March 1, 2012
Lawsuit over 2010 Contra Costa prosecutor battle muddle
What do you know about tweetle beetles? Well...
When tweetle beetles fight,
it's called a tweetle beetle battle ...
One of the many brilliant tongue twisters in Dr. Seuss' brilliant tongue-twister book, Fox in Socks, came to mind while I was reading an update on the prosecutor shenanigans that have plagued an arguably dysfunctional Contra Costa District Attorney's Office.
In one of what seemed to be almost weekly installments of Prosecutors Gone Wild, a March 2010 argument between top prosecutors literally turned bloody. Lead homicide attorney Harold Jewett threw a punch at Paul Sequeira, sending Sequeira to the hospital to get stitches below one eye.
The latest news is that Sequeira is doing what lawyers do when they can't employ healthy, socially positive methods to let go and move on with life.
Sequeira has filed a lawsuit. The Contra Costa Times reports that Sequeira, who was third-in-command in the office at the time of the fight, accuses Jewett, named "prosecutor of the year" by the California District Attorney's Office in 2008, of assault and battery. The suit seeks unspecified damages against Jewett.
As I reported back in March 2010, the fight between these two feisty prosecutors took place amidst rising tensions in the very heated 2010 District Attorney's race. The fight echoed political divisions in the office, where prosecutors were apparently lining up behind two leading candidates to replace Bob Kochly, who did not seek re-election. Jewett backed fellow prosecutor Mark Peterson, who eventually won the election. Sequeira backed Dan O'Malley, a former deputy district attorney who is now in private practice. O'Malley was Kochly's chosen successor.
The argument between Jewett and Sequeira erupted over a letter Jewett sent to the editor of the Contra Costa Times. In that letter, Jewett contended that managers in the district attorney's office and in the prosecutors' union were prioritizing politics over law enforcement. The East Bay Express says Sequeira had been accused of inappropriately influencing colleagues to support O'Malley.
The Contra Costa Times reported that the fight "shocked" the local legal community with the two men considered among the county's top legal talent. Apparently, though, the two had a "history of butting heads," the Times reported. With the election, job assignments were at stake.
Indeed, after Peterson won the election, he demoted Sequeira to deputy district attorney, said the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Sequeira left Contra Costa County in August 2011 to become assistant district attorney in Mendocino County.
And, just before he left his Contra Costa County job, Sequeira got into a scuffle with a defense investigator who was trying to serve him with a subpoena to testify in the other sordid story swirling around the Contra Costa DA's office at the time.
This was the rape prosecution of Michael Gressett, a veteran sex crimes prosecutor who was accused of sexually assaulting a female subordinate. The East Bay Express says Kochly handled the case "in such a questionable way" that suspicions arose in the office that the rape charges were more "about political maneuvering than seeking justice." Peterson was demoted after complaining about investigation irregularities. O'Malley also was subpoenaed by Gressett's defense team who wanted to show that O'Malley injected himself in the case by acting as a liaison between the alleged victim and Kochly.
A judge dismissed the charges against Gressett in October on the grounds that a grand jury did not hear evidence that might have undermined the alleged victim's credibility.
While Sequeira moved up to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office, he apparently has not been able to leave what happened with Jewett behind. The Contra Costa Times said Sequeira also has a pending claim against the county in which he seeks $300,000.
No criminal charges were filed against Jewett, who was placed on 30 days unpaid administrative leave after the incident. While Jewett publicly said he regretted the fight, he has also said he struck Sequeira in self-defense.
So, now Sequeira will contribute to the jam-up in the Contra Costa County court system with his lawsuit. And, once again I return to the words of the master, Dr. Seuss:
When a fox is
in the bottle where
the tweetle beetles battle
with their paddles
in a puddle on a
THIS is what they call...
... a tweetle beetle
noodle poodle bottles
paddled muddled duddled
fox in socks, sir!
Posted by Martha Ross at 8:40 AM