Atherton asks D.A. to investigate police misconduct charge


The town of Atherton has asked the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office to investigate "the allegation of falsifying a police report" detailing the 2008 arrest of Atherton resident Jon Buckheit. The falsification charge was brought to light by a police officer during a court case earlier this year in which Mr. Buckheit won a declaration of factual innocence in the case.

Mr. Buckheit and several other residents have been demanding an investigation of the matter.

Atherton officials first mentioned the investigation April 14 on the town's blog in a two-sentence statement that didn't mention who would be conducting the investigation; nor did it mention that the matter pertained to the Buckheit case.

Later that day, Assistant City Manager Eileen Wilkerson said in a prepared statement, "The town is following its current process and due to the potential perception of conflict of interest the allegation of falsifying a police report has been referred to the San Mateo County District Attorney."

Stephen Wagstaffe, chief deputy district attorney, said last week that his office had received the request to investigate around the end of March.

When he learned that the town has asked the district attorney to investigate the falsification charge, Mr. Buckheit said the request is "totally inappropriate." Because his lawsuit names the county, "and that includes the D.A.," how can that office "pass judgment on the wrongfulness of what was done to me?" he asked. "The D.A. has a vested interest in not exposing the wrongdoing."

Mr. Buckheit also said that Mr. Wagstaffe was involved in his conflict with the town in another significant way that makes his office unsuitable to investigate the town's conduct surrounding the arrest and its aftermath. After his arrest, Mr. Buckheit had to fight the town to obtain a copy of the police report about the incident -- a fight that cost the town $8,000 to cover Mr. Buckheit's attorney's fees after he successfully sued for the report.

Mr. Buckheit said Mr. Wagstaffe "was complicit" in withholding the report, adding that when his attorney called Mr. Wagstaffe to obtain the report, "Wagstaffe said he wouldn't agree to release it."

But Mr. Wagstaffe said that Mr. Buckheit's "facts are just wrong." By the time the attorney called, "we had already reviewed it and returned it to the town," he said.

"That's how we do it: If the department decides not to investigate, we don't keep the documents," he added. "When (the attorney) called me for it, I didn't have the document to give to him."

Regarding Mr. Buckheit's claim that because his lawsuit names the county, the district attorney shouldn't be involved in the investigation, Mr. Wagstaffe said, "If we had a legal conflict, we would withdraw." Opinions issued by the state attorney general support the involvement of the district attorney under the circumstances, he said.

Mr. Buckheit also took issue with the town's characterization of the issue as an "allegation." "It's very important to (understand that) the police report being altered is not an allegation -- it is the sworn testimony of an Atherton police officer," he said.

The police report and court records have been sealed by the court, but Mr. Buckheit, who may release information if he chooses, provided The Almanac with pages from the court transcript that describe some of the court testimony of an Atherton police officer, whom Mr. Buckheit identifies as Tony Dennis. Asked by Mr. Buckheit's attorney whether he believed "that someone changed your report or added this into the report," the officer responded, "That appears to be what happened, that appears to be what have (sic) happened, yes, because I do not remember putting that in there, nor was that my intention."

Mr. Buckheit was arrested during a domestic violence incident at his home. He said that although he was the victim, and had the injuries to prove it, the police arrested him instead of the woman who he said assaulted him.

The district attorney did not file charges, but the town refused to turn over the police report to Mr. Buckheit for months. He finally obtained it last June, along with his attorney's fees.

Mr. Buckheit filed a lawsuit in federal court last October over the arrest and its aftermath. In it, he names the town of Atherton, San Mateo County, and three police officers.

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Posted by code blue
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 14, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Oh Good!!!!!!!!
Maybe we finally have a shot at getting the Attorney General to come in and examine all of the Atherton issues-----
and finally to get out of the CLOSED LOOP we have been stuck in for years with the only the ineffective County level to turn to---which protects only "those of us who Matter".
Mr. Buckheit--please try to bring in some higher athority for every ones sake.

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Posted by John P. Johns, CPA
a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Asking another agency to investigate this matter is a good start. However, I do not believe the San Mateo County District Attorney should be involved.

