Friday, December 14, 2001
State Bar Can’t Use Evidence Suppressed in Criminal Case, Judge Rules
By NICK YULICO, Staff Writer
Evidence ruled inadmissible in a criminal case against an attorney accused of possessing child pornography cannot be used in a State Bar of California investigation into the attorney’s conduct, a Sacramento superior court judge ruled yesterday.
Pete Harned, the former Sacramento County prosecutor who won a dismissal of federal charges of possessing child pornography after the judge found a policeman lied to get a search warrant, has waited over five and a half years for the return of his property.
Now, his revolver, briefcase, computer, scanner and printer will be returned to him, according to Judge Norbert Ehrenfreund’s ruling.
However, Harned may have to wait even longer for the return of his personal property since the State Bar has previously said that it would appeal any decision made by the judge.
The State Bar had argued that the State Bar Act gives it the right to gain access to all non-public court records, even if a court order sealed those records.
Ehrenfreund ruled stated that “court records” as defined in the act does not encompass illegally seized physical evidence that has neither been filed nor formally lodged with the court.
The State Bar could not be reached to answer whether they will continue its investigation into Harned. Earlier this week, Mark Torres-Gil, assistant counsel to the State Bar, said that the bar would have no case without the disks that allegedly contain pornographic images of children.
The disks are to be returned to the Sheriff’s Department, where they will be kept confidential and be disposed of in accordance with the standard procedures of the Sheriff’s Department, according to Ehrenfreund’s ruling.
The small amounts of drugs and drug paraphernalia found on Harned will be destroyed.
“The police misconduct in this case was sufficiently egregious to shock the conscience of the legal community,” Ehrenfreund said. “The federal district court found the detective acted with reckless disregard for the truth in making false statements to the judge to persuade him to sign the warrant.”
“Obviously, I’m pleased with the ruling,” Harned said. “I understand that the State Bar has a job to do, but I’m disappointed that they pursued it so aggressively when they had no evidence of wrongdoing on my part.”
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company