Prosecutor Accused of Eavesdropping

A Ventura County prosecutor has been removed from a burglary case and given a new assignment after being accused of ordering a district attorney's investigator to eavesdrop on a conversation between the defendant and his attorney, authorities said Wednesday.

The attorney general's office is investigating the complaint against Deputy Dist. Atty. Stacy A. Ratner, a six-year county prosecutor, district attorney's officials said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Kevin J. McGee said a court bailiff reported that he thought Ratner had ordered the investigator to eavesdrop on the conversation between the suspect, Robert Lee Morrow, and Deputy Public Defender Mary L. Fielder.

Morrow and Fielder were talking on Jan. 18 in a room that adjoins Courtroom No. 44 in the Hall of Justice, he said.

The report, by Sheriff's Deputy Edward LeClair, was forwarded to Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury for investigation. Bradbury asked the attorney general's office to look into the matter to avoid a conflict of interest, McGee said.

"We're hopeful that when the A. G. is done reviewing this, they will be of the opinion that there was a misunderstanding or a miscommunication that occurred here," McGee said.

LeClair, Ratner and the investigator, Katherine Smith, declined comment. Public Defender Fielder could not be reached for comment.

McGee said Morrow, who is being held in Ventura County Jail without bail, is accused of breaking into a room at a local hotel while its occupants were asleep. He had no other details about the case.

A jail spokesman said Morrow also faces charges of violating probation and multiple drug counts. His next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday.

Ratner was responsible for handling the daily criminal calender for the prosecutor's office in Courtroom No. 44, which is presided over by Superior Court Judge James McNally. She is now doing the same job in Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath's courtroom.

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