4.02.2008

ER - No charges for Douglas and Zanotti

No charges for Douglas and Zanotti

The arraignment for former Eureka Police Department Chief Dave Douglas and EPD Lt. Antonio Zanotti was continued a third time Tuesday in the Humboldt County Superior Courthouse.

At arraignments, defendants are informed of the charges against them and enter pleas. Douglas’ Eureka-based attorney, Bill Bragg, said his client will plea not guilty, as will Zanotti.

When Douglas and Zanotti were indicted by a Humboldt County criminal grand jury on Dec. 3, they were accused of felonious involuntary manslaughter for their leadership roles in the death of Cheri Lyn Moore on April 14, 2006.

Douglas was the acting chief of police at the time and Zanotti was the incident commander.

Zanotti’s attorney, William Rapoport of Redwood City, requested the arraignment be continued because the defense has not received 105 exhibits of evidence — including pictures, Zanotti’s testimony at the County Coroner’s inquest and questions jurors inquired of witnesses who testified.

“We’re entitled to know what the grand jury wanted to get from those witnesses,” Bragg said.

At the prior arraignment date on Feb. 22, Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos stipulated that he would have copies of the exhibits made — which are court property — and provided to the defense.

That was over a month ago, and they still haven’t been received, Bragg said.

Gallegos said that he expects the exhibits will be provided by the end of the week. “They’re going to get everything,” he said.

“My client wants to move this thing along,” Bragg said, but the exhibits may impact any pre-trial motions the defense may file — which must be done within 60 days of the arraignment.

One motion Bragg said he intends to file, will state that Gallegos improperly instructed the grand jury on the law.

“If we’re right, we’ll never go to trial — and that’s what we anticipate happening,” he said.

The arraignment was rescheduled for April 22, at 1:30 p.m.

Judge John T. Feeney presided over the hearing and Douglas and Zanotti were both present with their wives.

The courtroom was packed full of men and women in uniform, most of whom were off-duty, current EPD Chief Garr Nielsen said.

It’s likely the department deployed five officers to patrol the streets Tuesday, and probably just two of them attended the hearing, he said. “The streets were as safe as they are any other time.”

Deputy Public Defender and Redwood Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union Chairperson, Christina Allbright said that in her opinion, if the officers weren’t working, they shouldn’t be in their uniforms.

“(And) if they are working, why are they here?” she said.

EPD officers dressed in uniform to show their support and department allegiance, Nielsen said.

“I think it’s to let everybody know — to let the community know the officers are standing as a united front,” he said.

Allbright also said she was puzzled by the special treatment Douglas and Zanotti received. “I’ve never seen defendants escorted through the back door.”

Bragg said it was an attempt to avoid unpleasant confrontations in a high-profile case. It’s easier security-wise than having them wait in the hallway where they are exposed to people with different opinions on the case, he said.

Additionally, Allbright said she’s never seen a chief of police profess the innocence of criminals. “It’s a wonderful standard that should be applied to all defendants.”

Nielsen said that he “absolutely” gives all defendants the same presumption of innocence. “Everybody is innocent until proven guilty, and that goes for everybody including police officers.”

By EMILY WILSON, The Eureka Reporter
Published: Apr 1 2008, 10:46 PM