News

Defense attorney accuses DA of retaliation in prosecution of deputy sheriff

 

San Mateo County Deputy Sheriff Juan Lopez was back in Superior Court in Redwood City on Feb. 13, but not about allegations that he helped smuggle a cellphone into the county jail.

Mr. Lopez, 51, faces new charges in connection with his write-in campaign for sheriff in the June 2014 election, including conspiracy, fraud, perjury and embezzlement. He pleaded not-guilty to all charges.

The defendants include Mr. Lopez's fiancee Evelyn Segura-Chavez, 34, of Redwood City, who is charged with conspiracy and embezzlement.

Mr. Lopez's attorney Stuart Hanlon called the new charges "retaliation against Juan, and now his fiancee Evelyn, because he had the nerve to run against the sheriff. ... I think the charges against Evelyn are absolutely outrageous. Her only crime was to be the fiancee of Juan."

"I think the San Mateo County DA is tied at the hip to the sheriff," he added. "They're trying to bury (Lopez) through legal charges and new costs."

Mr. Hanlon said he plans to ask that the case be taken out of the hands of Mr. Wagstaffe's office and be turned over to the state Attorney General's Office. "At least we'd get some objectivity on this case," he said.

In an interview, Mr. Wagstaffe acknowledged a friendly working relationship with the sheriff, adding that he has considerable respect for Mr. Hanlon, but that it was "simply not true" that his relationship with Mr. Munks is affecting this case.

Mr. Lopez has been on administrative leave since July 2014. He was arrested at gunpoint in November 2014 outside his home in Newark over the cellphone smuggling charges, the culmination of an 11-month investigation by the office of District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe -- at the request of Sheriff Greg Munks, Mr. Wagstaffe said.

The Sheriff's Office had distanced itself from the matter, given Mr. Lopez's candidacy, Mr. Wagstaffe said. "They very quickly turned it over to us," he said. Mr. Lopez is one of seven defendants in the case.

Retaliation?

In the June 2014 election, both Mr. Wagstaffe and Mr. Munks were re-elected. Mr. Wagstaffe ran unopposed; Mr Munks' bid was, arguably, contested, though Deputy Lopez garnered just 1.4 percent of the vote. As a write-in candidate, his name was not on the ballot.

On his campaign website, Mr. Lopez had written that he would "restore integrity to the leadership of the Office of Sheriff," that Mr. Munks "is not the person to lead the law enforcement program," and that Mr. Lopez will be a leader that voters can "respect and trust."

Was he referring to an incident in April 2007? Police in Las Vegas detained and questioned Mr. Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos after finding them on the premises of a brothel in an unmarked house in a residential neighborhood. Mr. Munks said he'd been looking for a massage parlor and believed he was going into a legitimate business.

Mr. Lopez said he was not referring to the Las Vegas incident. "You know, I really can't say anything about that," he said. "I wasn't there and I don't have first-hand knowledge."

Asked to comment at the time, Mr. Munks emailed a statement: "I am honored to be running alone on the ballot again which I believe is an acknowledgment of the progress and fine work that we have accomplished on behalf of our community."

In his write-in campaign, Mr. Lopez raised $400, including $200 from his fiancee, according to campaign finance reports. With loans of $6,060, he spent $9,526, the report says, including $687 for robo-calls and $427 for campaign signs.

Reports show Mr. Munks received a $1,000 contribution from Mr. Wagstaffe and Mr. Wagstaffe received a $1,000 contributon from Mr. Munks.

Mr. Wagstaffe acknowledged this exchange of contributions. Mr. Lopez's case "isn't going to be decided on any relationship between the sheriff and myself," he said. "The case will work its way through on the facts."

A whiff of it

"I would agree that there is a whiff of retaliation," said Loyola University law professor and election-law expert Jessica Levinson when informed of Mr. Hanlon's assertions. "Either it is what it looks like, which is retaliation and helping out a friend, ... or it is prosecuting someone who violated the law," she said.

The campaign contribution of $1,000 would not automatically transfer the prosecution from the DA's office to the state Attorney General's Office, she said.

Given the Las Vegas incident, a subsequent supportive and sympathetic email from Mr. Wagstaffe to Mr. Munks and Undersheriff Bolanos, and candidate Lopez's remarks on his website, Ms. Levinson said she would not think it inappropriate for the DA to see a conflict and "in the interest of justice," conclude that it's better for another jurisdiction to step in.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Mark De Paula
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2015 at 12:02 pm

What about OPERATION Dollhouse?
Sex slavery,please everyone do some research.
Our Sheriff and undersheriff were detained at gunpoint by law enforcement ,i.e. F.B.I.,Clark County Sheriff's. Las Vegas Police.
Yesterday evening on Ch2,date Feb.23, 2015, D.A. Wagstaffe said on video that he stands by his e-mails to Sheriff Munks and Undersheriff Bolanos regarding the detainment of OPERATION DOLLHOUSE.
Wow, do not look in other counties backyards regarding corruption!!!!
Our Sheriff is in charge of Human Trafficking / sex slavery--via SB 1193 California law.


2 people like this
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2015 at 12:18 pm

The Almanac reports this "Police in Las Vegas detained and questioned Mr. Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos after finding them on the premises of a brothel in an unmarked house in a residential neighborhood'

Compare that to Caught and Detained Sheriff Greg Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos inside the residence as Customers of Human Trafficked Sex Slaves some underaged.


2 people like this
Posted by Holly L.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 24, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Holly L. is a registered user.

Bear in mind that in 2012, Wagstaffe recused himself from the child pornography case involving Stuart Forrest, head of San Mateo probation. Wagstaffe told reporters that he thought it best to recuse himself because he had a professional relationship with Forrest.

