Gates Foes Seek to Prove Surveillance of Critics
The spotlight in federal court shifted to Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Randall Blair on Friday as attorneys for a private investigator tried again to show a pattern of surveillance and harassment of Sheriff Brad Gates’ critics.
Blair, a member of Gates’ intelligence unit, conceded that his previous denials that surveillance had occurred were false, but he attributed them to lapses of memory and “a bonehead mistake.”
And while he remembered listening in a parked car while a hidden transmitter broadcast what one of Gates’ political opponents was saying during a college lecture, Blair testified that he did not remember a tape-recording being made.
(The tape-recording of that lecture was found in a deputy sheriff’s garage in 1987, and soon afterward the county paid a $375,000 out-of-court settlement to the lecturer, George Wright, and another Gates political opponent, former Municipal Judge Bobby D. Youngblood.)
At issue in the current trial is whether Gates’ investigators were justified in their investigation of Preston Guillory, a private investigator who in 1984 was working on behalf of Youngblood in his suit against Gates. Guillory is alleging conspiracy to deprive him of his civil rights and is asking for $5 million in damages.
Acquitted of Charges
After an investigation by Gates’ detectives, Guillory was tried for illegally carrying a firearm and impersonating an officer and was acquitted in 1985. At question is the motive for launching the investigation.
Blair testified Friday, the fourth day of the trial, that the investigation into Guillory’s case began when longtime informant Richard Wilder called him in 1984. Wilder was a co-defendant in the suit that Youngblood had filed against Gates, and Guillory was trying to find him in order to serve legal papers.
When Guillory did find Wilder, he invited Anaheim police along because Wilder was wanted for a traffic violation. After Wilder was arrested by Anaheim police, Blair testified, he called Blair to say Guillory was carrying a concealed gun and had shown police a concealed-gun permit.
Blair said he knew Guillory had no concealed-gun permit because Guillory had filed suit against the sheriff because a permit had been denied to him. So Blair looked into the report, he testified.
He said Anaheim police informed him that Guillory was wearing his gun exposed rather than concealed and had shown them a permit to carry such a weapon. Blair said he checked with the state agency that licenses private investigators and confirmed that such a permit had been issued to Guillory.
Blair said he was pulled off the investigation at about that time because he was a co-defendant in Guillory’s lawsuit. Other sheriff’s investigators took over the case, he said.
Blair also testified that he met with Youngblood’s estranged wife and that at one point secretly tape-recorded their conversation and once asked her to go to the Youngbloods’ home and retrieve documents for his investigation.
He conceded that he ordered that a conversation of Orange County Register reporter Chuck Cook be tape-recorded because Cook was writing articles about alleged abuse in the County Jail, which is administered by Gates, and because he “may have encouraged some of them (prisoners) to lie.” The recording was made of an interview Cook conducted in the jail.
Blair said that during a 1985 deposition in which he denied any surveillance of Cook, he had not told the truth. “It was a bonehead mistake. I forgot about Chuck Cook,” he said.
Likewise, he had not told the truth when he stated, under oath, that there had been no surveillance of Youngblood, Wright and others and that no files had been created on them, he conceded. “At the time I declared it, I believed those statements were true,” he testified.
Under questioning by one of Guillory’s attorneys, Michael J. Cisarik, however, Blair conceded that he had kept the Youngblood file in his desk drawer.
Under questioning by Gates’ attorney Eric L. Dobberteen, Blair said he had received reports that Guillory had one of Wilder’s passports and suggested to Wilder that if he wanted to file a burglary complaint, the Anaheim Police Department was the proper place.
Dobberteen’s questioning was cut short by adjournment of the trial, which is scheduled to resume Tuesday.
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