News

Renowned attorney to defend ex-deputy, candidate for sheriff against criminal charges

 

Famed San Francisco criminal defense attorney J. Tony Serra may attempt to demonstrate that the arrests and prosecution of Juan Pablo Lopez, a former deputy with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, are retribution by the county for his June 2014 run for election as sheriff against his boss, then-sheriff Greg Munks.

Attorney Maria Belyi, Mr. Serra's assistant, confirmed recently that the high-profile Serra is now defending Mr. Lopez, who faces a series of charges related to his run for the sheriff's post and his duties at the county jail. The case is expected to go to trial later this year.

"Essentially, we view the case against him as a political case ... a sort of retribution, almost, for running for sheriff," Ms. Belyi said. "I don't think that there is going to be any evidence of criminal wrongdoing."

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said he had no response to Ms. Belyi's comment "other than to say we will let the evidence in court speak for itself."

In the 2014 primary election, Mr. Lopez, 54, was both a candidate for sheriff and a deputy employed by the two-term sheriff whose job he wanted and who was running for a third term.

Circumstances, possibly including his lack of experience running for public office, led him to miss a key filing deadline. He then ran a write-in campaign -- his name was not on the ballot - and Mr. Munks won easily.

By the time the following June rolled around, Mr. Lopez had been arrested twice, each time on a different set of charges, including obstruction of justice, conspiracy, counterfeiting and perjury. His two cases are now into their third year of winding their way through the San Mateo County Superior Court system.

Jail-related charges

Mr. Lopez was a 26-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office and at the time of his candidacy for sheriff, had the responsibility of transporting prisoners to and from the jail.

About five months after the election, and following an investigation by the Sheriff's Office internal affairs department, Mr. Lopez and two jail corrections officers were arrested on charges related to smuggling.

Prosecutors accused Mr. Lopez and the corrections officers of conspiring with a gang-affiliated jail inmate to provide that inmate with two cellphones and oxycontin over several months, and to allow the inmate to use the phone openly in the jail.

Prosecutors subsequently brought charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and gang involvement against Mr. Lopez. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Those charges have since been modified to two counts of conspiracy, Assistant District Attorney Al Serrato told the Almanac.

Mr. Lopez has not responded to several requests for comment.

Election-related charges

In February 2015, while on administrative leave, Mr. Lopez was arrested again, this time in connection with his run for sheriff.

Officers from an Alameda County task force arrived at his house in Newark with sirens wailing and lights flashing, according to one of his former defense attorneys, David Washington. He was ordered to his knees at gunpoint and handcuffed, Mr. Washington said.

Prosecutors accused Mr. Lopez of fraud in trying to secure a real estate loan while claiming he lived in Redwood City when, they said, he actually lived in Newark. That claim of Redwood City residency also figured in allegations that he signed documents, under penalty of perjury, in which he claimed to be a resident of San Mateo County.

He faces seven election-related charges: fraud, conspiracy, perjury by filing a counterfeit document, an election code filing violation, an election code voting violation and two counts of forgery, prosecutors said.

The charge sheet had been longer. San Mateo County Judge Lisa Novak dismissed two charges of conspiracy related to fraud against Mr. Lopez after charges against his alleged co-conspirators were dropped, Mr. Serrato said.

The absence of co-conspirators also led Judge Novak to dismiss a charge of perjury and another of embezzlement, noting that a fine from the Fair Political Practices Commission was an adequate remedy for embezzlement against a political campaign, Mr. Serrato said.

Mr. Lopez has been out of custody on $100,000 bail on the jail-related charges, with preliminary hearings set for July 21 and Aug. 18 and a jury trial set to begin Oct. 30.

He is out on $170,000 bail on the election-related charges, prosecutors said. His pretrial conference on Aug. 18 will also serve to address those charges, including the setting of a date for a jury trial, prosecutors said.

Respect and trust

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 whom voters can "respect and trust."

About seven years earlier, in April 2007, Las Vegas police had detained and questioned Mr. Munks and Carlos Bolanos -- Mr. Munks' second in command and his eventual successor -- after finding them on the premises of a brothel in an unmarked house in a residential neighborhood. Local police said Mr. Munks explained his presence by saying he'd been looking for a massage parlor and that he believed he'd been going into a legitimate business.

