Contra Costa County Ordered to Rehire Michael Gressett

An arbitrator strongly criticizes the alleged rape charges against the former deputy district attorney. Plus, Jean Quan takes a pay cut.

The flimsy legal case against longtime Contra Costa County prosecutor Michael Gressett has been slowly unraveling for the past two years. First, there was the news that the alleged rape victim, another prosecutor referred to in court only as Jane Doe, had repeatedly changed her story. Then came revelations that Dan O’Malley, a candidate for district attorney, had ties not only to the alleged victim, but to a prostitute who lied about Gressett and the prosecutors going after him. Finally, there was the recent news that Contra Costa County had secretly paid the victim $450,000 even though she had every reason to lie about her encounter with Gressett.

For many observers of the politically charged case, it came as no surprise that an independent arbitrator last week heavily criticized the prosecution of Gressett and ordered the DA’s office to rehire him with retroactive pay and benefits. The scathing ruling by arbitrator Norman Brand also ripped into Jane Doe and O’Malley, as well as former District Attorney Bob Kochly and his administrative staff.

Brand wrote that serious doubts about Jane Doe’s rape allegations were raised when she failed to show up at the arbitration hearing despite repeatedly agreeing to testify. He further wrote that there is reason to believe Jane Doe lied when she claimed Gressett raped her at his Martinez condominium in May 2008.

Brand noted that Jane Doe was a contract prosecutor at the time of the alleged rape and was aware she was not a strong candidate for a permanent job. He further suggested she may have used the rape allegations as a way of negotiating a permanent job with former DA Kochly. When Kochly ultimately did not give her a permanent job, she filed a complaint against the county based on the alleged rape and was quietly awarded $450,000. The county did not notify the grand jury of the settlement nor was it disclosed to Brand during arbitration. Such a large payoff, Brand wrote, further undermined Jane Doe’s various accountings of the rape to investigators, which were rife with conflicting details.

In a stunning rebuke of Kochly, Brand said the former DA and his administrative staff did not think Jane Doe’s allegations were credible, but may have pursued charges against Gressett for political reasons. Gressett had run for district attorney several times in the past, including in 2002 when he ran against Kochly. There was a more than four-month lag time between Jane Doe’s reporting of the rape and Gressett’s arrest. Kochly has never explained why he initially took no action against Gressett. But the silence apparently spoke volumes to Brand. Based on Kochly’s arbitration testimony, Brand wrote that the former DA “feared the political as well as the litigation consequences.” And that “Mr. Kochly’s fears, expressed by him and his subordinates, demonstrate how Jane Doe’s story of rape got her special consideration for hiring. His complete inaction also demonstrates he lacked conviction that Jane Doe was telling the truth.”

Brand also skewered O’Malley, a well-connected criminal defense attorney who ran for DA last year. O’Malley is the son of former District Attorney Bill O’Malley, the brother of Alameda County DA Nancy O’Malley, and was Kochly’s chosen successor. But Dan O’Malley’s name kept coming up in the charges against Gressett. For example, Jane Doe never reported the alleged rape to police or her superiors at the DA’s Office. Instead, she hired O’Malley’s partner Tom McKenna, an attorney who is mostly known for defending drunk drivers. Later, O’Malley’s new law partner, Tom O’Connor, made a deal with prostitute Jessie Deguzman to testify at arbitration that Gressett offered her money for sex. In exchange, O’Malley’s partner saw that her boyfriend, a violent criminal named Roy Gordon, was released from jail under questionable circumstances. Gordon was subsequently arrested in relation to a home invasion robbery and Deguzman later recanted the claim, refused to testify at the arbitration, and publicly apologized to Gressett.

While the arbitration ruling was good news for Gressett, California Attorney General Kamala Harris is still prosecuting him for thirteen counts of rape based on Jane Doe’s questionable claims. Contacted at his home last week, Gressett would only say: “It’s still not my turn to talk yet.”

Quan Takes Pay Cut

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan announced that she’s voluntarily slashing her pay by 25 percent as the city grapples with a projected $40 million budget deficit. Quan’s new annual salary will be $137,000 — that’s about $46,000 a year less than what Ron Dellums made. “We are going into some very, very tough times, and I wanted to lead the way,” Quan told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don’t ask people to do what I’m not willing to do.”

Three-Dot Roundup

UC Berkeley decided to reinstate three sports following a large fund-raising effort and revelations that the school may have violated federal Title IX gender-equity rules when it eliminated five sports last year. The campus reinstated women’s gymnastics and lacrosse, along with men’s rugby, but not men’s baseball and gymnastics. …The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office urged Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers to address California’s “unsustainable” public-employee pension packages. So far, Brown and the Dems have resisted. … Brown, however, killed a controversial plan to sell eleven state-owned buildings, including one in Oakland, because the costs of leasing them back would have been too expensive. … And the Oakland Tribune reported that that the iconic Tribune Tower in downtown has fallen into receivership and is 85 percent vacant.


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