Friday, March 31, 2006

More about prosecutors

[Note: In light of a complaint, I have edited this post. Changes are in [brackets]].

I've blogged about prosecutors a few times - a good example is the prosecutor mentality post.

Well now I'm going to lay into a particular DA's office that has gotten quite a bit of bad press recently - The Rensselaer County DA's office. The DA is a friend of mine from law school. Most of the complaints I've heard have been about her personally. I have no bad experiences with her so I will not criticize her here in that way.

However, I am now having a bad experience with her office, and some of the blame for that (if my view is correct that their conduct is inappropriate) must fall on her.

The story: my client is sitting in a jail in Chicago. About 3 years ago he worked for a store in Rensselaer County. He lived in Massachusetts at the time. Apparently he worked at that store for a few months and then left for a job in MA. About 2 months ago (I'm just guessing at the time span) the store decided that this guy stole money from them while he worked there. So they contacted the police. Sometime in February or maybe early March, the State Police got an arrest warrant from a town judge, and asked Illinois (where he now lives) to arrest him. He was arrested March 8th. It's been 3 1/2 weeks and he's still in jail in Chicago. Someone's dragging their feet on the actual process of getting him here. I believe the first couple weeks of delay are due to the State Police.

I was hired about a week ago and am trying to get him out of jail so he can come here and face the charges. It took a while just to figure out who issued the warrant. Once I had all the information, I contacted the judge. He told me who to speak with in the DA's office. That guy was not great, but at least he wasn't unpleasant. The best he could muster was that they'd get my client here by April 15th. This ADA did not know the underlying facts of the case (nor did the BCI Investigator I had spoken with earlier). I told him I was going to ask the judge for bail (I had previously been told that Illinois would let him out of jail if bail were granted in NY). He would not consent to bail, even though he didn't know the facts of the case, and he only agreed to review the facts of the case after I pushed. First he had to tell me how insulted he was by my pushing. Excuse me if I think a guy with a wife and two young daughters ought to get better treatment under these circumstances. But again, this ADA was the nice one.

After speaking with him and getting more details from my client's family, I faxed the bail application to the judge and a copy to the DA's office. Then the DA's office showed its dark side. [Sentence deleted by author.] [He] calls me up and starts telling me how I can't apply for bail because the judge doesn't have jurisdiction over his person. He may or may not be right about that (I think he's wrong), but it was his tone. Extremely aggressive. I asked when my client would be brought here and he said by April 15th. I asked why it takes so long. Answer: "We're not travel agents." He then told me he didn't mean to be flip. Sounds pretty flip to me.

When I explained that I thought the judge does have the power to grant bail, he threatened to indict my client if I don't withdraw the bail application. At this point I'm a bit confused. If you're so sure the judge doesn't have the power to grant bail, why would you bother threatening me? And why is indictment a threat?

I pointed out that my client has been sitting in a jail in Chicago for three weeks, that he has a wife and two young daughters, and that golly-gee-whillickers he might just be innocent. Response: "I haven't looked at the merits of the case yet."

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So now I've got one Investigator and two ADAs who are going out of their way to keep my client sitting in a Chicago jail, away from his family, and none of them knows the merits of the case yet??????

I don't know yet whether my client is innocent or not. I have had two similar cases, one dismissed and one still pending where we've rejected an offer for an ACOD. In both of those cases I am sure my clients are innocent. Cases where employees are alleged to have stolen from their employer are often questionable, and the length of time it took to accuse this client makes this very suspicious.

If my client turns out to be innocent, I will make sure that [the prosecutor] gets to meet my client's daughters, so he can explain to them why he kept their father from them without researching the merits of his case.

And then we're going to sue some people [remainder of paragraph deleted].

I also need to talk to my friend Ernie Tetrault and the folks at JusticeNow about getting a law passed in NY that takes away immunity from prosecutors who recklessly prosecute people who turn out to be innocent. They are absolutely immune under NY law, but I think they may still be vulnerable under federal law. Not my area of law - yet.
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