Yolo DA’s Office Attempts to Subpoena Vanguard Reporter to Testify in Repo Man Trial

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Shield-lawBy Lauren King

CEO and lead reporter for the Davis Vanguard, David Greenwald, was subpoenaed and ordered to appear in court on the afternoon of May 4, 2015, after the Yolo County District Attorney’s office caught wind of a recent Vanguard article, in part describing the felony case of Guillermo and Sandra Bonilla along with Juan Bonilla, from their perspective. The initial interview took place several months prior, and an article was published after Mr. Greenwald learned that the case would go to trial during the coming week.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Favero believed there to be inconsistencies in Mrs. Bonilla’s (who has not testified) recollection of events between statements given to counsel and those that she appeared to make to Mr. Greenwald. Mr. Greenwald was thusly subpoenaed in hopes that he could help provide an authentic account of the events that took place on May 11, 2013, in West Sacramento.

Mr. Greenwald, represented by Sacramento Attorney Josh Kaizuka, moved to quash the subpoena to protect the reporter from being asked to reveal unpublished information about the article’s sources.

Under the new California Shield Law, passed in 2013, journalists and bloggers who report the news to the public are protected from being forced to testify about their work. Not all are covered under this law, however, a “covered journalist,” someone who gathers and reports news for “an entity or service that disseminates news and information” is entitled to its protection.

According to Senator Feinstein, the “covered journalist” definition includes freelancers, part-timers, and student journalists. The only disclosures that reporters may be compelled to make are those that would lead to the prevention of crimes such as murder, kidnapping, child abduction, or “acts of terrorism.”

The First Amendment coalition writes, “The California Shield Law provides legal protections to journalists seeking to maintain the confidentiality of an unnamed source or unpublished information obtained during newsgathering.”

Subpoena-DA-Office

Mr. Greenwald’s recent article, published April 21, 2015, does not contain any of the aforementioned conditions that would compel him to reveal unpublished materials. Also, Mr. and Mrs. Bonilla’s words were never directly quoted within the article. The couple’s story was paraphrased by Mr. Greenwald, and therefore, naturally subject to possible inconsistencies from the Bonillas’ direct, verbal statements in court.

Deputy District Attorneys Ryan Couzens and Michael Favero attempted to discredit the Vanguard by arguing that it is a blog, rather than a legitimate news website. Not only are these statements false, but the Vanguard, under the new California Shield Law, would likely be protected as a blog as well.

Additionally, DDA Couzens cited the case of Rancho Publications v. Superior Court (1999) against the motion. This case does relate to the California Shield Law, however, its subject is that of advertising sources in a print newspaper, which does not seem to apply directly to the current case or motion.

Judge Reed did not buy into the prosecution’s argument and was prepared, barring an explicit controlling legal opinion on Tuesday morning, to accept that the Shield Law covers the Vanguard and would limit the scope of Mr. Greenwald’s testimony.

It is unclear exactly what the District Attorney’s office hopes to gain from Mr. Greenwald’s testimony. However, Judge David W. Reed appeared to agree that the scope of questioning, should Mr. Greenwald take the stand, must be limited to published information. Judge Reed ordered the Vanguard CEO to return on the morning of May 5 to continue discussions concerning the unsettled motion.

Legal arguments are set to begin at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Mr. Greenwald was ordered to appear at 10:30 a.m. to testify.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

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44 thoughts on “Yolo DA’s Office Attempts to Subpoena Vanguard Reporter to Testify in Repo Man Trial”

  1. Cris Alarcon

    Why do we even need a shield law? What’s the problem?

    Government officials have attempted to jail and even bankrupt journalists to force them to reveal their sources or information they have gathered. A study conducted by Brigham Young University law professor RonNell Andersen Jones, for example, found that in 2006 alone journalists were served with more than 7,200 subpoenas from state and local governments, and about 800 from the federal government. Some news organizations are served more than 25 times a year, and most newsroom leaders perceived a continual increase in government action to compel journalists to talk. In 2006, for example, blogger Josh Wolf of California was jailed for 226 days because he wouldn’t hand over video he shot while covering a protest.

