7.15.2008

ER - Two charges against Gundersen dismissed

ER Two charges against Gundersen dismissed

The Humboldt County Superior Court dismissed two of the 26 counts of spousal rape charged against former Blue Lake Police Chief David Gundersen in a ruling filed Monday.

The court also upheld a ruling from Gundersen’s preliminary hearing that reduced a kidnapping to commit rape charge, with a firearm enhancement, to forcible rape with said enhancement — one of two charges that involve Jane Doe 2.

The ruling came in response to a motion filed by Russell Clanton, Gundersen’s defense attorney, to dismiss all the charges against his client during a hearing on July 9.

News of the ruling came Monday morning at the start of Gundersen’s trial, with two motions awaiting a decision by the new presiding judge, Superior Court Judge W. Bruce Watson, and the expectation that the jury selection process will be a long one.

The charges against Gundersen have varied over the months, as the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office tacked on more and as judges reduced or dismissed some.

Gundersen is now being charged with 24 counts of alleged spousal rape with an intoxicant, along with seven other charges, including two related to firearms, for a total of 31 charges.

Superior Court Judge Marilyn Miles, who originally presided over the case, dismissed two counts of spousal rape with an intoxicant charged against Gundersen after reviewing transcripts from his preliminary hearing in April.

Miles said in her ruling that the time period discussed by both the prosecution and defense went as far as 2007.

During the preliminary hearing, Jane Doe 1 testified that Gundersen had non-consensual sex with her about once a month between 2005 and 2007.

Since two of the counts of alleged spousal rape against Gundersen occurred in January 2008 and February 2008, she dismissed both of them.

As for the charge against Gundersen of kidnapping to commit rape, Miles agreed with Superior Court Judge John T. Feeney’s ruling that there was insufficient evidence to hold him to that charge.

“While the evidence shows that Jane Doe was forcibly moved from the front room to the bedroom ... the evidence does not show that this movement substantially increased the risk of physical harm (over and above that) necessarily present in the commission of rape,” Miles wrote in her ruling.

Although Clanton thought Miles’ decision was accurate, he believed there were other counts that could have been dismissed.

He said he still has two pending motions for the court to consider: one requesting a change of venue and another asking to try the charges pertaining to Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 separately.

Due to the expected length of time of the trial, the availability of courtrooms and Superior Court Judge Paul Cissna being disqualified, Watson will now preside over the trial.

The jury selection process, which District Attorney Paul Gallegos said could take three to four weeks, begins this morning.

He said he would like a pool of at least 70 jurors, 12 of whom would eventually hear the case.

A pool of jurors will be asked if they have any hardships that may interfere with the trial, which is expected to last about a month.

Those that move on will be individually questioned to determine if there are any pre-established biases to the case. The possible corruption of the juror pool due to extensive media coverage was among the reasons Clanton requested the trial be conducted elsewhere.
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Same day TS Judge dismisses three charges facing Gundersen
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