Justice for Andy Lopez Cruz! (Santa Rosa, d. 2013-10-22) [link]
"JCAL Initiates First Prong of Spring Justice Offensive Legal Actions Target DA Jill Ravitch, SoCo Sheriffs’ Harassment & Demand that CA Attorney General Harris Disqualify SoCo DA’s Office"
2014-02-06 from "Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez (JCAL)":
For more info contact:
* Jon Melrod [firstname.lastname@example.org] [415 806-0154]
* Mary Moore [email@example.com] [707 874 2248]
At its prior meeting, the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez endorsed an aggressive Spring Justice Campaign consisting of legal actions, marches, protests, attendance at governmental meetings, filing of complaints for police harassment, defense of arrested activists Louie Godoy and Ramon Cairo and most importantly pursuit of the demand that Deputy Erick Gelhaus be indicted for the murder of Andy Lopez on Oct. 22nd - all to take place this spring in Santa Rosa culminating in a statewide march in Santa Rosa on the occasion of what would have been Andy’s 14th birthday on May 31st.
Phase one of the Spring Justice Campaign is being launched this week with the following three actions:
1) Attached letter from JCAL Attorney Spokesperson Jonathan Melrod, Esq. demanding an immediate and transparent investigation by DA Ravitch and Sheriff Freitas into the behavior of Deputies Delaney and Lupton for harassment and threats of retaliation against Attorney Melrod for his zealous legal representation inCourt of JCAL activists arrested on bogus charges. Such verbal harassment by the Deputies, literally on the Courthouse steps, constitutes a violation ofConstitutional protections of the unfettered right to counsel and free speech and is both inappropriate and improper for SoCo Sheriffs Deputies acting asCourt Bailiffs.
2) Public Documents Request by the Law Firm of Arnoldo Casillas demanding all documents and “notes” (referred to by Deputy Delaney in his verbal threats) relating to Attorney Melrod.
3) Open Letter from JCAL to California Attorney General Kamal Harris (copy attached) requested she disqualify the SoCo DA’s office from adjudicating criminal liability of Deputy Gelhaus in the shooting death of Andy Lopez on Oct. 22nd. Grounds listed are continuing conflict of interest and the intercenine warfare in the DA’s office between ADA Victoria Shanahan and DA Jill Ravitch over the upcoming election, which has turned the Lopez case into a political football.
4) Complaint filed by Arnoldo Casillas, Esq. (Lopez family attorney) and Jonathan Melrod, Esq. (JCAL attorney) with the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors alleging harassment, intimidation, false imprisonment and Constitution violations offree speech and assembly against members of Andy’s Youth on January 9, 2014.
"Request for Independent Investigation of the Oct. 22nd Shooting Death of Andy Lopez by Sonoma County Deputy Erick Gelhaus"
2014-02-06 letter from "Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez" c/o Jonathan D. Melrod, Esq., Attorney at Law to California Attorney General Kamala Harris at the California Department of Justice:
Dear Attorney General Harris:
Grounds for Intervention by the CA Attorney General -
Pursuant to authority granted your office under Article 5, § 13 of the California Constitution and Government Code §§ 12511-12512, I write on behalf of the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez (JCAL) to urge you, as the highest law enforcement representative in the State of California, to immediately authorize an independent investigation into the shooting death of Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, CA on Oct. 22nd 2013.
Moreover, JCAL specifically requests your assistance in seeking the immediate appointment of a special prosecutor pursuant to the National Prosecution Standards to impartially and transparently adjudicate the issue of criminal liability with regard to Deputy Gelhaus’ Oct. 22nd shooting of Andy Lopez.
-3.5 Special Prosecutors (National Prosecution Standards) -
Where an actual or potential conflict of interest exists that would prevent the prosecutor’s office from investigating or prosecuting a criminal matter, the prosecutor’s office should appoint, or seek the appointment of a “special prosecutor,” or refer the matter to the appropriate governmental authority as required by law. Under those circumstances where a special prosecutor is appointed:
a. The special prosecutor should be a member of the state bar in good standing, with appropriate experience in the subject matter of the appointment, and should be perceived as having sufficient detachment from the prosecutor’s office so as not to be influenced by any actual or potential conflict.
Facts behind the Oct. 22nd Shooting -
Succinctly, the undisputed facts are that on Tuesday October 22, 2013, at around 3 pm in the afternoon, Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff Erick Gelhaus shot and killed 13-year old Andy Lopez as Andy walked on Moorland Ave. on his way to return a toy air-soft gun to a friend. In response to a shout from Deputy Gelhaus, Andy innocently turned to face the source of the vocal command. Without further notice, Officer Gelhaus discharged his service weapon at Andy - the first bullet piercing Andy’s heart killing him instantly. Within seconds, Officer Gelhaus pumped at least multiple additional rounds into Andy’s flailing body as the youth dropped to the ground where he lay prostrate. As Andy lay bleeding, Officer Gelhaus handcuffed him before even attempting CPR.