  2. Fight Against Injustice

    This story is very interesting for a couple of reasons.

    I remember a few years back when the DA’s office claimed that the Vanguard was not important enough for them to even take notice let alone read.  It looks like they have taken notice.

    Second, I remember when a prosecutor (I think it was Couzens) questioned potential jurors as to whether they read the Vanguard or not.  He dismissed any jurors that had read the Vanguard.  So I guess now that it is obvious that Couzens reads the Vanguard, he shouldn’t be so against anyone else reading it.

  3. Fight Against Injustice

    I also want to say how happy I am that the judge also recognizes that David’s work is protected by the Shield Law.

  4. sisterhood

    “Mr. Greenwald, represented by Sacramento Attorney Josh Kaizuka…”

    What is his hourly rate? Do you need financial help with your legal counsel?

    THANK YOU. Don’t. Back. Down.

    1. David Greenwald

      Fortunately the attorney is volunteering his time. Although it’s a much greater expenditure of time than he probably thought when I called him on Sunday night. My biggest problem is that we have our fundraiser on Saturday and instead of making calls yesterday and today, I’m dealing with this.

  5. Napoleon Pig IV

    Damn good thing we have a First Amendment or we’d have to expand the Second Amendment to include a right to own MRAPs.

    Our local DA, in his over-reaching wisdom, or manic power-mongering, is wasting perfectly good taxpayer money and unnecessarily riling the sheep. At least most judges seem to be okay — if you can afford to ever get that far in the “justice” process.

    Give ’em hell, David. Oink!

  6. David Greenwald

    UPDATE:

    I ended up testifying. For less than five minutes. Testified that I wrote two paragraphs. Completely useless. In fact, one of them was friendly to the defense. But mainly we made it such a hard process for them and they got so little out of it – they’ll never try this again.

    1. Napoleon Pig IV

      ” they’ll never try this again.”

      Very good outcome. Excellent approach.

      Some dogs only learn after a brisk jerk on the choke chain a time or two. Oink!

        1. Davis Progressive

          that’s a bit more in doubt.  prosecutors are supposed to represent “the people” and therefore while their job is to prosecute, they should also be mindful of “justice.”  a defense attorney is supposed to represent their client, period.

        2. hpierce

          Yeah, defense attorneys are in effect “hoes”… prosecuting attorneys “have to” have high ethics, represent ‘the people’, be sensitive to the accused, support justice, but no ethical rules for defense attorneys.  I suspect that the attorney code of ethics are such that if a defense attorney witnessed a gruesome murder by their client, they’d use every ‘trick in the book’ to get their client off, completely exonerated.  Maybe a good reason I’m not an attorney.

          Sorry, sore point, based on my experience.

        3. Davis Progressive

          i don’t know what kind of experience you had, but your experience doesn’t gibe with mine about defense attorneys.  it’s not lawful for attorneys to lie – some may do.  but for the most part our job is to represent the client’s interests, make sure they get a fair trial.  most of the time, the jury will figure out the truth if it gets that far.  often you know the client is guilty and your job is to get him a reasonable plea offer and if not, go to trial and hope for the best.

      1. Alan Miller

        i don’t know what kind of experience you had, but your experience doesn’t gibe with mine about defense attorneys.  it’s not lawful for attorneys to lie – some may do.  but for the most part our job is to represent the client’s interests, make sure they get a fair trial.  most of the time, the jury will figure out the truth if it gets that far.  often you know the client is guilty and your job is to get him a reasonable plea offer and if not, go to trial and hope for the best.

        Wow, such faith in the system.

        Is this a chronic case of can’t-see-the-picture-from-inside-the-frame-itis?

        1. Davis Progressive

          meaning?  i don’t have a huge amount of faith in the system – prosecutors lie, cheat, often convict the wrong person and have no consequences.  that’s why i stopped being a defense attorney.

  7. Tia Will

    hpierce

    Yeah, defense attorneys are in effect “hoes”… prosecuting attorneys “have to” have high ethics, represent ‘the people’, be sensitive to the accused, support justice, but no ethical rules for defense attorneys.”

