finger pointing and blame game by the DA. Put everything else aside, and try and focus on just one clear thing:

    If the DA was so clean on this and really wanted the TRUTH, why in the world would they object to calling DA Tim Wallace to clear up some facts? Save to double talk and mumbo jumbo, it stinks and as usually the DA is about hiding and covering up facts, rather than getting to the truth.

    If the DA wanted to call Wallace and the Defense objected you would be calling foul and saying it was lawyer tricks and games, but when the DA does it, opps, lets just overlook that little fact.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    To Roger Rabbit: Remember, the JUDGE referred DDA Wallace to the state bar. I would think that would carry quite a bit of weight. Nor do we know under what circumstances DDA Wallace left his position. Was it under a cloud? If yes, then he would have an ax to grind with the DA, and his credibility would be in question…

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