DA Shows Evidence of a Lack of Trust

By Logan Jenkins
April 20, 2008

A brick " the Twisted Tale of the Tapes award " to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis for putting the kibosh on the release of tapes of two 911 calls placed during the March 15 shooting of Rachel Silva and her 8-year-old son by off-duty San Diego police Officer Frank White.

Has there ever been a case where a DA has been so reluctant to trust the public with basic information?

You have to laugh at her spokesman's statement: "It's unethical to release evidence prior to a charging decision being made."

Oh, really? Photographs of Silva's car, images that appear to contradict a police report that she "sideswiped" White's car, have been released to the public, as has her blood-alcohol level the night of the shooting.

Is that not evidence? Is it "unethical" when a judge orders the release of evidence?

Let's be honest. Dumanis is indulging in the ethics of personal convenience. Obviously, she would rather not have citizens going goofy over whatever is on the tapes.

Well, deal with it.

For more than a month, the facts surrounding this troubling case have been doled out with maddening slowness. One thing is certain: If a cop was not involved, the evidence would have been handled very differently.

All in all, it's been a rough PR patch for Dumanis, who looked pretty lame last week as she tried to apply lipstick to a stuck pig.

In announcing that charges were being dropped against Cynthia Sommer, the accused husband-killer who's spent more than two years in jail, Dumanis let go with this Alice-in-Wonderland platitude: "Today, justice was done. This is how the system is supposed to work."

In what Kafkaesque police state?

A block " the Saints (Finally) Be Praised award " to Dean A. and Wayne B., the two Needles men who were unfairly excluded from the so-called "global" settlement negotiated in September between San Diego's Catholic diocese and 144 sexual-abuse victims.

In a Nov. 12 column, I tried to deconstruct the snafu that led to the exclusion of A. and B. Legally, ethically and morally, these two men belonged in the class of diocese victims who filed lawsuits in 2003, the year in which the state Legislature suspended the statute of limitations for civil cases against the church.

"These two cases should have been in the global settlement," San Diego attorney Irwin Zalkin told me Friday.

It's a fitting irony that on Thursday, the same day Pope Benedict XVI was meeting with victims of Catholic pedophilia, the legal team representing A. and B. worked out a settlement with the San Diego diocese during an 11-hour marathon session.

Both A. and B. allege that, during the mid-1970s, William Valverde, a Needles pastor who'd transferred from Escondido's St. Mary's Church, repeatedly exposed them and other adolescent friends to alcohol, drugs and deviant sex.

Zalkin's high-powered law firm, which has represented scores of abuse victims, joined Needles attorney Brian Campbell to develop the case for trial. It helped the cause that other victims came forward after reading the November column, Campbell told me.

In the end, the San Diego diocese's attorneys were persuaded that A. and B. " or 145 and 146, as I called them " had strong claims that would have prevailed in court.

According to Campbell and Zalkin, the financial settlement was in line with what A. and B. would have received in the fall if the settlement, announced with much fanfare, had truly been global.

Money can't buy back innocence, but in this vale of tears, it's the common currency of justice long denied.

A soft brick " the Worst Letter in the World award " to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, for a rather, uh, generic response to a constituent who was congratulating his congressman for being dubbed "The Worst Person in the World" by MSNBC host Keith Olbermann.

Issa received the dubious honor early this month when he expressed his opposition to over-compensating 9/11's first responders. Flying into over-the-top dudgeon, Olbermann said Issa had "ended his political career" and ordered the congressman to "resign, resign quickly."

After John Newlin of Vista fired off an e-mail, he received this curt response, which he considered poor form, no matter who in Issa's office actually sent it:

Dear Mr. Newlin:

Letter begins here.


Darrell Issa

Member of Congress


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