2.22.2008

ER - Arraignment continued second time, charges exposed

Arraignment continued second time, charges exposed

The arraignment scheduled on Thursday in the Humboldt County Courthouse for former Eureka Police Department Chief David Douglas and EPD Lt. Antonio Zanotti was continued until April 1.

Their original arraignment date was set for Jan. 1, but it was continued until Feb. 21 — when it was continued again.

When arraigned, defendants are read the charges against them and enter a plea. A not-guilty plea activates a citizen’s right to a trial by their peers.

A Humboldt County criminal grand jury handed up an indictment for Douglas and Zanotti on Dec. 3 — accusing them of involuntary manslaughter — an alleged violation of Penal Code Section 192 (b) — for their leadership roles in the death of Cheri Lyn Moore on April 14, 2006.

Douglas’ attorney, Bill Bragg and Zanotti’s attorney, William Rapoport requested the continuance because they have not received more than 100 exhibits admitted to the grand jury as evidence.

The majority of men and women in the packed courtroom indicated they were in support of the defendants — many wore law enforcement uniforms with some displaying badges.

EPD Sgt. Steve Watson was present during Moore’s death and said he was in court to support the defendants.

Speaking for all the uniformed officers he said, “They have our absolute support — without a doubt.”

Presiding Superior Court Judge Timothy P. Cissna granted the continuance to give the defense time to review all the evidence.

Deputy District Attorney Maggie Fleming — representing District Attorney Paul Gallegos — did not object.

EPD Chief Garr Nielsen said he doesn’t think the case will make it trial. “I don’t believe that the case is strong enough to warrant going to trial,” he said.

The judge may throw the case out at any time.

Transcripts from the grand jury investigation — unsealed Tuesday — include more than 1,600 pages of testimony that took place over about 10 days last fall.

Nielsen said he agreed with the defense who argued Tuesday against unsealing the portion of the transcripts where Gallegos’ instructed the jury and explained how the law applies.

Bragg wrote in a court document, “Coverage of erroneous statements of the law given by the district attorney without immediate and accurate rebuttal from an authoritative figure could very well impact my client’s ability to get a fair trial in his community.”

In a grand jury proceeding, the jury does not hear from the defense council.

According to the transcripts, Gallegos alleged that Douglas and/or Zanotti committed three acts with criminal negligence and two crimes.

The first act allegedly committed with criminal negligence, was failing to adequately supervise or direct the EPD SWAT team members in relation to Moore — a barricaded subject.

The second act alleged against the defendants is failing to adequately supervise the EPD Crisis Negotiation Team.

The third states that they failed to provide adequate communication between the EPD, SWAT and CNT — to enable them to plan and/or prepare how to respond to Moore.

Gallegos explained that a person acts with criminal negligence when their actions are so different from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation that his or her acts amount to a disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of
that act.

The first alleged crime reportedly committed by the defendants is unauthorized destruction of property — a misdemeanor under California Penal Code Section 603.

According to the transcripts, “(It applies) to every person, other than a peace officer engaged in the performance of his duties as such who forcibly and without consent ... enters a dwelling house ... and who damages, injures or destroys any property of value in, around or appertaining to such (a) dwelling. ...”

The second alleged crime is reportedly home invasion, PC 602.5 (a). “(The law states) every person other than a public officer or employee acting within the course and scope of his or her employment in performance of a duty imposed by law, who enters or remains in any ... residential place without the consent of the owner ... or the person in lawful possession thereof is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

“The question is not whether the officers had other alternatives available to them; it is whether or not the officers acted reasonably,” Gallegos told the grand jury, according to the transcripts.

All of the grand jury members had to agree that at least one act was committed to issue an indictment — and jurors had to be in agreement about the same act or acts.

By EMILY WILSON, The Eureka Reporter
Published: Feb 21 2008, 11:34 PM · Updated: Feb 22 2008, 12:10 AM