By David M. Greenwald
Woodland, CA – A few weeks ago, Ajay Dev’s attorney, Jennifer Mouzis, was ill and had to postpone a hearing. The petitioners asked for and were granted a continuance.
In response, Couzens filed a motion that can only be described as a full conspiracy theory.
He writes “the People believe the Petitioner, Ajay Dev, intends to delay this proceeding not only to avoid taking the testimony of Michael Rothschild, but to take advantage of a possible election outcome for the current District Attorney’s race, in which the undersigned believes there has already been at least one communication with candidate Cynthia Rodriguez that raises serious ethical issues.”
Couzens continues: “The People feel compelled to accept counsel’s statement regarding illness but it is, at the very least, convenient given Petitioner’s desire to not have Mr. Rothschild examined.”
So wouldn’t you know—the next hearing was scheduled for this past Friday and Couzens this time had to postpone due to illness. You know what they say about Karma.
In late April, the Dev team was going to put Michael Rothschild, who was Dev’s counsel at his 2009 trial, on the stand, but attorney Jennifer Mouzis decided at the lost moment to pull back the witness.
Couzens complained at that time about the delays, but Judge Janene Beronio pointed out that, while it is understandable that the People would like to move forward, it is Dev who is the one sitting in custody for years before his matter has been heard. As such, she didn’t see the urgency on the part of the People.
In addition to Couzens accusing the petitioners of trying to run out the clock, DA Jeff Reisig turned the case into a full political football at the same time the case was about to resume in Yolo County courts. A $500 donation from Ajay Dev’s brother along with another donation from Brett Pedroia turned into fodder for an attack piece against Cynthia Rodriguez.
The focal point of the DA’s office counterattack on this case has been prison conversations between Dev and a number of his family members in 2018. Translated from Nepalese, Couzens at the last full hearing in 2019 alleged that these were efforts by Dev to coach the witness.
Ajay Dev was convicted not only of dozens of counts of sexual assault, but also three counts of dissuading a witness. He is currently serving a 378-year sentence—de facto life without parole.
During the evidentiary hearing, Couzens has focused on the issue of dissuading a witness and ignored the underlying crime—but without the underlying crime, there is no such thing as dissuading a witness.
The problem is that the evidence for the underlying crime was always thin to begin with. It is the classic he said/she said.
Without the translation of the pretext phone call, the jury would not have been able to convict. Several jurors so acknowledged on social media posts that the victim’s testimony was difficult to believe and without the recording they never would have done so.
Here Judge Timothy Fall erred by allowing the victim to translate the conversation that meandered from English to Nepali. The key statement that the jury relied upon was, “But you had sex with me when you were 18.”
New technology has allowed Ajay’s defense to enhance the audio from that recording. A Nepali translator listened to the new enhanced recording and has determined that Ajay did not state what the alleged victim claimed. Instead, Ajay said, “If that (is) so, why did you come with me since 18 years?”
Appellate attorney Cliff Gardner argues: “The prosecutor’s argument that this portion of the pretext phone call constituted an admission that petitioner had sex with [S. Dev] is simply wrong. In assessing the pretext call, and counsel’s arguments, it is critical for the jurors to have an accurate translation of the pivotal portions of the call.”
This was presented by the petitioner early in the Habeas evidentiary hearing. That is bolstered by apparent admissions by the complaining witness that she had made up the complaint whole cloth.
In the Habeas they present evidence, and are still attempting to put on another witness to show that the complaining witness admitted to six people (all of whom have filed sworn declarations) that she was lying and had made up the charges because she was fearful of being sent back to Nepal, that she saw Ajay Dev as overbearing and, in general, had anger toward him.
They have six declarations from the people she told, contemporaneous to the allegations, that the allegations were made up and created in part because of anger as to how Dev was treating her, and in part because of the threat of being deported to Nepal.
Naturally Couzens wants to turn the evidentiary hearing into a referendum on Ajay Dev’s dissuading a witness when the evidentiary hearing itself along with the Habeas petition call into question whether an underlying crime occurred.
The problem here is that Couzens and DA Jeff Reisig are so invested in the outcome that they are failing to fairly evaluate whether Dev’s conviction was a miscarriage of justice because no crime occurred. Rather than attempting to reevaluate the evidence, Couzens is digging up dirt on Dev in the form of prison phone conversations that he is spinning for nefarious purposes rather than evaluating the veracity of the mountains of new evidence put on by Dev and his legal team.