While watching a case in room 47 at the Ventura County Superior Courthouse on Friday, Aug. 23, about whether or not Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies followed the law in essentially invading a man’s private property to arrest him for charges relating to medicinal marijuana, sometimes the script just writes itself.
As Judge David Worley was reviewing legal concerns highlighted by the local man in the middle of all this, it was becoming overtly clear that there was a lot of “protective” order language around the names of the five officers being accused of being dishonest. The judge, though speaking practically, didn’t seem to be bothered one bit by the implication of sheltering dishonest police.
And then there was a shift in perspective.
As the judge spoke, I started taking notes of key words, such as “due rights,” “no repeats,” and “go to trial,” plus a note to myself.
The second I finished writing the word “trial,” however, a bailiff approached me. He said I wasn’t allowed to be on my phone. I told him I was a journalist with the VCReporter and he can speak to Bill Ayub about it — I just went to the sheriff’s department to update my badge.
His response, “Do you have explicit written permission from the judge to be on your phone?”
I said I would make note of it and that I will be sure to contact the judge and the sheriff. And then I left. And then I realized the only orders I have ever seen in court is that the phone ringer cannot be on and no pictures.
Coincidentally, the VCStar published a story over the weekend about a merit panel reinstating an investigator, Tracy Towner, back to the Ventura County District Attorney Office, to the apparent dismay of county government that had tried to prevent the reinstatement.
“We are reviewing our legal options,” County Counsel Leroy Smith said in the story.
But what did Towner allegedly do?
The DA claimed he was being dishonest when he said he was telling the truth about “three officers he indicated had collaborated to cheat an employee out of a promotion. DA officials said his testimony was false and merited dismissal.”
And about those officers, as reported by the VCStar, “The Civil Service Commission has declined to release records related to the case, citing privacy rights granted to law enforcement officers under a California Supreme Court decision. Under county personnel rules, the large public employer could ask the independent commission to nullify the order or modify it in whole or part.”
On Friday, Aug. 23 as well, unbeknownst to the public, another update was underway about the trial of Mary Francesca Hannan, whose son is now in prison for the murder of Jeffrey Korber, Hannan’s former boyfriend. Korber’s body was found in a freezer in a storage locker unit rented by Hannan in 2013. As reported in our news section, her trial was delayed again. It’s been eight years since the murder in 2011. It is also curious that no local law enforcement agency has her mug shot on file, a loophole of sorts. According to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department: “Ms. Hannan has been out of our custody for over three years and her booking photo is no longer public information.”
But it doesn’t stop there. In courtroom 36 last week, the court formally accepted a plea agreement between Santa Clara Waste Water and the victims of the 2014 toxic explosion in Santa Paula. But in the judgment delivered, corporations get to live and die based upon convenience while the humans culpable do not have their personal bank accounts and vested interests ransacked in the same way the victims’ entire lives have been, trying to survive without work, chronically ill and on a settlement that may never come.
This is what justice looks like in one week in Ventura County. And we haven’t even scraped the surface.
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The note to self: Why are cops not subject to the same invasion of privacy you have been?