Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates “is a corrupt official” and must be stopped or his kind of law enforcement abuses will “go on forever” in Orange County, an attorney argued Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
The attorney, Michael J. Cisarik, arguing before a jury trying a $5-million suit against the sheriff, said that Gates exchanged concealed-weapon permits for campaign contributions and used his intelligence investigators to harass his political opponents.
“You have to punish this guy,” Cisarik said during closing arguments in the 5-week trial. “You’ve got to make it bite, and not only bite him, but law enforcement, to let them know, ‘You can’t do that.’ You should bite Gates big.”
Gates’ attorney, Eric L. Dobberteen, countered that Cisarik was using “rumor, gossip, innuendo, hearsay and political attacks” instead of facts. The case is “a house of cards with no foundation,” Dobberteen said, and if jurors apply common sense to Cisarik’s logic, they’ll realize “it ain’t there.”
Gates is being sued by private investigator Preston Guillory, who alleges that Gates conspired with his own officers and Anaheim officials to deprive Guillory of his civil rights. At issue is whether the Sheriff’s Department had good reason to launch a criminal investigation of Guillory or was motivated by politics.
The investigation, later handed over to Anaheim police and prosecutors, ended in charges of impersonating an officer and illegally carrying a concealed weapon. Guillory was acquitted of all charges in 1985.
Cisarik argued that the sheriff targeted Guillory for investigation first because of Guillory’s association with then-Municipal Judge Bobby D. Youngblood and with other Gates critics, and second because Guillory was suing Gates to show that the sheriff issued concealed-weapon permits to reward friends and withheld them to punish enemies. That suit is still pending in federal court.
“They went after Guillory because he was going to prove Gates is corrupt,” Cisarik said. “This is a pattern. It happened again and again and again.”
Cisarik referred to the lawsuit by Youngblood and others against Gates that alleged Gates ordered his investigators to spy on his political opponents. That case was settled out of court for $375,000 after an audio tape was discovered that both Gates and his investigators denied had ever existed. It was a secret recording of a college lecture by George Wright, an election opponent of Gates.
“They all lied,” Cisarik said, referring to Gates and his investigators. “You think it was just a coincidence they forgot (about the tape)? What blatant dishonesty. Anyone else would have been cited for perjury.”
Cisarik repeatedly made his point that there was no good reason for Gates’ elite intelligence officers to be investigating the misdemeanors Guillory was supposed to have committed.
The only reason, he said, was that the intelligence unit was outside the normal chain of command and reported directly to Gates, who demanded its investigators be loyal to him personally. The intelligence unit officer who investigated Guillory’s case, Daniel Martini, was promoted from investigator to lieutenant in 1 year, Cisarik said.
The charges against Guillory stemmed from his attempt to serve a summons on Richard Wilder in 1984. Wilder, a federal and sheriff’s undercover informer, was a defendant along with Gates in Youngblood’s suit, and Guillory was working as Youngblood’s private investigator.
Guillory made several appearances at Wilder’s home at an apartment complex in Anaheim, once with an off-duty Los Angeles police officer hired for the job, then with on-duty Anaheim officers who, alerted by Guillory, came to arrest Wilder on a traffic warrant.
After being served and arrested, Wilder telephoned his contact in the sheriff’s intelligence unit to say that Guillory had carried a concealed weapon and had shown what was probably a bogus concealed-weapon permit.
Cisarik said the political motivation of Gates and his intelligence officers is apparent in their reaction to Wilder’s call. Despite Anaheim police informing the sheriff that Anaheim officers saw Guillory’s gun exposed and confirmation that Guillory had a permit to carry such a weapon, sheriff’s investigators pressed ahead with the investigation. Why, Cisarik said, would such a trivial case be taken up by intelligence officers?
Gates testified that the investigation continued because it was his duty to pursue reports of crime, but that is “baloney,” Cisarik said. “If this was Joe Blow on the street, do you think they’d have done it? . . . They’d have said, ‘Call Anaheim,’ ” where the incident occurred.
“If he (Guillory) hadn’t sued Gates, if he hadn’t criticized, if he hadn’t associated with Mr. Youngblood, would they have done what they did?” Cisarik asked.
He urged jurors to award punitive damages against Gates. He said Gates is paid $96,000 a year and has stated in a court declaration not yet made public that his financial worth amounts to $1.2 million gross or $716,000 net.
The defense is scheduled to argue its side today and the case, now in its fifth week of trial, is expected to go to the jury today or Friday.