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Judge Seals District Attorney Office Records In Chula Vista Investigation


Aired 5/22/14

A judge has sealed records wanted by a former Chula Vista city official who is trying to have his misdemeanor guilty plea dismissed. Attorneys for the official argue District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis did not disclose that she had a conflict of interest in his case.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis speaks to the media, Aug. 20, 2013.

A San Diego judge today took possession of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis's office records concerning an investigation of Chula Vista city officials.

Judge Louis Hanoian plans to hold the records until he rules on whether to allow an aide to former Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla to try to undo his plea deal.

The aide—Jason Moore—wants the court to set aside his misdemeanor guilty plea, to contempt of court, from 2007. Moore insists he would not have entered the plea—in response to perjury charges filed by the district attorney—if he had known that Dumanis had earlier contacted his boss, then-Mayor Padilla. Padilla said Dumanis asked him to appoint her aide to a vacant Chula Vista City Council seat.

A KPBS story last month reported that Dumanis started investigating Chula Vista city officials after Padilla refused her request.

Moore's attorney Knut Johnson contends that conversation created a conflict of interest for Dumanis in the subsequent probe.

"The facts seem to be undisputed," Johnson said. "Ms. Dumanis made the phone call to the mayor. The mayor refused her request and then she investigated the entire Chula Vista government."

Dumanis's spokesman Steve Walker called the effort to set aside the misdemeanor plea, "a fishing expedition seven years after the fact."

"The defendant pleaded guilty to lying to a grand jury and was held responsible for his crime," Walker said in a written statement. "Following that plea, the Attorney General's office was made aware of issues raised in this motion and found no reason to take any action or investigate."

Patrick O'Toole, the prosecutor in the Chula Vista investigation, handed a folder of records to the court. And the judge put them under seal.

Lawyer Johnson wants to review the records.

He said he's looking for internal emails, notes and letters from the DA's office of Dumanis's conversation with Padilla. Judge Hanoian is expected to decide in mid June if Johnson should be allowed to review them.

KPBS sought the same records two months ago through a California Public Records Act request. The office mostly released material that was already publicly available.

Moore has also asked the DA's office to recuse itself from his case. The DA calls that request premature and improper.

Meanwhile, with the June 3rd primary less than two weeks away, Moore's attempt to have his plea dismissed has turned into an issue in the district attorney race.

Dumanis's campaign spokeswoman Jen Tierney said the case was "nothing more than a publicity stunt orchestrated by our opponent less than two weeks before Election Day."

"Shame on him for wasting the court's time and resources for political gain," Tierney said in a statement.

The campaign of former federal prosecutor Bob Brewer, one of two of Dumanis's opponents, responded that the judge clearly didn't think the case was a waste of time.

"Dumanis can clear everything up very easily by releasing all the documents and answering one simple question: 'Did you or did you not secretly lobby the mayor of Chula Vista to have your friend appointed to the Chula Vista City Council?'" said Brewer's communications director Alex Roth. "Instead of answering these questions and releasing these public documents, she's stonewalling and hoping to run out the clock before the June 3 election."

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | May 23, 2014 at 7:36 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

were they given enough time to destroy or fabricate the records ?

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | May 23, 2014 at 8 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

They will hold them until the election is over, San Diego County is politically corrupt at all levels. The elite do as the want without transparency or impunity.

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Avatar for user 'progressivebuthey'

progressivebuthey | May 23, 2014 at 8:17 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

this article makes no sense. no background info to give reader a context of what is going on here.

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Avatar for user 'Prosecutor'

Prosecutor | May 23, 2014 at 10:02 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

The use of the power of the office of the District Attorney to impose political retaliation is an example of gross corruption. The lack of ethics displayed by Bonnie Dumanis continues to tarnish the image of the office and is drawn into focus by her refusal to turn over documents that both the defendant and the public have a right to see. Hopefully her ploy of stonewalling will not benefit her at the polls on June 3. It is clearly a time for a change in leadership at the DA's office.

