Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bertha Lopez pleads guilty to an underwhelming charge while Jason Moore asks for justice: perhaps getting rid of Bonnie Dumanis would be the best way to improve public integrity in San Diego

Current Sweetwater Union High School
District trustee Bertha Lopez pled guilty
on April 24, 2014 to an extremely small-potatoes
transgression: accepting a gift over the limit.

It seems clear that District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis never intended to go after serious corruption in schools.

I'm not saying Bertha Lopez is an angel. Far from it. For years I've been complaining about her illegal actions on behalf of Chula Vista Elementary School District.

My problem is that I think Dumanis went after Bertha for the wrong reasons. The reasons were pathetic. But at least there was some actual misbehavior underlying the charges against Bertha Lopez. Dumanis went after other targets for purely political reasons.

San Diego seems to be as bad as Alabama.

Serious corruption is tolerated among public employees in both
places. In San Diego the district attorney seeks paltry convictions
of small-time miscreants, but releases the full fury of the
justice system on public employees like Jason Moore and
Edward Lane who sought to tell the truth about public officials.

Compare Bonnie Dumanis' inconsistent prosecutions to the Alabama
case of Lane v. Franks, a scandal in a 2-year college that is now
a Supreme Court case: Edward Lane was fired because he testified truthfully
that an Alabama state legislator was a no-show employee, being paid
by the taxpayers for no work.

Dumanis pursued preposterous perjury charges against Jason Moore and Steve Castaneda apparently because they dared to interfere with the political ascent of Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox. Meanwhile, Dumanis ignored a boatload of perjury committed to cover-up wrongdoing by Cheryl Cox herself, as well as Cheryl's fellow Chula Vista Elementary School District trustees Bertha Lopez, Pamela Smith, Larry Cunningham and Patrick Judd in the Maura Larkins v. CVESD case.

Even the Sheriff of Santa Barbara admitted that his office signed a false declaration in that case. Some examples of others who committed perjury can be found HERE and HERE.

Dumanis has been careful not to go after any of the truly powerful players in the San Diego education establishment.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports:

"Two more Sweetwater school board members pleaded guilty Thursday to minor charges in the South County political corruption investigation, effectively ending a case once described as the worst corruption scandal in a decade on a muted note. Board President Jim Cartmill and trustee Bertha Lopez each pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of accepting gifts over the state limit. They will be sentenced in June."

The SDUT is correct that this effectively ends the case since these are the last two school officials to plead out. But according to the Daily Transcript, there is still one contractor left whose charges have not been resolved. I doubt that there will ever be a single trial in this case.

"Their plea deals leave just one trial-bound defendant, Jeffrey Flores, remaining in the probe that rounded up more than a dozen South Bay-area school officials, a construction contractor and a bond underwriter for allegedly being implicit in either giving or receiving gifts that could influence votes by school districts when construction contracts were awarded.

"Flores, president of Seville Construction Services, was also scheduled to begin trial on Monday. But due to medical issues, is likely to have his proceedings continued to a later date, Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr said Friday. All named defendants outside of Flores have pleaded to lesser charges than what they initially faced."


It's about time that the abusive political prosecution of Jason Moore should be rectified. Steve Castaneda also seeks information about the political prosecution he endured.

See recent revelation: Phone Call Raises Questions About DA Dumanis’ Chula Vista Investigations

News Of Dumanis Call Prompts Request To Strike Plea Deal
By Amita Sharma
April 24, 2014

An aide to former Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla wants to undo his 2008 misdemeanor guilty plea.

Jason Moore's defense attorney says his client should have been told about District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' call when he was charged.

The request follows news of a call San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis made before she investigated Chula Vista city officials.

In 2007, former Padilla aide Jason Moore faced five felony charges for perjury. Moore was caught spying on the political enemy of his boss at an event during work hours. Prosecutors said Moore lied about when he submitted a request to take time off from work. Moore ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in a deal with the DA’s office.

Moore’s attorney Knut Johnson said that deal would have never been cut today. Johnson says revelations in a KPBS story this week changed everything.