Mr. Lopez, asked during his campaign whether assertions about Mr. Munks' integrity and leadership ability were in reference to the Las Vegas incident, said they were not. "You know, I really can't say anything about that," he said. "I wasn't there and I don't have first-hand knowledge."

Mr. Lopez retired from his law enforcement career in March 2016, Sheriff's Office spokesman Detective Salvador Zuno told the Almanac.

Mr. Munks retired in July 2016. In that same month, by a 3-2 vote, the Board of Supervisors appointed Mr. Bolanos to serve out the remaining two-plus years in Mr. Munks' term.

'Defending outcasts'

Tony Serra, in a 2012 Youtube interview, describes himself as someone who supports "the antithesis, whatever opposes, whatever rejects, whatever is against the main theme."

He says that as a young lawyer in the 1960s, he worked "mostly murder and political trials," and that he's defended the Black Panthers and the White Panthers -- an anti-racist, anti-capitalist group.

"Defending society's outcasts" has been his life's work, Mr. Serra's web page at Pier 5 Law Offices says, and continues: "Perceiving himself in the role of a warrior, Mr. Serra has continued to battle for more freedom for more people through law. ... Tony Serra has always known how to express the poetry of the law, while fighting in the ditches and dark alleys of legal practice. He has gained national prominence for his closing argument techniques."

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 27, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Way to go, Dave!


9 people like this
Posted by lawyer up!
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 27, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Nice commercial for Tony.


10 people like this
Posted by jackrabbit
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Jun 27, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Tony Serra -- "The Toothless Wonder". Renowned??? Could it have been his great defense of 'Shrimp Boy' Chow? Once upon a time, Serra was revered for his defense of druggies but that was in the 60s. Since then, his legal expertise and history has diminished much like that of the minority speaker of the house whose time has come and gone. Everyone is entitled to his/her day in court but this will prove to be a nightmare for Lopez. Steve Wagstaffe and his team will run circles around poor old Serra. Should make for interesting tv however.


9 people like this
Posted by Galling
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2017 at 1:08 pm

This seems like a well-written and balanced article…

unless and until you know what's left out.

Wagstaffe's essential "No comment" seems only reasonable. He says the result in court will speak for itself.

But what about what the Almanac deliberately chose to leave out, thus continuing its role of enabling prosecutorial misconduct in San Mateo County?

That is, what about the charges Wagstaffe levied against Lopez' girlfriend that were THROWN OUT of court by a judge who said there was no evidence to support a trial on them. And, as we all know or should know, there's even a saying that says it's possible for a creative prosecutor to bring charges to trial on a ham sandwich. That's how low the bar is. But Wagstaffe couldn't clear that bar on the charges he filed against LOPEZ' GIRLFRIEND.

What did she do? [Part removed. Don't use Town Square to accuse people of wrongdoing.]

Why wasn't Wagstaffe asked to comment on that? Doesn't that color the whole theory that this is a political revenge case? Unlike the Lopez trial, Wagstaffe couldn't punt on that question. He'd either have to comment, or look evasive by not answering.

[Part removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by John The Baptist
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2017 at 1:27 pm

John The Baptist is a registered user.

Wagstaff helped Munks and Bolans bury the story of the Vegas Massage with an unhappy ending. Before there was even an investigation, which there never was, Wagstaff sent this email to both Munks and Bolanos:

To: Munks, Bolanos
From: Wagstaff
Date: 4/25/07 10:20 AM

Greg and Carlos,
Just a quick note of support from me as you go through a difficult time. To those that matter, your decades of outstanding work in law enforcement are all that count and your integrity is not the slightest marked by the modern media's efforts to make a story out of a none story. Hard as it is to think it now, remember it will be yesterday's news and irrelevant by tomorrow.

My positive thoughts are out there for both of you.
Steve


The Good Old Boys at the DA's office cannot be trusted to take on the Sheriff and his Good Old Boys because....well......they are all Good Old Boys.


2 people like this
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2017 at 6:11 am

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

I think Prosecutorial Misconduct is criminal and cowardly. Karen Guidotti has refused to copy what she claims she listened to.


