Attorneys Portray Conflicting Images of Gates’ Opponent

Times Staff Writer

The spotlight turned to Preston Guillory in federal court Tuesday, with his attorneys portraying him as the innocent victim of political harassment by Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates and opposing attorneys painting him as a man forced out of law enforcement by his own irresponsibility.

Tuesday was the second day of testimony by Guillory, a private investigator who is suing Gates and Anaheim officials for $5 million.

The trial is in its fourth week in U.S. District Court. Guillory alleges that Gates and Anaheim officials drummed up charges that the investigator impersonated an officer and illegally carried a concealed weapon because Guillory was a critic of Gates and was working for one of Gates’ political opponents.

Guillory was eventually found not guilty of the charges.


Revolver Always Visible

Guillory, questioned by his attorney, Michael J. Cisarik, insisted that at no time did he lead anyone to believe he was a law enforcement officer. He said that whenever he carried his revolver, it was visible in a holster at his waist. He had a permit to carry an unconcealed weapon.

The charges stemming from a sheriff’s investigation were “inconceivable,” he insisted, but even though he was acquitted in December, 1985, Guillory testified Tuesday that he had lost “virtually every client” he had that year because of the damage to his reputation.

A previous sworn statement by Guillory showed that his income fell to $21,827 that year, down 51%. Guillory said it became difficult to pay the rent, and he turned to part-time jobs. For 2 months he was unemployed, staying at home, watching TV, gaining weight and frequently quarreling with his wife about money.


Asked how being unable to provide for his family affected him emotionally, Guillory appeared to choke up on the stand and seemed unable to answer. “I have two small children,” he said after a long pause and apologized.

He said the fear of further harassment has made daily life tense. “My feeling is this may not be the end of it,” he said. “I will eventually move out of Orange County. I just can’t see living in this environment, win or lose.”

During cross-examination, Eric L. Dobberteen, Gates’ attorney, focused on Guillory’s background, including his resignation under pressure from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department after striking a handcuffed prisoner.

Guillory has testified that while a deputy sheriff in 1969, he arrested a man who said he was a martial arts expert. When the man, who was handcuffed behind his back, charged Guillory, he struck the man in the hand, said Guillory, who insisted that his reaction had been justified.

But under Dobberteen’s questioning, Guillory admitted that he had been “held liable” for using “excessive force” in the incident after a civil trial. He conceded that an internal investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had been under way when he resigned.

But that was only a “partial factor” in his resignation, he said.

Guillory denied that he had been suspended by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department because he had failed to appear in court on a traffic citation he had issued. But Dobberteen read from Guillory’s previous sworn statements, in which he said he had been suspended for not appearing and explained that the court date had been his day off.

Guillory conceded that he was also being investigated over allegations that he had leaked sheriff’s information to the news media when he resigned, but Guillory denied that he had disclosed such information. However, Dobberteen again read from previous statements in which Guillory said he had given out the information.


Gates’ attorney also read from a judge’s findings in a lawsuit Guillory brought against Gates in 1978 in which he sought to force Gates to issue him a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

The judge, Mason Fenton of Orange County Superior Court, found that Gates was too strict in previously denying such permits to any private investigators and ordered him not to discriminate against such applicants.

But while Fenton ordered Gates to reexamine Guillory’s application, he concluded that such a permit is a privilege “and requires of permittees the finest exercise of good judgment, restraint and maturity. On the basis of the evidence adduced at the trial, this Court has substantial doubts as to the qualifications of (Guillory) in each of these regards.”

Gates refused to issue the permit a second time, and Guillory has sued again, this time in federal court. That suit is pending.

Guillory alleges in the present trial that his criticism of Gates over the gun permit issue is one of the reasons Gates has harassed him.