The corruption in Atherton runs far too deep. There is also an incestual relationship between the District Attorney and the Town of Atherton.

There is a well worn expression of the fox guarding the henhouse. This expression is applicable.

The District Attorney spend 9 months investigating the Town's allegation that I pursued external employment using Town time and property. (A violation of California Penal Code Section 424).

After the statute of limitations passed on my wrongful termination suit. The DA finally got around to clearing me. Little did the DA know that once I was cleared of criminal wrongdoing, I would be right back in court on a civil rights case.

In late 2008, when I presented evidence to the DA of a two very high ranking sworn employees of the Atherton Police Department to the DA, the District Attorney didn't even bother to return my calls or e-mails. My complaints went straight to the circular file.

What is most troubling about this matter is that the falsification of police records came to light as a result of either a direct or cross examination of Officer Tony Dennis in Mr. Buckheit's trial to get a declaration of factual innocence.

The DA did nothing then, can one honestly believe the DA will do someting now? This is farce.

The District Attorney should not have to be asked, four months after hearing the testimony of officer Dennis, the DA should have acted on its own initiative.

Should we believe that Mr. Wagstaffe, now that he is running for DA unopposed and now that the Town of Atherton has asked him to look into this, will finally investigate it objectively?

This doesn't belong in the DA's hands.

This development is utter nonsense.

If Atherton wants this matter looked into, it will call upon the Attorney General or the US Attorney.

Like this comment
Posted by steve waggstail
a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2010 at 9:28 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment]

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Posted by Jim Fox
a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2010 at 10:17 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment]

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2010 at 11:01 pm

That didn't take as long as I thought it would take. Only four public meetings requesting the City Manager and Police Chief to identify the APD Officer who committed a felony against Mr. Jon Buckheit. Results both of them refused to do so.

Now we have the conflict of Interest of the Century. DDA Steve Wagstaffe has known all along that an APD Officer committed a felony against an Atherton resident named Jon Buckheit.
Wagstaffe has done everything possible to cause harm to Mr. Buckheit in this case. He refused to release a Police Report that is public Information and he personally did everything possible to interfere with the factual Innocence trial.

How do you spell RECUSE YOURSELF Wagstaffe

Rich Gordon the President of the Board of Supervisors has received 2 Official requests to investigate Steve Wagstaffe last dated March 25, 2010 The reason I know is that I have sent them.

Welcome to San Mateo County

Like this comment
Posted by Jon Buckheit
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 14, 2010 at 11:38 pm

As Ms. Batti correctly reported, the Town of Atherton had to pay me just about $8,000 after I filed a lawsuit to compel the release of my police report. What was not reported is that Chief Deputy D.A. Wagstaffe refused to release the report to my attorney upon direct request. At first he said he would do so, after informing then Police Chief Nielsen as a courtesy, but subsequently reneged on this promise.

We all learned in grade school that if one lives in America, and is accused of a crime, there is an absolute right to face the accusations made against us. It does not take a legal mind as sophisticated as Mr. Wagstaffe's, nor an attorney with that many years of experience, education, and prominence, to come to this inescapable conclusion. There was absolutely no possible reason, legal or ethical, to deny my access to this report, not on the Town of Atherton's part, nor Mr. Wagstaffe's.

My legal claims against the County of San Mateo include this denial of my due process rights to obtain the police report (to petition for redress of my grievances, namely my factual innocence) based on Mr. Wagstaffe's behavior.

My concern is quite simple. If Mr. Wagstaffe is willing to refuse to provide a report when he has no legal discretion to refuse to do so (arguably, among other reasons, because of allegiance to the law enforcement community he is part of, and who endorse him), can these same motivations be used to influence an investigation into a matter than can involve his discretion?

We do know the report was falsified, as an Atherton Police Officer testified to this under oath in a courtroom. Was the falsification of this report the reason why Mr. Wagstaffe and the Town of Atherton refused to release it to me? If that is a possibility, can either the Town of Atherton or Mr. Wagstaffe be responsible for determining who altered the report (and, possibly, determining that it was all a "big misunderstanding"?).