The story reported that Dumanis called then-Mayor Padilla in 2006 just weeks before she started investigating Chula Vista city officials. Padilla said Dumanis asked him to appoint her own aide to a vacant Chula Vista City Council seat. Padilla refused and soon afterward, she launched her probes.

"If the district attorney called up Mr. Moore’s boss and tried to get that boss to make a city council seat available for one of her employees and then when refused a week later started an investigation that included subpoenaing Mr. Moore to the grand jury, that was undisclosed and we should have known about that," John said. "It's such an obvious conflict of interest."

Johnson said he plans to file court papers arguing that Moore’s plea deal was obtained illegally. The DA’s office said it had no comment at this time.

Here's one of my early posts about the Jason Moore case:

Is Jason Moore the Dale Akiki of Bonnie Dumanis?
May 20, 2007

Tanya Mannes writes about Bonnie Dumanis' mysterious "Public Integrity Unit" in this morning's San Diego Union-Tribune:

"In existence about 14 months, it has filed charges against one person: Jason Moore, a former Chula Vista mayoral aide." Jason Moore worked for Steve Padilla, a Democrat who was in a run-off election against Republican Cheryl Cox.

The investigation of Moore, for taking two hours off work to take pictures of Cheryl Cox with David Malcolm at a Cox fundraiser, began in August 2005, well before the November election. Oddly, Bonnie Dumanis says, that in the future, in most cases, "we will not investigate a complaint until after an election."

Bonnie says her office is determined to be nonpolitical. When will that start, Bonnie? Specifically, when will you investigate complaints against Cheryl Cox and her associates?

Dumanis did not even announce the existence of her "Public Integrity Unit" until March 1, 2007. Jason Moore was indicted on March 27, 2007.

O'Toole and Dumanis have each claimed to be personally interested in prosecuting perjury. But Dumanis' office recently refused to investigate proven perjury regarding illegal actions committed at Chula Vista Elementary School District when Bertha Lopez and Cheryl Cox were trustees of CVESD.

UPDATE April 25, 2014:

Maura Larkins' note: I imagine that readers are more likely to believe me regarding illegal actions and perjury committed by school officials in the South Bay after the recent revelations of pay-for-play deals with contractors. See related posts. I think these revelations will hurt Bonnie Dumanis in her contest against Bob Brewer in the upcoming election for district attorney in San Diego. But I hope that Bob Brewer, if he wins, won't give all public officials a free pass. I worry about that since Bob Brewer has made most of his money defending powerful white collar players. And he even has Bonnie's henchman Patrick O'Toole, who savagely prosecuted Jason Moore and Steve Castaneda, in his camp. That's sort of scary...

In a related case, another political target of Bonnie Dumanis also asks for follow-through on the new information about the D.A.'s political motives.

Ex-Chula Vista Councilman Wants DA To Release Emails
By Amita Sharma
April 22, 2014

Former Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda called on District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to release emails connected to his 2008 prosecution.

Former Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda called Thursday on District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to release emails connected to his 2008 prosecution.

Castaneda's request followed a KPBS report that Dumanis investigated him and his colleagues after failing to get her aide appointed to a vacant Chula Vista council seat.

In 2006, Dumanis opened an inquiry into whether Castaneda received favors from a developer. That was months after then-Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla said he refused Dumanis' phone request to appoint an aide, Jesse Navarro, to a vacant council seat. Castaneda was later indicted on accusations of lying to a grand jury.

A jury acquitted him on most of the charges and hung on others.

Castaneda said he should have been told about Dumanis' call to Padilla. He now wants the District Attorney's Office to release all emails regarding his case because he wants to know "what happened and why it happened."

"Frankly, if she were on my side of the prosecutorial desk, she'd be at a grand jury right now," Castaneda said. "And she's hiding behind her status and her position, and I think she owes it to not only me and my family, but she owes it to the people of San Diego County."

A Dumanis spokeswoman released a statement on the matter saying, "Mr. Castaneda's criminal case is closed and we will not allow the District Attorney's Office to be used as a political pawn."

KPBS also asked for the same emails but was told the records didn't exist and would be exempt from disclosure anyway.

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