8.15.2008

TS - Gundersen's wife says she lied to investigators, on stand at prelim

08/15/2008 - David Gundersen's wife testified Thursday she lied to investigators and during her husband's preliminary hearing, while taking the stand on the fourth day of the former Blue Lake police chief's spousal rape trial.

Gundersen faces 24 counts of spousal rape with the use of an intoxicant, as well as charges of violating a court order, attempting to dissuade the witness of a crime and possessing illegal firearms. He has pleaded not guilty and remains held on $1.25 million bail.

Thursday's proceedings began with the jury viewing the last minutes of the investigators' Feb. 8 interview with Gundersen's wife, Darcie Seal, in which she repeatedly uses the word “rape” to describe her husband's acts, even saying that he'd confessed to raping her while she was unconscious. At points in the interview, Seal breaks down crying.

Seal has requested that the court and the Times-Standard refer to her by her real name instead of the Jane Doe title usually used for alleged sexual assault victims.

Retaking the stand at the conclusion of the video, Seal again testified that she lied to investigators during the interview and that Gundersen has never engaged in nonconsensual sex with her.

District Attorney Paul Gallegos repeatedly questioned her about why she would have lied to investigators.

Seal testified she felt Gundersen's ex-wife, a sheriff's office employee, had orchestrated the Feb. 8 interview that led to Gundersen's arrest and that she answered investigators' questions sarcastically, not taking the interview seriously. She also testified that she wanted to leave Gundersen and had talked to Gundersen's ex-wife about a plan, but she never intended to have her husband arrested.

Gallegos asked her if she felt falsely accusing Gundersen of rape was the only way to get him out of the house.
”I thought it was a joke,” Seal said of the interview.

”What part of that joke made you cry, Darcie?” Gallegos asked.

”I wanted to leave and I was confused,” she answered. “I didn't understand what was going on.”

Seal testified that investigators repeatedly told her she was not free to leave the interview, despite her requests. During the hour-and-a-half-long videotaped interview shown to the jury, Seal is never seen asking to leave.

She also testified at various points Thursday that she was simply repeating things Gundersen's ex-wife had told her, that she was telling investigators what they wanted to hear and that she was angry with Gundersen at the time.

”As a police officer, you are aware that giving false evidence is a crime?” Gallegos asked.

”Yes,” Seal responded.

Gallegos also questioned Seal about her testimony during Gundersen's preliminary hearing, walking her through transcripts of the proceedings and repeatedly asking her if she remembered answering his questions, and if she was honest. She testified that she didn't remember, or only vaguely remembered, many parts of the interview and preliminary hearing, saying she was under a lot of stress.

Seal also testified that she told her attorney Michael Crowley before testifying at the preliminary hearing that her husband had not raped her. She said Crowley yelled at her, telling her she didn't have the right not to testify, and that it was in her best interest to repeat what she told investigators.

”I felt stuck,” Seal testified.

”You chose to testify falsely against your husband?” Gallegos later asked.

”Yes,” Seal replied.

”So, in your mind it's OK to lie under oath?” Gallegos asked.

”No it's not,” Seal replied. “I felt I was under a great deal of stress and I was being badgered.”

Gallegos also questioned Seal about an e-mail she reportedly sent Gundersen accusing him of raping her, and asked her if those accusations were true. She said that she was probably mad when she sent it, and that she says “hurtful things” when she's mad.

During the more than two hours Seal spent on the stand, Gallegos switched off from grilling her on statements she'd made to investigators and during the preliminary hearing to asking her questions about Blue Lake Police Department policy and her duties there.

At one point, Gallegos picked up the submachine gun Gundersen is charged with possessing to show to Seal, seemingly inadvertently pointing it in the direction of Gundersen and his attorney, who leaned away and requested he point the firearm in another direction. Gallegos asked Seal if the weapon was part of Blue Lake's arsenal and she said she didn't know.

Turning her attention back to the Feb. 8 interview, Seal testified that she told investigators her allegations weren't true and that Gundersen had never raped her. Gallegos asked her who she told that to, but Seal said she could not recall, saying a group of people was in the room at the time.

Seal also testified that she told Gallegos and DA Investigator Wayne Cox over the phone that she had lied to investigators and on the stand. Gallegos asked Seal if she knew all her conversations with his office had been recorded, which she said she had recently learned.

Seal testified that Gundersen called her from jail Feb. 9, asking her to call the DA's Office to request the charges be dropped, but said he never told her to tell law enforcement the accusations were false.

In the last part of the videotaped interview shown to jurors Thursday, Sheriff's Office Detective Troy Garey asks Seal a last question.

”You have been completely forthright in everything you've told us?” he asked.

”Yes,” Seal replied.

The trial is expected to continue this morning with Clanton cross-examining Seal.

Timeline of statements made by Gundersen's wife Darcie Seal
Feb. 8: Seal tells investigators her husband raped her hundreds of times while she was under the influence of the sleeping aid Lunesta or marijuana. She also tells them Gundersen admitted to raping her and his former wife. Later in the day, she refuses a Sexual Assault Response Team exam and tells an investigator the sex with her husband was consensual.

April 23: Seal testifies at Gundersen's preliminary hearing that she told investigators the truth during the Feb. 8 interview. She also testifies that she felt she'd been lured to the sheriff's station as part of a plot by Gundersen's ex-wife and had been coerced into making rape allegations against her husband. During her testimony, Seal repeats the allegations that Gundersen had nonconsensual sex with her, at least once a month in 2006 and 2007, while she was under the influence of Lunesta.

July 10: In an interview with the Times-Standard, Seal says was sarcastic with investigators during the Feb. 8 interview and did not believe her husband had raped her.

Aug. 13 and 14: Seal testifies at Gundersen's trial that he has never had nonconsensual sex with her and that she lied to investigators Feb. 8. She also testifies that she only vaguely remembers testifying during her husband's preliminary hearing, and that she only testified that he had raped her because investigators had convinced her that if she had taken Lunesta she was unable to consent to sex. She also testifies that her attorney at the preliminary hearing told her it was in her best interest to testify in line with what she had told investigators during the Feb. 8 interview.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com


☛ TS Gundersen's wife says she lied to investigators, on stand at prelim

Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 08/15/2008 01:30:51 AM PDT