Most importantly, will Mr. Wagstaffe ever determine foul play occurred in a situation in which he is accused of being part of it?

I am really a poster boy for "if it could happen to me, it can happen to you". I am wealthy, highly educated, and was a CEO in Silicon Valley. I shudder to think how people who do not have the means to defend themselves against such gross public misconduct are treated by the same cast of characters who mistreated me. It is truly appalling to think about.

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2010 at 7:10 am

from Jessica Bernstein Wax article,

Jon any comments on these statements, I think the last one is very strange.

Wagstaffe said he didn't hand over Buckheit's police report because he had already given it back to Atherton when Carey requested it.

"We don't keep reports on cases I don't prosecute," Wagstaffe said, adding that he is confident his office will conduct a fair investigation.

"One of our goals is to ensure that the DA's office is never used as a tool here," he said.

Steve Wagstaffe, Chief Bob Brennan and the Town of Atherton used the DA's as a tool in the John Johns case.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 15, 2010 at 7:13 am

Mr. Buckheit:

have you tried contacting the Attorney General?

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Posted by John P. Johns, CPA
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2010 at 8:01 am

Jon Buckheit is right. If it can happen to him, it can happen to anybody.

Wake up and smell the coffee Atherton.

The DA is not your friend. The Atherton Police Departmet is not your friend.

My office was raided after I objected to the Chief of Police spending money on a conference he attended without proper authorization.

In an interview with the Almanac News on Friday I will bring a copy of the Police Department's CAD incident report which documents the claim I am making here.

I will also bring with me a copy of an evidence tag which illustrates that, as in Mr. Buckheit's case, the police report in my case was falsified as well.

Quite frankly what I find to be most objectionable in the DA assuming responsibility as the lead agency in the Buckheit matter is that I have given the DA evidence of police misconduct in my case only to be ignored by Mr. Wagstaffe and his subordinates.

I also find it objectionable that Atherton asked the DA to investigate this matter.

A clever but cruel joke is being played on Atherton at the moment.

The only people who will be laughing are those corrupt few who run the Town. They will continue to laugh until you in Atherton wake up and smell the coffee.

The problem with the Atherton Police Department is arrogance brought on by hubris.

The Atherton Police Department thinks that it can abuse the civil rights of the few, so long as it can claim to a "97% approval rating".

Only those of you who reside in Atherton can debunk the myth of the invincibility of the Atherton PD. You can do that by insisting that this matter be taken out of the hands of the San Mateo County District Attorney.

Mr. Wagstaffe is laughing up his sleeve at the moment, and you in Atherton are the butt of the joke.

Like this comment
Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Cops and judges and DAs protect each other as much as they can and get away with it. They rally around each other automatically and keep it secret to outsiders. It sounds like it is pretty bad in Atherton. In Menlo the cops have helped me out several times, so they are OK with me, so far. I wouldn't want to get on their bad side. San Francisco is the worst; the cops are one big fraternal organization. If you are friends with one, you can get away with all sorts of little stuff like marginal drunk driving if you can prove you are friends with one. It's just basic copmanship.

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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Here is a thought. If the City, rather than making the request to investigate to the County DA, made it to the State AG; don't ya think that maybe the State AG's response would be to ask, "have you vetted this issue with your County DA?" I, personally, would hope and expect that would be precisely the AG''s response. Its called "process". Rather than condemning City management for taking this step, I applaud the action. If the DA doesn't investigate, or if after an investigation there is concern about the outcome, then you ask the AG to intervene. All this garbage about all cops, judges and DA's being crooked is BS and anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows that.

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Posted by "Process"
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2010 at 3:27 pm

"Process" is not having a conflicted party (the San Mateo D.A., who is accused of wrongful behavior in this incident also) do the investigation. If the AG asked the question "have you vetted this issue with your county DA" the response should be "no, because the county DA is being sued as part of this issue".