    Well, this is supposed to be the case. However, if you believe that prosecuting attorneys actually demonstrate the highest ethics, represent the “people” and support justice ( instead of also going for the win), then you are accepting a very one sided view of our judicial system. You have not heard of building a career based on number of convictions ?  You have not heard of the practice of over charging ? You have not heard of prosecutorial misconduct that is not penalized ?  You have not heard of non disclosure of evidence ?

    Even if you believed that all of these events never occurred, I fail to see how it represents me ( as a member of the public ) to be automatically excluded from a trial that could involve the death penalty because I do not believe in it. Or having my presence on the jury challenged in a drug case because of my profession which involves drug counseling while retired police are admitted to that same jury. I consider “stackng the deck” rather than selecting a true cross section of one’s “peers” to sit on a jury as unethical. Prosecutors take part in this little game of pretended non bias equally as do defenders. Where is the “justice” in stacking the jury pool in one’s favor ?  Where is the “ethics” in more resourced being provided to the DAs office than to the public defenders ?

    In my opinion, our legal system is full of ethical lapses on both sides, not just one as you were implying.

    1. hpierce

      “Well, this is supposed to be the case.”  On this, we agree.  

      “However, if you believe that prosecuting attorneys actually demonstrate the highest ethics, represent the “people” and support justice ( instead of also going for the win), then you are accepting a very one sided view of our judicial system. You have not heard of building a career based on number of convictions ?  You have not heard of the practice of over charging ? You have not heard of prosecutorial misconduct that is not penalized ?  You have not heard of non disclosure of evidence ?”  Please take your words out of my mouth, and I hope you cleansed/sanitized your hands thoroughly before you tried. How dare you use that tone! Yes I have heard of ‘points for convictions’, but that should be abhorred. I NEVER have advocated it. Overcharging? That’s wrong, too. Prosecutorial misconduct? That is vile, but never heard of ‘defense misconduct’ (unless their client didn’t get set free).  Don’t think that exists, even if the defense attorney saw a vile act committed, and then seeks to have the client exonerated.  Non-disclosure of evidence?  Wrong if done by the “state”, but apparently fair game (your view?) for the defense. Neither side, in my opinion should do that.

      You claim to dislike the adversary system, but your words above indicate you actually embrace it, as long as it is directed towards only the State (or me).  Fine.  You’re entitled to your views. You appear to want the prosecution to be “perfect”, but it’s OK for the defense to “lie, cheat and steal” for exoneration of their clients, regardless of guilt.  A one-sided adversarial process, if you will.  Fine.  

      Please use a couple of doses of hand-sanitizer on your hands before trying to put words in my mouth.  Better yet, just don’t do it.

       

       

      1. Tia Will

        hpierce

        You appear to want the prosecution to be “perfect”, but it’s OK for the defense to “lie, cheat and steal” for exoneration of their clients, regardless of guilt.  A one-sided adversarial process, if you will.  Fine.  “

        Wow !  I ask a few question that you do not like the “tone” of, and I get told what I “must appear to want”. Either show me the quotes in which I said the prosecution should be “perfect” or that it is “ok for the defense to “lie, cheat and steal” or maybe just look in the mirror before accusing someone of “putting words” in your mouth…..sanitized or not.

         

  8. Barack Palin

    I consider “stackng the deck” rather than selecting a true cross section of one’s “peers” to sit on a jury as unethical.

    Both sides get to pick and choose the jury.  The last trial I was summoned to took a whole day to pick the jury.  It was a very fair process.  Neither side was able to stack the jury, that’s why they go through the selection process.

    1. Miwok

      BP, that is the thought I had, as I was at the last of a very busy day of selections. I wish I had been there to hear the case, but after a while they said they were done with challenges and excuses, go with what you have. Both sides looked peeved. I saw what they each were going for and neither got it.

      1. Davis Progressive

        my only concern is that latinos are underrepresented on the jury and overrepresented as defendants.  in the end, i’ve seen good juries and bad juries and it’s really difficult to predict – a few good jurors can make a huge difference.