RE: Please ref this criminal complaint the the A.G. of the State of California
People
Karen Guidotti <kguidotti@smcgov.org> 05/10/16 at 8:57 AM
To
Michael Stogner
CC
Bryan Abanto John Warren
Message body
Good morning Mr. Stogner: I am not sure why Mr. Hanlon has not been able to verify the existence of the recording. However, I will ask DDA Bryan Abanto to reach out to Mr. Hanlon to verify that he did receive that item of evidence from our office.

Sincerely,
Karen Guidotti

From: Michael Stogner [mailto:michaelgstogner@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 8:42 AM
To: Karen Guidotti <kguidotti@smcgov.org>
Subject: Re: Please ref this criminal complaint the the A.G. of the State of California

Good morning Karen Guidotti,

As of today Stuart Hanlon has not been able to verify the existence of the 11 minute recording that you have listened to. Would it be possible for you to make a copy available to Mr. Hanlon so he could pass it on to Juan P. Lopez and in turn he could pass it on to Irma who is very interested in hearing it.

Just to clarify I am not asking you to review this part of the transcript for accuracy, I was a witness to the entire PH and I have a complete copy of the transcript.

San Mateo County District Attorney Inspector Jordan Boyd testified he did NOT record the interview.

Thank You

Michael Stogner


From: Karen Guidotti <kguidotti@smcgov.org>
To: Michael Stogner <michaelgstogner@yahoo.com>
Sent: Wednesday, May 4, 2016 6:58 AM
Subject: RE: Please ref this criminal complaint the the A.G. of the State of California

Good morning Mr. Stogner: Thanks for your information. Can you please clarify what you are asking me to do? Are you asking me to review this part of the transcript for accuracy? Or are you asking for a formal internal affairs investigation of Jordan Boyd?

Thanks,
Karen

From: Michael Stogner [mailto:michaelgstogner@yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2016 6:46 AM
To: Karen Guidotti <kguidotti@smcgov.org>
Cc: Steve Wagstaffe <swagstaffe@smcgov.org>
Subject: Re: Please ref this criminal complaint the the A.G. of the State of California

Karen Guidotti,

Thank You for the response and this new information regarding an Interview with Irma Lopez that was recorded.
At the Preliminary Hearing D.A. Inspector Jordan Boyd testified that he did NOT record it. Now Irma Lopez wants to hear that recorded interview and so would Juan Lopez.

Mr. Hanlon, Q. Is there any reason you didn't tape record that interview? Boyd answered NO

Thank You

Michael Stogner









From: Karen Guidotti <kguidotti@smcgov.org>
To: Michael Stogner <michaelgstogner@yahoo.com>; Steve Wagstaffe <swagstaffe@smcgov.org>
Cc: John Warren <jwarren@smcgov.org>; Bryan Abanto <babanto@smcgov.org>
Sent: Monday, May 2, 2016 3:59 PM
Subject: RE: Please ref this criminal complaint the the A.G. of the State of California

Mr. Stogner:

I have looked into this matter and have confirmed that Inspector Boyd did indeed conduct an interview with Irma Lopez on December 8, 2014. It was recorded, and a report was written regarding that conversation. I have personally read the report and listened to that eleven minute interview. Perhaps Mr. Hanlon can confirm the existence of this evidence for you, as he was provided with discovery of that phone call well before the preliminary hearing.

Once you have verified my information, please advise me if you wish to continue with your complaint about Inspector Boyd.

Sincerely,
Karen Guidotti

From: Michael Stogner [mailto:michaelgstogner@yahoo.com]
Sent: Sunday, May 01, 2016 9:12 AM
To: Karen Guidotti <kguidotti@smcgov.org>; Steve Wagstaffe <swagstaffe@smcgov.org>
Subject: Please ref this criminal complaint the the A.G. of the State of California

Steve and Karen.

Irma Lopez was never interviewed by Jordan Boyd. This is a PC115 (A) violation

Many of my family and friends know that I have been doing my best to eliminate Prosecutorial Misconduct in San Mateo County for the last 16 years. Here is just one example. It is also a perfect PC115 (A) Felony filing a false statement to a Judge to get a warrant.

Preliminary Hearing 3/29/2016
Hon. Judge Lisa Novak

Stuart Hanlon attorney for Juan P. Lopez asking San Mateo County District Attorney Inspector Jordan Boyd who is on the witness stand under oath.