JCAL Request that DA Ravitch Recuse Herself on 11/5/2013 -
On November 5, 2013, I, along with three other members of JCAL, met with District Attorney Jill Ravitch regarding the ongoing investigation into Andy’s death. At that time, we expressed our deep concern that District Attorney Ravitch could not conduct an impartial investigation into the Officer Involved Fatal Incident involving Andy due to a conflict of interest based on Ms. Ravitch intimate relationship with the Sonoma County Sheriffs’ Department, particularly as Sonoma County Sheriff Freitas is her campaign fund raising manager.
Ms. Ravitch refused to recuse herself, citing support from your Office, on the grounds that she could fairly and impartially adjudicate the matter of Deputy Gelhaus’ criminal liability. While we were not satisfied by her response, we felt that we had little recourse as you, the top law enforcement officer in the State of California, had supported her decision. (We also expressed our deep concern with the investigation process per the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Protocol on the Law Enforcement Employee Involved Fatal Incidents on the grounds that we did not believe that one law enforcement agency – the Santa Rosa Police Department – could or would impartially investigate a brother officer - in the Sonoma County Sheriffs’ Office - accused of extreme criminal malfeasance.)
Recent Developments in the SoCo DA’s Office Necessitating Disqualification of the DA’s Office from the Lopez Matter -
The situation in the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office has recently devolved into vicious internecine warfare between various factions competing in the June 3d primary election for Sonoma County District Attorney. A public glimpse of the dysfunction and factional fighting in the DA’s Office can be ascertained from a quick review of the recent Press Democrat reports on the subject.)
DA Ravitch has refused to release to the public the Final Report recently completed by the Santa Rosa Police Department regarding whether Deputy Gelhaus violated any criminal laws in the manner and execution of his shooting of Andy. Her opponent, Assistant District Attorney Victoria Shanahan, shot back in the Press Democrat that DA Ravitch is hiding the report from public view.
DA Ravitch asserted in a recent Press Release that her Office might require more that the 90-day period outlined in the Protocol to properly investigate Deputy Gelhaus’ criminal liability. Victoria Shanahan responded in the Press Democrat that DA Ravitch is reneging on her campaign pledge to expedite investigations of officer involved shootings – an issue she publically campaigned on to win office. Further, Ms. Shanahan asserts that DA Ravitch is trying to stonewall the making of her decision regarding criminal liability of Officer Gelhaus until after the June 3d primary election. (JCAL fears that this allegation has a strong ring of truth.)
Further, each announced candidate for DA shares conflict of interest issues with the Sonoma County Sheriffs Office. Sheriff Freitas is a prominent figure in Jill Ravitch reelection campaign and she is a vociferous supporter of his reelection campaign, both are prominently pictured on their respective websites pledging loyalty to the other. Further, Victoria Shanahan’s husband is a Deputy in the Sonoma County Sheriffs Department, making it totally impossible for her to adjudicate the Andy Lopez case impartially if she were to be elected.
Intriguingly, ADA Shanahan has adopted and is espousing the very same arguments that JCAL has long advanced regarding the untenable position being taken by DA Ravitch. ADA Shanahan made the following points in the Press Democrat recently,
1) Shanahan “thinks Ravitch should have recused herself from handling the (Andy Lopez) case in the first place because of her ‘political entanglements’ with Sheriff Steve Freitas.”
2) Shanahan “believes Ravitch also should have recognized that the Lopez shooting was a different type of case that needed to be investigated by the District Attorney's Office instead of law enforcement departments engaged in investigations of one another.”
3) Shanahan says that if criminal liability is not clear, she would “convene a criminal grand jury process that would be open to the public….” If criminal liability is not found, she said she would release “the ultimate report to the civil grand jury and make a complete copy of the findings available to the public.”
At this juncture, the case of 13-year old Andy Lopez has unfortunately become a political football being kicked back and forth between opposing electoral camps in the DA’s Office. No fair, impartial or thorough investigation can result from such a morass of political infighting.
Intervention by the CA AG’s Office is Essential for the rendering of an impartial, transparent review of Deputy Gelhaus’ Criminal Liability for the Shooting of Andy Lopez -
For all of the reasons set forth above, we in JCAL believe it is imperative for the State of California District Attorney to invoke the above-cited provisions of the California Constitution, the cited sections of the Government Code, and the relevant provisions of the National Prosecution Standards to promptly intervene in the Andy Lopez matter to prevent an irrepreperable miscarriage of justice.
Moreover, the DA’s review process and adjudication of the criminal liability of Deputy Gelhaus has been so wrought with subterfuge, delay and political taint that there is no way that the public has faith that the matter will be adjudicated fairly and impartially under the auspices of DA Ravitch and her office.
Failure by the State and the CA Office of the District Attorney to take action at this time will inevitably result in continued mistrust and public accusations of a whitewash. For all of the above, JCAL unequivocally requests intervention in a prompt and forthright manner.