"If the DA doesn't investigate, or if after an investigation there is concern about the outcome, then you ask the AG to intervene". Right. Then everyone says the issue was decided, and people are on a "witch hunt". Just like the concerns after Furth exonerated Marsala.

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Posted by just a thought
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2010 at 5:27 pm


It's good to have 'an ounce of intelligence', but it's also good to have enough common sense to understand that the quality of your judgment is directly proportional to the quality of the information upon which it is based.

Uttering platitudes isn't persuasive to me, although it may be to others.

I suggest you have a review of Mr. Stogner's file of 10 years of research of documented misconduct by San Mateo County officials in all departments and levels.

If you did so, and were able to rebut it with real facts backing your position, you and your comments would carry more weight.

Facile belief in one's opinion as being knowledgeably based, when it is in fact not, is nothing more than another form of denial.


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Posted by Ranch Gal
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 15, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Atherton PD has never been MY friend and in fact stalked me years ago and played the "under cover" card. Thank God some other people have been the target of their doings. No one believed me in the 1980's. And Rich Gordon is on the side of anyone who will give him power. Anyone who can further his "fat cat" career towards the top. A true waffler. We are doomed in this country 1/2 of us could care less about politics and don't follow it, and the other 1/2 of us are impotent to do anything.

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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2010 at 9:34 am

Dear JAT

I can't disagree with the points you made at all. And I personally believe that a higher authority, such as the AG needs to get involved in all of this. I do want to clarify the point I was trying (I guess poorly) to make. It is, unfortunately, usually difficult to get proper attention paid to issues such as those swirling around in Atherton. The "system" is designed to be self-protecting. It has been my observation, however, that while it may seem tedious at times, the best way to do so is to "use the process" rather than to buck it. I didn't mean to be perceived as "uttering platitudes". although in retrospect I can see how it sounded that way. I do honestly believe that the AG would be a lot more likely to investigate if he were asked to do so because the DA, after being asked, did not do so in a thorough manner.

Dear Process

I do disagree with your comment which presumes that if the DA investigates and finds nothing, its automatically a wrong conclusion, and that then, the AG would say, this is just a witch hunt. I guess unless the AG simply immediately said, the Atherton CC and PD and the DA are guilty of every single thing anyone here has accused them of, you will not be satisfied. Sorry, that is not by idea of due process, regardless of my personal opinion on the issues.

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Posted by "Process"
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2010 at 9:43 am

Dear WhoRUpeople

I define "process" as those who do not have a vested interested in the outcome doing the investigation. When you say I will never been satisfied unless everyone is automatically charged guilty, you are wrong. I am simply pointing out that if the DA is being sued by Mr. Buckheit for allegedly mistreating him, it is the wrong body to do this investigation. If Atherton concluded it could not do the investigation for that same reason, shouldn't it also apply to the DA? I see this as obvious, but perhaps we'll need to agree to disagree.

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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2010 at 10:20 am

Dear Process

No, I do agree with you. Again, my only point is this. Atherton concluded it could not do the investigation, so it referred it to the DA (appropriate process). If the fact that Mr. Buckheit's civil suit includes the DA conflicts him, then I would hope that the DA makes the decision to refer Atherton's request to the AG (appropriate process) and, if the DA does not, then, I would be at the front of line of those who would ask the AG to intervene. I just think that the AG is more likely to get involved if the request came from the DA due to the conflict issue or due to a public request for the same reason, than if Atherton had bypassed the DA all together. Bottom line, I really want/hope this does get the attention of Mr. Brown.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2010 at 11:53 am

Just so the record is clear I have sent Supervisor Rich Gordon who is the President of the Board of Supervisors 3 e-mail request for an Official Investigation of DDA Steve Wagstaffe.

Mr. Rich Gordon has chosen to put me on the "Do Not Respond To " list.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Rich Gordon still has me on the Do Not Respond To list. But I did just hear from County County Michael Murphy,

Let the communication begin!

Welccome to San Mateo County

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2010 at 4:18 pm

meant to say, I just heard back from County Counsel Michael Murphy.

Welcome to San Mateo County

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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