Two prosecutors left San Diego city attorney’s office after findings of 98 botched cases

Two top prosecutors left the San Diego city attorney’s office in November after an internal investigation found 98 bungled cases, including several in which missed deadlines meant those accused of domestic violence weren’t prosecuted.

The lawyers left soon after the cases that were not fully reviewed and processed were discovered, City Atty. Jan Goldsmith said. He declined to identify them because it was a confidential personnel matter.

But four sources told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the employees held responsible were former Deputy City Atty. Miriam Milstein and her superior, Marlea Dell’Anno, the former assistant city attorney who had run the criminal division since 2012.


The investigation revealed that as many as 50 case files had been physically removed from the office and were at Dell’Anno’s home for months. They were returned after the investigation launched in November, but Goldsmith said that the one-year statute of limitations — the legal deadline to file charges — expired on a number of cases that were part of the batch removed from the office.

Milstein started a new job in January as a prosecutor for San Diego County Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis, whose office handles more serious felony cases. Goldsmith’s office handles misdemeanors.

It’s unknown what factors might have contributed to the mishandling of the cases, which according to the city attorney’s inquiry occurred from 2012 to 2015. Goldsmith declined to discuss what his internal investigation found, but said, “It’s inexcusable to let a statute of limitations expire in any case, let alone a domestic violence case. There is absolutely no excuse, absolutely none.”

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In 81 of the problem cases, the legal deadline passed, according to Goldsmith’s review. Sixty-two of those had been reviewed and a decision was made not to file formal charges because there was insufficient evidence. But paperwork to dispose of the cases officially was not filed.

An additional 19 cases languished too long without a decision even though Goldsmith’s review later determined the cases should have been filed. Fifteen were domestic violence charges, two were indecent exposure, one was a theft from an elderly victim, and one was late registration by a sex offender. After the statute of limitations expired, it was legally impossible to file any charges.

A final group of 17 cases still was within the time frame to be filed. Eventually, charges were filed in four cases; one is pending and three defendants pleaded guilty. The remaining 13 cases were not pursued either because there was insufficient evidence or victims did not wish to prosecute, according to a tally supplied by the city attorney’s office.

Moran and Smith write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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