Friday, October 6, 2006
Prosecutor/Author Bounced From Rape Case by Court of Appeal
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A Santa Barbara County deputy district attorney was removed yesterday from a rape case by a Court of Appeal panel that questioned her ability to fairly prosecute a case that bears a strong similarity to a fictional case that she wrote about in a self-published novel.
“We will grant the petition as to [Deputy District Attorney Joyce] Dudley with the hope that this case of first impression will make a lasting impression,” Justice Kenneth Yegan wrote for Div. Six.
The panel ordered that Dudley be replaced as prosecutor in the case of Massey Harushi Haraguchi, who is charged with rape of an intoxicated person and other offenses. “It is understandable that petitioner would question whether his constitutional rights will be protected by a prosecutor who writes a fictional account about a case similar to his own in which the defendant is depicted as a vile brute,” Yegan wrote.
The panel, however, denied Haraguchi’s request that the entire District Attorney’s Office be disqualified, dismissing as mere speculation the contention that the entire office was tainted by Dudley’s depiction of the fictional case and by her self-promotion of her book, “Intoxicating Agent.”
.The book, and Dudley’s earlier novel, “Justice Served,” feature a Santa Barbara County sex crimes prosecutor named Jordon Danner. In media interviews, she has described her protagonist as “a pumped-up version” of herself and as “Joyce on steroids.”
Her second book was published in January of this year, four months after Haraguchi was charged. “Intoxicating Agent” features a woman who was raped on a beach while drunk and is “in denial about her alcoholism,” and a defendant whom Danner thinks is “despicable,” a “dirt bag,” and a “heartless bastard” and “looks just like the pig he is.”
Another character is a photographer friend of the defendant who took photographs on the beach and threatened to make them public if the woman cooperated with the prosecution. The man becomes a prosecution witness himself, however, in order to avoid prosecution for attempted blackmail after he is arrested while showing the photographs to the victim.
In the recusal motion, Harguchi, who is represented by Santa Barbara attorney Robert Sanger, argued that the similarities between the real and fictional cases are unmistakable. The trials were set to begin at the same time, the photographer character physically resembles Haraguchi, and the fictional prosecutor had many of the same attributes and attitudes as Dudley, the defense asserted.
The book, the defense noted, was published by a company that charges authors “a one-time setup fee of only $499,” in exchange for which it produces the book in hardcopy, offers it for sale on the publisher’s Web site, submits it to commercial sites such as amazon.com, sells it to bookstores on a returnable basis, and pays royalties to the author.
The arrangement prejudiced the right to a fair trial, the defense argued, because it encouraged the author to promote the book by inviting comparisons between the unsympathetic fictional defendant and Haraguchi. The novel also presented a fictional defense attorney as “disingenuous and manipulative,” and depicted the prosecutor as so certain of her ability to “kick [defense counsel’s] a—“ that she turned down an offer to plead guilty to a reduced charge.
That mirrored the Haraguchi case, Sanger argued in his motion, because Dudley “refused to enter into any settlement negotiations.”
Dudley responded that her book was pure fiction, and did not depict the Haraguchi case or any other real case. Authorship of the novel, she added, did not in any way impact any of her decisions in the case.
She also denied that any of the promotional activities for the book had been scheduled in such a way as to impact the trial; in fact, she argued, the trial would have taken place sooner if the defense had not asked for a continuance.
She also denied refusing to discuss a plea. Negotiations failed, she said, because defense counsel insisted that his client would not plead to any offense that would require him to register as a sex offender.
Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa denied the motion, saying the novel and the case were factually unrelated and that there was no showing that Dudley’s involvement with the book was likely to deprive the defendant of a fair trial.
But Yegan, writing for the Court of Appeal, said there was a likelihood of unfairness.
“Dudley is using her official position to obtain personal financial gain. Her connection with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office is a major selling point for the book....No current public employee should be permitted to exploit his or her official position as a lever to earn extra private income.”
By portraying prosecutors as “fearless champions of truth and justice,” while denigrating defense counsel and the accused, Dudley has engaged in “stereotypical generalizations” that “have no place in a current public prosecutor’s thinking processes even if they are uttered in a fictional account,” Yegan—a deputy public defender before he was appointed to the Ventura Superior Court—wrote.
“We conclude that a conflict exists because there is a reasonable possibility that Dudley may not exercise her discretionary functions in an evenhanded manner. There is a reasonable possibility that Dudley’s desire to see her book succeed is so strong that it will trump her duty as a prosecutor “to see that justice is done and to accord to defendants their constitutional rights.’ ”
Dudley told the MetNews she would not comment on the opinion because the case remains pending. Asked about sales of her book, she commented:
“It’s been a long day. You can call any one of the bookstores and ask them that question.”
Sanger declined to comment.
The case is Haraguchi v. Superior Court (People), 06 S.O.S. 5334.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company