Back in February the Vanguard reported on the case of Andres Cordova, in which Yolo County Deputy DA Michael Vroman hid evidence that former Woodland Police Officer Lear Lutrell had sex with a domestic violence victim.
The Vanguard had a chance to speak recently with the victim in this case – a young woman who believes not only that she was taken advantage of by Officer Luttrell, but also that she was used by Deputy DA Vroman to try to get her ex-boyfriend Mr. Cordova convicted.
Andres Cordova in December 2016 was convicted by a Yolo County jury of attempted murder and sentenced to 43 years to life, despite evidence presented by Deputy Public Defender John Sage that Mr. Vroman withheld evidence which could have been used to impeach key witnesses – and could be considered exculpatory evidence under the Supreme Court Case, Brady v. Maryland.
Several months earlier, the complaining witness was herself a victim of sorts – she and Mr. Cordova had some sort of argument and she told the Vanguard she was injured when a pellet gun went off and hit her in the leg. However, while the police were called, no charges were ever filed in that case and she denied the injury was intentional.
But the DV incident put her in contact with Woodland Police Officer Lear Lutrell.
In an interview with a defense investigator, on February 15, 2017, she told them that following her incident report, Officer Lutrell along with Officer Kyle Konze of the Woodland Police Department responded.
“Officer Luttrell took my statement and gave me a ride from Andres’ house to my apartment. Before leaving, Officer Luttrell gave me his cell number and said I could call him if anything else were to happen. Andres had left before the officer arrived,” Deputy Public Defender Investigator Sandra Gordon writes in her notes.
Officer Luttrell would return to bring some paperwork for a restraining order and then messaged her, “saying he wanted to make sure Andres was not coming around me.
“Thereafter, I received text messages daily from Officer Luttrell,” she told investigators, and Luttrell even went so far as to set up a “Kik” account. At this point, “His text messages to me became sexually graphic. He described what he wanted to do to me sexually.”
About a week after the incident, he would come by her apartment. He was working – on duty and in full uniform.
She told investigators: “That was when we had sex. He did not rip my clothing off or anything like that. I took my own clothes off. He just unzipped his pants and pulled his penis out. He left his uniform on. We had sex and he left. He was only at my apartment for ten to fifteen minutes. The sex took place in my bedroom.”
She said that the sex was “intercourse only” and that there was “no oral sex.”
She indicated, “I felt pressure from Officer Luttrell to have sex with him.” She indicated, “After we had sex, I continued to receive text messages from him of a sexual nature.”
In her meeting with the Vanguard, she explained, “(Officer Luttrell) made me feel like I had to.” She said, “He made it seem like he was coming to check on me. He started to push himself on me. He was on duty in uniform.”
He started texting sexual things. “One day he popped into my house,” she said.
She described how other officers threatened her once they learned about the incident. Meanwhile, Detective Mathew Jameson “did all the mean talking.” He said he would make sure “they took my kids.”
She told the Vanguard: “I feel like I have no family. It’s my word against theirs and they’re not willing to believe my word.”
She told me that she has text messages of the threats, but no longer has that phone. She’s going to try to get ahold of them.
But, while that is bad, what Michael Vroman did may have been worse from a systemic perspective.
Under Brady v. Maryland, the prosecution is required to turn over all evidence that could be helpful to the defense. In a hearing in front of Judge Dave Reed as the defense sought a new trial, Mr. Sage argued that “under People versus Davis, which is 226 Cal App 4th at 1353, trial courts have stated that impeachment material can qualify as Brady information.”
He added that “what matters is that she says she told this information to Mr. Vroman, and I believe Mr. Vroman had a duty under 1054.1, either subsection e or subsection f to reduce that information to a writing and to provide it to the defense prior to trial, if possible, or during trial, if he learned of it during the trial, so we could have asked for a continuance.”
Mr. Vroman told the court, “She never told me she had an affair with any member of the Woodland Police Department. What she told me was that there was information that she — that she knew the defendant was aware of that, would be embarrassing, and that we wouldn’t want to come out.
“I stated it is irrelevant information. It is my job to work to keep out irrelevant information,” he argued. “So, I was not aware that she was making this unsubstantiated allegation against now Deputy Placer County, Deputy Luttrell.”
But that’s not true, according to what she told the Vanguard.
The trial began that fall. The victim gave birth to a baby on October 19. She said it was a day or two later that Detective Jameson approached her, attempting to get more information when she explained she didn’t trust them because one of their officers coerced her into having sex.
Mr. Vroman, she said, learned about the sex right around this point in time – despite his claims to the contrary in court where she said she was quite explicit – and they had a conversation in which he promised to keep it out of court.
She said, “Michael Vroman said he’s going to take it to his grave.”
According to her, Mr. Vroman’s only interest was getting Mr. Cordova convicted of the attempted murder, and she felt he was willing to use her in any way he could toward that end.
“He wanted me to get on the stand to testify against Andres – as if I knew about something in the shooting, when I wasn’t even there,” she said.
The shooting took place on August 15, 2016. According to a letter from the Woodland Police Department, Officer Lear Luttrell left the department that same day and transferred to the Placer County Sheriff’s Department.
However, a few weeks after he supposedly left the department, the victim claims to have seen him at Andres Cordova’s arraignment, August 31, 2016, for the attempted murder.
Despite the efforts of the defense counsel to bring these revelations to light, Judge Reed denied the motion for a new trial.
In an appellate brief, the attorney argues, “The court’s belief that appellant knew about the impeachment material because he knew of text messages from Officer Luttrell to [girlfriend] was incorrect. These text messages were never shown and there is no way to know if they identified the sender as Officer Luttrell.”
The appellant argued that this represented Brady material as it was “favorable to appellant, suppressed by the prosecution and prejudicial.”
She cites case law: “Under Brady, [citation], and its progeny, the prosecution has a constitutional duty to disclose to the defense material exculpatory evidence, including potential impeaching evidence.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting