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Sheriff under investigation for allegedly lying about 2008 shooting incident

Thursday, 15 March 2012

 

A Lake County News investigation has revealed that the issue at the heart of a dispute between the sheriff and district attorney, resulting in the sheriff’s request for outside legal counsel, is based on allegations that the sheriff lied during a 2008 investigation into a shooting in which he was involved while a deputy. Sheriff Frank Rivero is the subject of a District Attorney’s Office inquiry into the incident, in which he is alleged to have shot at a man holding a can of pepper spray during his time as a deputy sheriff. The man was not injured. Documents Lake County News received Wednesday as the result of a California Public Records Act for emails between Rivero and members of the Board of Supervisors indicate District Attorney Don Anderson is conducting an evaluation of the shooting based on Brady v. Maryland. That 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision requires prosecutors to disclose to defendants exculpatory evidence, including issues about an officer’s truthfulness and credibility. The impetus for the inquiry appears not to be the shooting itself but the conflicting stories Rivero allegedly gave investigating officers following the incident at a Cobb home on Feb. 19, 2008. Asked for a response in regard to the release of his emails, Rivero told Lake County News in an email message on Wednesday, "I categorically deny any allegation or inference of being untruthful during the investigation of my officer involved shooting of February 19, 2008. The Sheriff and the DA in office at the time thoroughly investigated the shooting and found no impropriety and concluded that I acted properly." Rivero in February requested the Board of Supervisors hire him outside legal counsel to respond to the inquiry, adding that he wanted to ensure Anderson didn’t overstep his legal bounds. The board denied that request March 6, after discussing it in three separate meetings. If Rivero is found to have lied to investigators in the 2008 shooting investigation, he could receive a “Brady letter,” which would identify him as an officer whose reliability as a witness in court cases has been compromised. Rivero and attorney Matthew Pavone – who the Peace Officers Research Association of California, or PORAC, retained to represent the sheriff – both have raised the concern that Rivero’s ability to perform his duties would be affected if the District Attorney’s Office took action to place him on a “Brady list” of officers with compromised credibility. For many officers, being placed on a Brady list can spell the end of their careers. That’s because Brady v. Maryland requires that prosecutors divulge to defendants in criminal cases all evidence that could aid them in defending themselves, including information about the reliability of officers who are witnesses in their cases. Anderson told Lake County News in a Wednesday interview that any time a peace officer’s credibility comes into play because of past testimony or material representations in any investigation, his office is required by law to disclose it to defendants. Otherwise, he and his staff could face sanctions from the state bar association. “I believe in full disclosure to defendants,” he said. He said the decision on whether to give officers Brady letters is up to him or his designee. The documents released to Lake County News indicated Anderson had set up a panel of three representatives from the district attorneys’ offices of neighboring counties to hear the matter. He said it’s not a made up process, as Rivero has alleged, but is done around the state all the time. During discussions by the Board of Supervisors regarding Rivero’s request for outside legal counsel, some board members indicated they understood the panel had been dropped, but Anderson said the panel was merely changed from one composed of out-of-county representatives to one formed with members of Anderson’s own staff. The panel doesn’t interview the officer, only reviews documents from the investigation, said Anderson. However, the officer in question can make an argument to the panel against the action before a final determination is made. In the issue with Rivero, Anderson – who could say little directly about the case due to confidentiality – said, “The investigation is resolved,” and a decision is pending a response from Rivero. Anderson said he had agreed to hold off on taking any action until the matter with Rivero’s request to the board for legal counsel was resolved. Rivero’s Brady inquiry is anticipated to have a direct impact on a pending case, People v. Carrillo, according to a Dec. 13 letter Anderson sent to Pavone. In that case, Nicolas Carrillo of Santa Rosa is accused of being a member of the Hells Angels and is alleged to have taken part, along with three other alleged Hells Angels, in a June 2011 fight with rival Vagos motorcycle gang members at Konocti Vista Casino in Lakeport. Carrillo’s attorney, Michael Clough, succeeded in having Judge Andrew Blum open Rivero’s personnel records in October to see if there were any potential bias issues against the Hells Angels. Blum reviewed Rivero’s records and those of Sgt. John Gregore and found no issues, as Lake County News has reported. Clough had argued there were unusual circumstances in the case, namely, that a deputy had investigated and closed the matter before Rivero had it reopened, going to the casino personally to collect the surveillance tapes. Because of Rivero’s involvement in that case, it is likely any Brady issue would need to be disclosed to Carrillo’s attorney. But Anderson said disclosure is not necessary until a matter is set for trial. Carrillo’s case was only recently set for preliminary hearing.

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A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

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