        1. Davis Progressive

          no i think it does matter.  specifically, people of color are more willing at times to look at all of the evidence rather than make a rush to judgment.

        2. Barack Palin

          specifically, people of color are more willing at times to look at all of the evidence rather than make a rush to judgment.

          Are you saying white people aren’t willing to do the same?  Hmmmmm…..

        3. Alan Miller

          My jury experience was a majority of white dim-whits ready to believe anything the police said and wanting to go home right away FAR MORE than caring if the non-white defendants got a decent consideration of their case by the jury, AND one white guy who wouldn’t believe a cop if he showed him his badge and said, “I’m a cop”.

          I ended up hanging up the jury for nearly an extra day because I wanted it proven to me that the defendants were guilty, which by going over the evidence I was eventually convinced of.

          The white guy with the tinfoil hat hung the jury 11-1.  He told us “if I don’t see it with my own eyes I don’t believe it”.  That was the failure of the jury selection process in allowing him on the jury.

          Did race have anything to do with what I experienced above? I have no idea.

        4. hpierce

          Alan…. I have only been on one jury… it was a DUI/driving with BAC over .08 case (that’s always double charged).  Again, an all “white” jury.  The defendant was “white” female.  After we heard the evidence, I held out on the first charge we deliberated, the BAC one.  The defense questioned the calibration of the device, and I was not convinced by the prosecution’s response… I felt reasonable doubt.  I eventually decided that the 11 other people were convinced, and I agreed.  The funny part is, I was absolutely convinced that the DUI charge was valid (defendant tried to explain the wild driving as due to anti-histimines) [doesn’t matter what influence you’re under], and we started out as a 9-3 for conviction, (I was one of the adamant 9), and it took us almost 4 hours to convince the last one.  She was a ~ 60 year old white female, who haranged me when I wasn’t convinced on the BAC part.  Weird.  Defendant was convicted on both counts.

          Dad advised me, if I am guilty, I want a jury trial.  If I’m innocent, I want a “bench trial”.

          For what it’s worth.  BS=Buffalo Springfield, see… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp5JCrSXkJY

          Fits with a number of the recent threads…  recommend y’all listen carefully to the lyrics.  If you hadn’t learned them as an adolescent/young adult.  “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls…”

        5. Alan Miller

          Yeah, good advice about the type of trial from your pops.  I’ve been rather appalled by the attitude of most jurors.  Juries seem one step above the crowd you are in line with at the DMV.

          I sat in on another trial that I wasn’t picked for (because I said I didn’t like the tactics of YONET — sure fire way to get dumped in Yolo), because I was interested.  Based on what I saw, no way they could convict, but the jury did.  The prosecutor told me after the trial he was surprised the jury convicted — it sure wasn’t off the evidence.  He also told me of several pieces of evidence that he wasn’t allowed to present — which did convince me of guilt, but that sure isn’t what the jury saw.  So the jury got it right on “feeling”, not evidence.  Great system.

        6. Frankly

          no i think it does matter.  specifically, people of color are more willing at times to look at all of the evidence rather than make a rush to judgment.

          All I can say is wow.

          Let me try this hypothetical out…

          I think people of color are more prone at times to behave badly and break the law, therefore I welcome a higher percentage of them being arrested and locked away.

          And I suppose that you would use this point to call me a racist.  And if so, then what are you?  And if not, you should.

    2. Tia Will

      BP

      It is true that both sides get to make selections ( or pre emptions). To me, this does not guarantee a “fair” or “just ” process. Instead, it becomes a matter of which attorney makes the better assessment of how a juror may be predisposed. This is about winning by “stacking the deck ” in your favor regardless of which side you are on. I do not believe that it is about getting at the truth and a just disposition. I believe that it is about selecting the jury that is most likely to see things your way….or “winning”.

  9. sisterhood

    I’ve interacted with defense attorneys just in it for the paycheck, just calling it in, and just simply guardian angels from heaven. They are people like everyone else.

  10. Fight Against Injustice

    Keep in mind is how much more power a prosecutor has than a defense attorney.