[signed] Jonathan Melrod, Esq. on behalf of the JCAL
"Unethical & Provocative Behavior by Sonoma County Deputy Delaney: Demand for Investigation and Immediate Remedial Action"
2014-01-30 from the Law Office of Jonathan D. Melrod, Esq. (CA Bar #136441) to Jill Ravitch, District Attorney of Sonoma County; Steve Freitas, Sonoma County Sheriff; Lorenzo Duenes, Sonoma County Assistant Sheriff;
Via hand delivery 2/3/14 to: DA Jill Ravitch; Supervisor David Rabbit; Supervisor Susan Gorin; Supervisor Shirlee Zane; Supervisor Mike McGuire; Supervisor Efren Carrillo.
Via USPS 2/3/14 to:Sheriff Steve Freitas; Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Duenes.
Dear District Attorney Ravitch and Messrs. Freitas and Duenes:
This letter is to officially inform you on the record of unbecoming and unprofessional conduct engaged in by deputies under your supervision at approximately 9 a.m. on January 29, 2014 outside the Sonoma County Courthouse located at 600 Administration Drive. Further, the verbal conduct engaged in by the Deputies (named below) on the day in question, contravenes ethical rules governing Administrative Procedure by the Sonoma County Sheriffs Department, as well as - a most sacrosanct hallmark of our judicial system – the right to unfettered representation by Counsel.
Involved in the January 29th incident were Deputy Sheriff Delaney, Deputy Sheriff Lupton and another Deputy whose name I am not privy to. As an Attorney involved in the representation of Jose Louis Godoy, I had appeared with Mr. Godoy in Courtroom #9 on the morning of January 29th. Following Mr. Godoy’s appearance at his arraignment, a verbal altercation ensued with Deputies Lupton and Delaney in the hall outside Courtroom #9. As I walked to the elevator, Deputies Delaney and Lupton, as well as the third Deputy, squeezed into the elevator and proceeded to glare at me in an intimidating manner – definitely not appropriate for a Bailiff/Deputy assigned to Court duty.
After exiting the building, I walked with a group of people about 100 yards from the exit. I had lost my iPhone while in the courthouse and asked an individual to call my telephone number to see if the phone had been retrieved. The woman security officer who answered my telephone number instructed me to return to the security area to retrieve my phone.
When I reached the exit where Deputies Delaney, Lupton and the third officer were standing, they physically blocked my entrance to the building. I pointed to the security officer inside and explained that she had my phone and that I was merely attempting to retrieve it. Rather than letting me pass through the doors, the three officers positioned themselves between the door and me, instructing me that I was not permitted to enter.
After a rather heated back-and-forth conversation regarding my need to enter the building to retrieve my phone, one of the Deputies, belatedly and begrudgingly, pointed around the corner and said that I could enter “that way”. I explained that it would have been appropriate and professional if they had simply informed me of that procedure from the outset of our conversation rather than playing a game of hide-and-seek by blocking my physical entrance into the building.
After recovering my phone, I began to walk toward the parking lot. En route, the three deputies again formed a scrum to verbally engage me. Officer Delaney remarked that, as an “officer of the court”, I should do a better job of “controlling” my clients’ behavior in the Courthouse. I responded that it might be a lot easier to influence my clients’ behavior if he and his fellow deputies would behave in a manner appropriate to their role as Bailiffs of the Court and would restrain themselves from harassing and intimidating my clients in a provocative manner.
Officer Delaney then looked directly at me, with Officer Lupton to his left and the third Deputy to his right, and said in a threatening manner, “We know your name and who you are and we have plenty of notes on you.” (If Deputy Delaney was wearing his lapel cam the conversation will be recorded for your review.)
As you can imagine, I was both shocked and appalled that a Deputy/Bailiff would attempt to intimidate an “officer of the court” in such a threatening fashion.
I query - did Officer Delaney mean that he would retaliate against me in some manner if I continue to zealously represent my clients? Did Deputy Delaney mean that I am under surveillance? Bottom line - what did Officer Delaney mean by such a statement? Is he, or is the Sonoma County Sheriffs Department compiling “notes” on me on a continuing basis?
I need answers and an explanation in writing from each of you - DA Ravitch - and you - Sheriff Freitas. I would also like to know if your offices condone this type of behavior by one of your Deputies. I expect a full investigation and explanation of exactly what was meant by Deputy Delaney when he remarked that he has “plenty of notes” on me. Further, I expect that Officer Delaney will be reprimanded and instructed on the proper behavior to be followed by a Deputy in the halls of a California Superior Courthouse.
Please respond with all due promptness to the address above.
[signed] Jonathan Melrod, Esq.
Cc: Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
- Supervisor David Rabbit
Supervisor Susan Gorin
Supervisor Shirlee Zane
Supervisor Mike McGuire
Supervisor Efren Carrillo