But Wagstaffe, who is VERY good friends with Munks, and who arrested Lopez - at gunpoint!!- at Munks' request, doesn't think it necessary to recuse himself?

This is just BONKERS behavior by Wagstaffe. Keep digging, Almanac.


4 people like this
Posted by Okay
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 24, 2015 at 12:31 pm

The professor quoted in this article, a totally neutral bystander, has acknowledged there is an appearance of retaliation. It's time for Mr. Wagstaffe to step aside. If Mr. Lopez truly has committed crimes, another prosecutorial office will see to it that he pays for these crimes, and Wagstaffe's goal of seeking punishment under the law will be fulfilled. By recusing his office, Mr. Wagstaffe can also address the accusations of retaliatory behavior. It seems like a win-win situation to me. Of course, if the goal, defined by Munks, is simply to harass Mr. Lopez with charges that normal prosecutors would never bring, a recusal would not accomplish this particular goal.

What Wagstaffe take the ethical high road? Of course not.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2015 at 12:40 pm

I spoke to the Board of Supervisors this morning on the subject of Prosecutorial Misconduct and the Scott Morris Bay City News Service article that was published in at least 5 County papers where he described Sheriff Deputy Juan Lopez as a former deputy, he quoted Steve Wagstaffe about Juan Lopez "when he was a deputy" and than the Embezzlement of up to $400,000 when $250. was all that was raised by donations.

Did Steve Wagstaffe contact Scott Morris to give those details that about 150,000 residents have read. No printed corrections. The Almanac was quick to change both corrections, but I haven't seen anything from the other papers yet.


2 people like this
Posted by Holly L.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 24, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Holly L. is a registered user.

Wagstaffe and Munks also got together to write an op-ed for the Mercury News on October 23, 2014 to voice their opposition to Prop. 47. Web Link

They are an extremely tight unit and both cover for each other. The right thing to do is to have the AG take over this case.


Like this comment
Posted by Holly L.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 24, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Holly L. is a registered user.

Many deputy sheriffs have information that would be helpful to attorney Stuart Hanlon in this case. They need to do the right thing and contact him.


2 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 24, 2015 at 3:22 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

I seem to remember a recall attempt was made to recall the Sheriff. How did that turn out. Heard a lot of hot air discussing it and how close and just about got enough signatures to proceed. How did that turn out. Care to address it Mr. Stogner?


Like this comment
Posted by Holly L.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 24, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Holly L. is a registered user.

SteveC: This is about the arrest of Juan Lopez, not a recall. [part removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 25, 2015 at 7:31 am

SteveC is a registered user.

I know what the article is about Holly. Several posts referred to the Los Vegas incident. My comments are relevant.

I am waiting to see what happens in this case and am reserving judgment. If the Attorney General takes the case, ok.

Do people really believe that he will ever be a Deputy in San Mateo Co. again.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2015 at 7:58 am

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

Steve C asks, "Do people really believe that he will ever be a Deputy in San Mateo Co. again."

I do because he is a San Mateo County Deputy.

Case started by a "Tip from inside the Jail" those are always great sources. Who was it and what was the tip?
2 Search Warrants the DA refuses to turn over since 8/4/2014
DMV Computer hacked to show Suspended license for a San Mateo County Sheriff Deputy, who happens to drive inmates around. The DA's office has previous knowledge of DMV Computer being hacked.

For just these three little reasons I say yes Juan Lopez will remain a San Mateo County Sheriff Deputy.


Like this comment
Posted by Mark De Paula
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Mark De Paula is a registered user.

A story from BAY CITY NEWS, written by SCOTT MORRIS, about Deputy Juan Lopez-said former Deputy,and they also said $400,000.00 and that was corrected. I called them and asked their managing editor (Dan) and he said they do not attend court hearings. Dan told me that he does not know were the false statements came from. Wow, what a great news agency. I wonder were the false statements came from? Anyone want to take a guess?


Like this comment
Posted by Holly L.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 25, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Holly L. is a registered user.

Mr. de Paula:

I spoke to Scott Morris personally on the day the story came out. He stated that he thought he had seen the $400,000 figure in the documents and that DA Wagstaffe himself had called him to say that the figure was wrong.

I believe Morris. Sometimes reporters just make mistakes. News agencies like the Associated Press and Reuters have been known to make mistakes.

The reporter from the Chronicle sent me the notification sent out by Bay City News to all of their subscribers, noting the mistake about the $400,000 and asking that they change it to an "unspecified amount." It is then up to the individual newspapers to correct the error.

At this point I am more concerned about rooting out the corruption than focusing on the mistake. That's where people's energies should be.

Onward !


Like this comment
Posted by Holly L.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 25, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Holly L. is a registered user.

The reporter from the Chronicle received this correction from Bay City News on February 19, 2015

BCN30 -CORRECTION

The seventh graf of Thursday's BCN48 reports that Deputy Juan Lopez embezzled as much as $400,000 in campaign funds during his run for sheriff. Prosecutors have not specified an amount that was allegedly embezzled. Please omit the words "as much as $400,000 in" from that graf and read it:

BCN30 -CORRECTION

The seventh graf of Thursday's BCN48 reports that Deputy Juan Lopez embezzled as much as $400,000 in campaign funds during his run for sheriff. Prosecutors have not specified an amount that was allegedly embezzled. Please omit the words "as much as $400,000 in" from that graf and read it:

X X X While running for office, Lopez and Segura-Chavez, acting as his campaign treasurer, allegedly embezzled campaign funds for personal use, prosecutors said.




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