Deputy D.A. Allegedly Considered Dropping 5 of 7 McMartin Cases
Prosecutors in the McMartin Pre-School molestation case must give defense attorneys all notes from a meeting at which a prosecutor reportedly recommended dropping charges against five of the seven defendants, a judge ruled on Friday.
Municipal Judge Aviva K. Bobb ordered that any minutes, notes or tape recordings from a March 16 meeting attended by Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, his top aides and the three deputy district attorneys prosecuting the McMartin case be turned over to defense attorneys on Tuesday morning.
Defense attorneys requested the material after the Daily Breeze, published in Torrance, reported in a copyrighted story Friday that some prosecutors questioned whether the alleged child victims might have been influenced by therapists who interviewed them.
The newspaper did not report which of the prosecutors made the dismissal recommendation, but it quoted unidentified sources as saying that Deputy Dist. Attys. Glenn Stevens and Christine Johnston disagreed with the lead prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lael Rubin, over the legitimacy of the case against five of the seven defendants.
Won’t Produce Documents
Those defendants are the preschool’s founder, Virginia McMartin, 78; her granddaughter, Peggy Ann Buckey, 29; and three former teachers, Mary Ann Jackson, 57, Betty Raidor, 65, and Babette Spitler, 36, the newspaper said.
The prosecutor who recommended the dismissals did not recommend dropping charges against the chief defendant, Ray Buckey, 27, or his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 58, the Breeze reported.
Reiner, Rubin, Stevens and Johnston would not comment on the newspaper article. But Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Gilbert Garcetti, who attended the meeting, said the district attorney’s office “doesn’t plan to produce any documents” on Tuesday.
He said his understanding was that the defense had requested notes from the meeting, but that the court had set Tuesday as the day to hear arguments on that request.
“We will oppose the motion on grounds that all such meetings are strictly confidential,” Garcetti said. “Those notes are the work product of the district attorney’s office.”
Bobb’s order concerning the notes was disclosed by her clerk late Friday afternoon. The judge could not be reached for comment on Garcetti’s interpretation of the ruling.
Attorney Forrest Latiner, who represents Peggy Ann Buckey, challenged Garcetti’s understanding the order, saying the judge ruled that prosecutors “produce everything in writing or on tape which in any way recorded what was said at the meeting, and all material that was presented by the various parties in support of their conflicting positions.”
Nonetheless, Garcetti said he is “confident we won’t have to turn over anything. We would never be able to have a meeting evaluating a case if the court permitted defense counsel to have a look at notes of those meetings. That’s ridiculous.”
He added that the district attorney’s office would appeal Bobb’s order if it is not withdrawn after arguments on Tuesday.
Bobb also cleared the way Friday for an 8-year-old boy, the prosecution’s final witness, to testify via closed-circuit television in the preliminary hearing, which began 14 months ago.
Before allowing the boy, a former student at the Manhattan Beach school, to testify on closed-circuit television, Bobb had to find that three “tests” required by state law had been met: that his testimony would describe sexual abuse committed on him, that he would be otherwise unavailable as a witness because of threats made to prevent him from testifying and that the video equipment would accurately portray the testimony.
Bobb ruled that the boy’s testimony “will involve a recitation of alleged sexual attacks” on him and that “sufficient reliable hearsay” evidence exists indicating that the boy was threatened by Ray Buckey and Peggy McMartin Buckey. She could not rule on the adequacy of the video equipment, the judge said, until it had been installed and tested.
She indicated, however, that the child’s testimony could begin as early as Tuesday.
Latiner and attorney Dean Gits, who represents Peggy McMartin Buckey, offered several motions seeking modifications of Bobb’s order allowing the boy to testify on closed-circuit television.
Bobb said she would hear arguments Monday.