Jon Buckheit's battle with the Atherton police department over a falsified police report intensified this week when Mr. Buckheit named the officer who altered the report -- information gleaned from a police computer database log -- and filed a complaint with the police chief.
A copy of the database log, which Mr. Buckheit obtained during the discovery phase of his federal lawsuit against the town, shows that Officer Dean DeVlugt changed the police report filed by another officer hours after Mr. Buckheit's arrest during a domestic violence dispute at his Atherton home. A copy of the log was attached to Mr. Buckheit's Dec. 1 letter and complaint to Police Chief Mike Guerra.
The change made in the report identifies the young son of the woman involved in the domestic dispute as a victim of a "physical/strong arm" assault, according to the log, a copy of which was obtained by The Almanac. The boy had previously been listed as a witness.
In his Dec. 1 letter to Chief Guerra, Mr. Buckheit called for a "prompt and decisive investigation" of the report's alteration.
Neither Chief Guerra nor Officer DeVlugt could be reached for comment.
The person who forwarded Mr. Buckheit's letter to The Almanac asked not to be identified.
When contacted for comment this afternoon (Dec. 2), Mr. Buckheit said, "My letter speaks for itself."
He said that his attorney was hand-delivering a copy of the letter to Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe today. At the same time, Mr. Buckheit is authorizing the release to the D.A.'s office of the police report, which was sealed by the court at the end of Mr. Buckheit's factual innocence trial, which began in December 2009.
The release of the report is significant: Rather than conduct an internal investigation, Chief Guerra last March requested that the D.A.'s office investigate the matter -- a move strongly opposed by Mr. Buckheit, who maintained it would be a conflict of interest because San Mateo County is among the defendants in Mr. Buckheit's federal lawsuit.
The investigation stalled almost immediately because Mr. Buckheit refused to release the police report to the D.A., hoping that the investigation would then be forwarded to another agency, such as the state attorney general's office.
The domestic violence incident occurred on the night of Oct. 19, 2008. Mr. Buckheit called the police for help, reporting that he had been assaulted by his then-girlfriend, who lived at the residence. Although Mr. Buckheit was the person with visible injuries, he was arrested. The District Attorney's Office soon after decided not to file charges after reviewing the case.
Months later, when Mr. Buckheit obtained a copy of the police report after suing the town to get it, he was shocked to learn that, in addition to the claim that he had assaulted his girlfriend, the report included a charge of assault against her son.
Earlier this year, Mr. Buckheit was granted a declaration of factual innocence in San Mateo County Superior Court. Mr. Buckheit's Dec. 1 letter to Chief Guerra comes nearly one year after Atherton police officer Tony Dennis testified during the factual-innocence court proceedings that, although the police report bore his signature, the section recommending criminal charges for assaulting the child was not written by him.
During the trial, Judge Mark Forcum stated that "there's absolutely no basis to believe that Mr. Buckheit ever laid a finger on the child," according to Mr. Buckheit's letter, which cites page 316 of the court transcript.
Since Officer Dennis' court admission, Mr. Buckheit and others have demanded that an investigation by the state attorney general's office or another outside agency be conducted to find out who altered the report, and why.
Asked why he chose to send the complaints to the Atherton police department and release the police report to the D.A.'s office at this time, Mr. Buckheit said: "I waited a year. I was hoping that since the police department had this same information, they would take care of it. After a year, it's time to bring some resolution to it."
In his letter to Chief Guerra, Mr. Buckheit noted that the judge who sealed the police report "specifically (and at the request of the attorneys for the Town of Atherton) authorized you to investigate this matter, and have access to any information that was sealed by the factual innocence order to do so ...."
Mr. Buckheit wrote that he is "very concerned that no apparent actions have been taken on your part to investigate this matter and take appropriate corrective actions."