“You testified about taking a statement from Irma Lopez, Juan Lopez’s sister, correct?” Jordan Boyd answered Correct

Where was the statement taken? Was it on the phone? In person?
Jordan Boyd answered “It was on the telephone.

What day was it taken?
Jordan Boyd answered “I don’t recall the date, I have to check my report.”

You have no report of this interview you simply mention it in a Search Warrant Affidavit.

“I have no reports of an interview with Irma Lopez. I only have a statement by you and an affidavit for a search warrant or arrest warrant, I’m not sure which saying, you talked to her. I’m asking you when did you talk to her?”

Jordan Boyd answered “I don’t have that.”

Here is the short answer as to why Jordan Boyd and Mr. Abanto never passed on to Mr. Hanlon in discovery the information regarding an Interview with Irma Lopez.

The alleged Interview NEVER happened.


1 person likes this
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2017 at 6:47 am

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

Think from the Political perspective, Watch John Beiers response to my claim of Misconduct by his office.
"We won"
5:18 mark on video.

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Holly L.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 28, 2017 at 7:08 am

Holly L. is a registered user.

Evelyn Chavez, Mr Lopez's fiancé who had all charges against her that made no sense, went through absolute hell before the charges were dropped. Can you imagine the stress she was under ? I am curious as to why the Almanac doesn't mention her by name or enquire as to whether she will be filing a lawsuit against San Mateo County.

San Mateo is like something from Alabama, circa 1950.


1 person likes this
Posted by Holly L.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 28, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Holly L. is a registered user.

More questions:

1) What is the DA's actual response to Judge Novak dropping all those charges against the "co-conspirators?" Does the office agree with this decision or not?

2) Is Mr. Lopez filing a civil suit against the County?

The fact that DA Wagstaffe called a press conference to announce the Lopez charges, when he failed to notify the press completely in 2013 hat deputy sheriff Troy Smith was arrested for two incidents of violent assault and battery and kept it off his press list, and that he only reluctantly made it public after the Palo Alto Daily Post found out about it by chance - is puzzling, and a cause for concern. The Lopez case does smack of retribution.

Please find out if Ms. Chavez and Lopez have or will be filing civil suits against the County.


Like this comment
Posted by Holly L.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 28, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Holly L. is a registered user.

One final question: Why is Chief Deputy DA Karen Guidotti responding to a citizen who is not a reporter or an attorney or involved in any official capacity for the Lopez case in emails? It's bizarre. I am glad she did, but most prosecutors around the country know better than to respond to questions like these from a citizen who is not a party to the case, because they know the information could be used against them later on. Are members of the DA's office trying to shoot themselves in the foot?


Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

The point of the e-mails is really simple. Karen Guidotti stated to me that she had listen to a recording. Her Investigator had testified under oath that he did not record it. To this day that recording has Never been turned over to the Defense Attorney for Juan Lopez. That is 3 years.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2017 at 7:19 am

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

In this day and age of FAKE NEWS claims by the Media, It would be great if the Almanac would acknowledge that the July 12, 2016 Agenda Item 7 Board of Supervisors appointment of Carlos Bolanos to Sheriff was Illegal.

It simply was not on the agenda for that day. They were to DISCUSS how to fill the position.

What Supervisors Don Horsley, Warren Slocum & Adrienne Tissier and others did was a Non Violent Coup, which kind of proves the position the Juan Lopez's new law firm is saying. Political

"Mr. Munks retired in July 2016. In that same month, by a 3-2 vote, the Board of Supervisors appointed Mr. Bolanos to serve out the remaining two-plus years in Mr. Munks' term." This statement does not reflect that.

In San Mateo County Elected Officials voting for something that isn't on the agenda is more common than you would think. The SMCHD voted to give a 5 Year Permit for the Mavericks Surf Contest, Illegal Vote not on the agenda.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

Political Prosecution Case,

Go back to the very beginning, Look at William Massey's actions, e-mails and his personal effort to have Evelyn Chavez fired. He also told his friend the employer of Ms. Chavez, "What are you doing" supporting Juan Lopez for Sheriff.

William Massey Supervisor to the Inspectors of the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.


Like this comment
Posted by Holly L.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 2, 2017 at 6:21 pm

Holly L. is a registered user.

Why did Mr. Lopez switch from the estimable Stuart Hanlon to Tony Serra?


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

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