The preliminary hearing for Blue Lake Police Chief David Gundersen began Monday – after being continued four times – marking the start of what could be a several-day process.
The hearing, scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m., didn’t see testimony until about 11 a.m. due to several courtroom changes and a request for a continuance by Gundersen’s attorney, Russell Clanton.
The first person to testify in the hearing was “Jane Doe No. 2,” who alleges that Gundersen raped her after forcing her into their bedroom in March 1999.
Preliminary hearings are held before a trial to weigh whether the evidence presented by the prosecution fits the charges against an individual and whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.
Gundersen may face trial on suspicion of 19 charges, including 12 counts of spousal rape with an intoxicant, one count of kidnapping to commit another crime and possession of a machine gun.
Gundersen is being held at the Humboldt County jail with a $1.25 million bail.
After the first courtroom change and the conclusion of another case, Gundersen – gray haired and wearing a red jumpsuit – entered the courtroom.
Clanton requested a continuance based on having received more evidence from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office the day before.
That evidence included a recorded interview with Blue Lake City Manager Wiley Buck and a report of an inventory of evidence compiled by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.
Clanton requested more time to discuss the new evidence with Gundersen.
“I don’t think this is too great of a request,” Clanton said during the hearing.
District Attorney Paul Gallegos argued against the continuance on the grounds that the additional evidence shouldn’t significantly increase the workload for the defense.
Buck’s recorded testimony pertained to both the possession of a machine gun and possession of a silencer charges, he said.
Gallegos also said that several witnesses were present and ready to testify, including “Jane Doe No. 1,” who was under a court order to appear.
Judge Dale A. Reinholtsen decided to take a brief recess before beginning testimony by both Jane Does.
After the recess, Reinholtsen said his presiding over the hearing might present a conflict of interest, since his brother is a member of the law firm representing Jane Doe No. 1.
“I wanted to raise that in the very beginning,” he said during the hearing.
During this announcement, Jane Doe No. 1 entered the courtroom surrounded by officials from the District Attorney’s Office, looked at Gundersen and let out several whimpers.
After moving to another courtroom presided over by Judge John T. Feeney, Gallegos called Jane Doe No. 2 to the stand.
Before testimony began, Feeney ordered Jane Doe No. 1 to return to court today, since there wasn’t enough time to put her on the stand Monday.
Gallegos began questioning Jane Doe No. 2, who testified that she met Gundersen in December 1997 through friends she worked with at a private security firm in the Bayshore Mall in Eureka.
She said Gundersen offered her an undercover job with the Trinidad Police Department, where he was chief at the time.
“I was looking for law enforcement work,” she said during the hearing. “He offered to train me.”
Jane Doe No. 2 said she then believed that she was an employee of the TPD.
Throughout the proceeding, Jane Doe No. 2 had problems recalling specifics like dates, her salary at the TPD and whether she was issued a badge.
Although Jane Doe No. 2 couldn’t remember the date that it occurred, she testified that at some point she and Gundersen started dating and eventually moved in together.
In March 1999, she testified, Gundersen forced her to have sex after an argument in their McKinleyville home about his marital status.
At the time, Gundersen was still married to his now ex-wife. Jane Doe No. 2 had just found out about that despite the two having made plans to get married.
Jane Doe No. 2 said that three children were in the house that night – her child and two of Gundersen’s children.
At some point, Jane Doe No. 2 testified, Gundersen grabbed her, forced her into the bedroom, tore up her clothes and raped her.
She said she reported the incident to the Eureka Police Department because she feared the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office would do nothing – Gundersen’s ex-wife worked there at the time.
As far as she knew, she said, nothing happened regarding her report.
Toward the end of the hearing, Clanton asked Jane Doe No. 2 whether she made any arrests with Gundersen when she worked at the TPD. Jane Doe No. 2 pleaded the Fifth Amendment, which is invoked when someone doesn’t want to incriminate themselves.
After Feeney said he would appoint a public defender for Jane Doe No. 2, Gallegos offered her immunity for anything she might say on the stand and said he would bring paperwork to today’s hearing.
“That should enable her to testify,” he said.
After the proceeding, Gallegos said he didn’t know she was going to plead the Fifth, but added that it wasn’t unusual.
Gundersen’s hearing continues today at 8:30 a.m.
(For more detailed testimony from Gundersen’s ongoing preliminary hearing, go to The Eureka Reporter’s Web site at www.theeurekareporter.com.)
First witness testifies at Gundersen’s hearing
By JOHN C. OSBORN , The Eureka Reporter
Published: Apr 21 2008, 11:03 PM · Updated: Apr 22 2008, 12:01 AM