Gates Got Tape of a Critic's Plea for Police Protection

Times Staff Writers

A Santa Ana police officer, asked for protection by a private investigator who said he was afraid of informants working for Sheriff Brad Gates, secretly recorded the request and turned the tape over to Gates, court records show.

Preston Guillory, who later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Gates that is scheduled for trial July 7 in Los Angeles, said he went to Santa Ana police for help in 1984 after the home of then-Municipal Judge Bobby D. Youngblood was firebombed on July 19 of that year.

Guillory said in an interview last week that he feared for the safety of his family because he had been doing investigative work for Youngblood, who was involved in another civil rights lawsuit against Gates. Youngblood's suit was settled out of court earlier this year.

Allegations of Harassment

In his lawsuit, Guillory alleges that Gates ordered people to harass and spy on him over a long period because he was critical of the sheriff's overzealousness and use of convicted felons as paid informants. The sheriff has denied the allegations.

Documents filed recently in preparation for the upcoming trial include a transcript of a tape of a meeting on July 25, 1984, between Guillory and Santa Ana Police Intelligence Officer Michael Foote. At that meeting, Guillory told Foote he feared "heavyweight players" who worked as paid informants for the Sheriff's Department and asked for protection for his family, according to the transcript.

Guillory said he suspected then that Gates had people spying on him, according to the transcript.

Foote later admitted in a deposition taken by Guillory's lawyers that he had turned over a copy of the tape of his conversation with Guillory to both Gates and the Orange County district attorney's office.

"I was shocked that Foote had taped me without my knowledge," Guillory said, "and more concerned with the safety of my family and myself that he gave this tape to the sheriff when I asked him not to (tell the sheriff about the conversation)."

Foote did not return phone calls from The Times last week, but he explained in the deposition why he turned the tape over to the sheriff and the district attorney's office.

"In this case, the allegations that were made by Mr. Guillory in regard to specific individuals concerned criminal misconduct which at that point, at that particular time, the sheriff had a right to know about," Foote said.

Foote said he gave the information to the sheriff at the suggestion of Loren Du Chesne, an investigator for the Orange County district attorney's office.

"It occurred a long time ago," Du Chesne, who is chief of the bureau of investigation for the district attorney's office, said when asked about the incident. "It was such an insignificant thing at the moment."

Du Chesne said he had not seen a transcript of Foote's deposition.

"My recollection is that it was Lt. Foote's decision to share the information with the Sheriff's Department," he said.

According to the transcript of the July, 1984, conversation between Guillory and Foote, Guillory told Foote that "the Sheriff's Department has been systematically using its intelligence people for the last 12 years to harass, violate constitutional rights, wire tap, surveillance, people who are contrary, who don't share the sheriff's narrow beliefs in what law enforcement is all about."

Gates' attorney, Eric L. Dobberteen, said in an interview last week that Guillory was not under investigation when Foote gave the tape of their conversation to the sheriff. Dobberteen said he does not know why Foote turned over the Guillory tape to the sheriff.

"You'll have to ask Foote why he did it," Dobberteen said. "He just gave it to us."

Guillory said he had asked Foote not to tell the sheriff about their conversation, but that request is not contained in the transcript of the 1984 conversation that was filed in court.

Guillory claims that portion of the tape must have been erased.

On the tape, Foote asked Guillory why he didn't report his concerns to the sheriff.

"My fear is, anyone I would talk to in the district attorney's office or some other division of the Sheriff's Department, it would all follow right back to the top," Guillory said.

Guillory filed the lawsuit against both Gates and the City of Anaheim after he was arrested by Anaheim police in 1985 and charged with posing as a police officer and carrying a concealed weapon. That arrest grew out of Guillory's attempt six months earlier, in October, 1984, to serve a subpoena on an informant for the sheriff's office in connection with Youngblood's lawsuit against Gates.

After Guillory's arrest, the Anaheim city attorney's office filed a nine-count complaint against him. But an Orange County Municipal Court jury acquitted him of all charges in December, 1985.

Guillory, 40, has worked for the Orange County Probation Department and is a former Los Angeles County deputy sheriff.

A second federal lawsuit filed by Guillory against Gates stems from the sheriff's refusal to grant the Santa Ana private investigator a permit to carry a concealed weapon. In 1979, Gates denied Guillory's request on the ground that the investigator did not meet the requirements for "good cause and good moral character," according to court records.

A motion by Guillory's attorney to consolidate the two cases for trial was denied by a federal judge last month.

No trial date has been set for the gun-permit case.

The Youngblood lawsuit, which accused Gates of using his office to harass political opponents, was settled out of court last April, just two weeks before a trial was to begin. Under the terms of the settlement, the county agreed to pay Youngblood and two other plaintiffs a total of $375,000.

After the settlement was disclosed, it was learned that tapes of a 1981 college classroom lecture by George Wright, one of the other plaintiffs in the Youngblood lawsuit, had turned up in investigative files of the Sheriff's Department. Gates had said earlier in a sworn declaration filed in the Youngblood lawsuit that he had "not created or maintained files" on Wright, a former election opponent.

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