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Avatar for user 'RCPhill808'

RCPhill808 | May 23, 2014 at 10:17 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Progressivebuthey: Read the "Related Content," as linked above. What this will tell you is that 7 years ago, DA Bonnie Dumanis telephoned Chula Vista Mayor Padilla and asked him if he would insert a DA "special assistant" and friend of hers into a vacated Chula Vista city council seat. When told "no," Dumanis then instigated retaliatory investigations of the council members and others, resulting in next to nothing with the sole exception of a plea-bargained misdemeanor plea of guilty obtained from Jason Moore; an assistant to Mayor Padilla. At no time, until just recently, was it ever revealed that the DA had an ulterior motive for prosecuting Mr. Moore; a fact that pursuant to U.S. Supreme Court authority should have been revealed. DA Dumanis first denied that any records of this event even exist. When shown that they do in fact exists, she now refuses to release anything of any substance relative to her lapse of ethical judgment. She even refuses to admit or deny whether she made the initial phone call to Mayor Padilla. Such information is not only relevant to Moore's motion to withdraw his plea of guilty, but is important to the upcoming June 3rd elections as well in that it shows a dishonestly and a lack of ethics that the voters of this county are entitled to know about.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | May 23, 2014 at 12:37 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Why stop there? Why not perform an audit of prosecutions where enforcement was prejudicial and tainted? Or cases which her office chose to ignore?

"Shame on him for wasting the court's time and resources for political gain," Tierney said in a statement.

"Shame on (all of you) for wasting the court's time and resources for political gain," (the public) said in a statement.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | May 23, 2014 at 12:37 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

anyone recall when we had a popular DA ?

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Avatar for user 'pearljammed'

pearljammed | May 23, 2014 at 1:30 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

I knew it! Dirty Dumanis puts the screws out to this Judge to stonewall the file until AFTER the election on June 3rd. How convenient for Bogus Bonnie! But perhaps the perceptive VOTERS will FINALLY see Bonnie Dumanis for what SHE REALLY IS: a conniving, corrupt, loathsome embarrassment to JUSTICE in San Diego!

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Avatar for user 'RothAC'

RothAC | May 23, 2014 at 1:38 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Re popular DAs, I've only been here since Dumanis took office, but from everything I hear or read Ed Miller was so highly respected as SanDiego DA that he was actually beloved. He served for a number of years, just before Pfingst, I believe. The guy before Miller was also, apparently, highly respected.
So it's not at all inevitable that a DA will be unpopular. It depends on the kind of job you do.

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Avatar for user 'RothAC'

RothAC | May 23, 2014 at 2:21 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

DeLaRick: Every civil case is a waste of time and taxpayers' money by your standards. Each one concerns only the specific plaintiff. But that's what the court system is all about in a free country.
When it comes to a criminal case, involving a government agency like the DA, the only way to expose wrong-doing is for someone SPECIFIC to bring a SPECIFIC suit against the government. (The beauty of our system is that you CAN fight City Hall!) The public at large can't sue the government for general malfeasance! In this case a KPBS investigation uncovered something suspicious that bore directly on one individual, suggesting that he may have been unjustly treated by the justice system several years back. Thank the Lord that he has the recourse to try to get justice now! The rest of us shouldn't moan and groan because our tax dollars are being spent in an attempt to get someone else justice.
Just saying

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Avatar for user 'pearljammed'

pearljammed | May 24, 2014 at 10:47 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

I am friendly with the Castaneda family and my heart aches for what Dirty Dumanis put Steve through. Now, in hindsight, we can see what was going on. Our Dopey DA was trying to force Castaneda off the Chula Vista City Council to clear a spot for one of her henchmen, Jesse Navarro. Additionally, Castaneda was seen as a threat to the political ambitions (she wanted to be Mayor) of Cheryl Cox, the wife of County Supervisor Greg Cox--BONNIE'S BOSS! Our corrupt District Attorney was attempting to fix a job for her goon Navarro & get Castaneda in trouble to clear a path for Cheryl Cox to win for Mayor of Chula Vista (Oh, & brown nose Greg Cox, too.).
Our elected District Attorney IS NOT supposed to be spending their time doing this! PLEASE REMEMBER THIS sad story when you go to the polls on June 3rd.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | May 24, 2014 at 5:38 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Is this California or Mississippi? The good ol' boy politics is almost third world. The police lose a million bucks, the old mayor was a perv, Balboa Park committee wastes millions and nobody sees a jail cell. If some poor slob takes a pound of steak from a store, they end up in Vista Detention Center for months. The gang of elite thugs needs to be run out of town. All of them. They are a total embarrassment. Vote them all out. Put the guilty in jail. Enough of this probation and house arrest.

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