    1.  Prosecutors get to set the charges or stack them to their benefit.  They can stack so many charges together that an innocent person may be inclined to take a plea bargain instead of taking a chance on a trial.

    Also, because jurors generally believe that prosecutors are looking for justice, they tend to believe a person who has a lot of charges against them must be guilty.  They tend to feel that the prosecutor wouldn’t be taking a case to trial unless it is warranted.

    2.  Prosecutors have a lower case load than public defenders–especially those that are grant funded.

    3.  Prosecutors can use the police, sheriffs and detectives to supply evidence.

    4.  Prosecutors get more funding in their budgets and a lot more grant money.  Many times a defense has to be limited in its scope because of the costs. A defendant has to pay for detectives or professionals that can help their case.

    5. Prosecutors pay no real consequences when they commit prosecutorial misconduct, and they cannot be sued.

    I realize that prosecutors have to prove guilt, but the system in place gives them too much power without and checks and balances.

    Because prosecutors represent the people, the people need to hold them accountable for doing justice.  Just to write it off as “that is the way it is” is allowing prosecutors to continue these negative practices.

    David has done a great job keeping an eye on what is happening in our court system.  We need to keep spreading the word and educating prospective jurors and our political leaders.

    1. Davis Progressive

      you are correct – prosecutors are by far the most powerful actors in the judicial system and maybe even in the country.  they decide which cases to charge and what charges to file.  it’s a huge responsibility.  and there is very limited oversight.

  11. sisterhood

    “They can stack so many charges together that an innocent person may be inclined to take a plea bargain instead of taking a chance on a trial.”

    Yep.

    They can also harass family members, follow them, pull them over for flickering taillights, possession of medically prescribed cannabis, etc.

    1. Napoleon Pig IV

      That stacking of charges technique needs a review at the level of the Supreme Court. It is clearly an abuse of power, and one that is also designed to generate revenue for “the state.”

      When defining a single act as multiple crimes doesn’t work, then the Porcine Pinnacle just calls in the IRS (or around here, the Franchise Tax Board) where a mere citizen is always guilty until proven innocent.

      Ah yes, the land of the free. Long live the First and Second Amendments. Oink!

      1. sisterhood

        If the FTB doesn’t work, they can scour your pc or laptop back 7 or 8 years when porn wasn’t as easy to detect & threaten to use viewing  legal adult porn at your trial where all your family members & friends will be.

        1. Fight Against Injustice

          You bring up a good point.  The DA’s office has used this strategy to infuriate the jury and paint a “bad” picture of the accused.

          The DA doesn’t care if the pornography found came on to the computer through malware or even if it was never actually accessed.  They don’t care if there isn’t even any content, but only icons or titles that can suggest pornography.  They will use it to bolster a case that has no real incriminating evidence.

          As a prospective juror, keep in mind that years ago almost everyone had issues with unwanted spam and malware that could dump porn.  And if you ever used a program like Napster where you shared  folders with others, the odds are that pornography was dumped onto your computer without your knowledge.

          This strategy that is used by the DA is very questionable.  If they want to use pornography against someone then they need to show that it was accessed and viewed.

    1. hpierce

      Of course I meant the garden tools used to mix manure with the soil.  Now if I had written ‘hoes, that would be unacceptable, in my view.

  12. sisterhood

    This strategy that is used by the DA is very questionable.  If they want to use pornography against someone then they need to show that it was accessed and viewed.
    In our case the cops admitted they did not know who sent the porn or even if they were trying to investigate who sent the un-wanted porn.  The legal, adult porn site, which Yahoo advertised was “monitored”, was used against my family. Turns out Yahoo meant it was “monitored” by law enforcement. We thought it was monitored for legal, adult content only. You live and learn. Now our computers have porn filters. Back then, they did not.

    Still not 100% convinced that law enforcement did not infect my computer with adult porn. BTW, one cop lied to me and told me there was child porn on the same disc with my wedding album. I got married years before photography was on the internet! I had my old fashioned wedding album, with photo’s taken with an old fashioned Nikon camera, stored safely in a place the cops couldn’t find! Lies, lies, lies…

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