Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Ipsen Grilled on Character Testimony for Sex Offender
By ROGER M. GRACE, Editor
Steven J. Ipsen, president of the Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys, last month underwent intensive cross-examination before a county commission as to his relationship with a convicted sex offender who was one of his “closest friends,” the MetNews has learned.
The transcript of a Feb. 24 hearing before the Employee Relations Commission, obtained late Friday, reveals that Ipsen had acted as a character witness for the man, lent him his automobile in which he had left his deputy district attorney’s badge, and possibly allowed the man to live in his home for a short time.
Under grilling by L. Trevor Grimm of Manning & Marder, Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez LLP who was representing the county, Ipsen admitted that while a deputy district attorney in 2000, he vouched for the character of Ivan John B., a twice-convicted sex offender, at his sentencing hearing on a new charge of lewd conduct, which was based on B. exposing himself to a female on an elevator. The misdemeanor prosecution, in Glendale, was handled by the Office of the District Attorney because the city attorney there only prosecutes violations of city ordinances.
(The defendant’s full surname is not used in light of the remoteness in time of his conviction, lack of news coverage when he was tried and sentenced, and the apparent sealing of the criminal records.)
Cross-examination of Ipsen at the administrative hearing last month had not been completed when the day’s session ended, and no ruling had yet been rendered by the hearing officer, Thomas Kerrigan, on the standing objection by Ipsen’s lawyer, Richard Shinee of the Encino law firm of Green and Shinee, as to lack of relevancy of the questioning.
Ipsen last Thursday told the MetNews he had dismissed his claim before the commission, though claims by others remained, because a sweeping preliminary injunction issued by a U.S. District Court judge, barring anti-union activities by his office, fulfilled his purposes.
He said yesterday he did not drop his claim in order to ward off further question about B., explaining that he expects the matter to be brought up further in connection with subsequent administrative claims he filed, which remain pending, as well as in the federal action.
During the Feb. 24 hearing, Grimm asked Ipsen whether, at the time of the sentencing hearing on Feb. 7, 2000, B. was one of his “closest friends.” Ipsen testified:
“I don’t know about ‘closest friends.’ He had worked in the courthouse with the marshal’s service. And I played basketball with him and was a friend.”
Grimm then presented a partial transcript of Ipsen’s testimony in 2000, in which Ipsen said of B.:
“He is one of my closest friends. He is—of the people that I’ve met, probably one of the people I trust most and have a great amount of respect for with the exception of this one situation, which I’m very aware of and concerned about and troubled by.
“But in every other regard he is, of the people I know, one of my most trusted people other than family.”
Ipsen testified at the Feb. 24, 2010, hearing that he had harbored doubts that B. was guilty of the second offense for which he was convicted, but did think he was guilty of the present offense in the elevator and was therefore surprised that he was called as witness for B. at the sentencing hearing. He acknowledged that he testified that extensive counseling of B. was needed but disclaimed a recollection of having urged that B. not be required to register as a sex offender.
(A transcript of the 2000 hearing, obtained yesterday, shows that Ipsen testified that B. was “absolutely not dangerous,” and said as to registration of him as a sex offender: “I do not think it is appropriate at this time.”)
Frequent House Guests
The ADDA chief did not dismiss the possibility that B. had, for a short time, resided with him in his abode.
The transcript reflects this dialogue:
“Q. Did you ever live with Mr. B.?
“A. I don’t think so.
“Q. Did he ever reside at your house…?
“Q. I don’t think reside—I’ve had different friends who needed a place to stay. I can’t say for sure, to be honest.
“Q. Okay. Do you think you’d recall, though, if he actually was residing there even if it would be only on an, you know, as-needed basis?
“A. Not necessarily.
“A. It is possible, if it was a short period of time. I’d allow—as a single guy, I had a bunch of different people staying with me.”
Badge in Car
One light moment in the stormy proceeding—marked by quibbling, barbs, and frequent interruptions—came when Grimm asked Ipsen whether B. “was driving your car at about the time that he committed the acts” in the elevator, with Kerrigan interjecting:
“I don’t think you can drive a car in an elevator.”
Ipsen testified that he didn’t know whether B. was driving his car that day, and in answer to the next question, denied that his friend had access to his deputy district attorney’s badge.
Grimm then sought to refresh his recollection by reading this from a transcript of his 2000 testimony:
“QUESTION: Mr. Ipsen, you’ve indicated you are a close friend of the defendant. In fact, your I.D. badge was in his vehicle when he was arrested.
“ANSWER: Well, it was my vehicle.”
Ipsen conceded to Grimm: “If it’s there, it’s probably accurate.”
He said he did not recall ever having been instructed by his office not to leave his badge in his car, but noted that he tried to keep the badge on his person because it permitted access to restricted locations. He denied that security with respect to the badges was important to his office, saying:
“I think the D.A. is extremely reckless with regards to that.”
Friendship Has Dwindled
Ipsen indicated in his testimony last month that in light of the third conviction, he has had only “minimal contact” with B. At the 2000 hearing, however, he declared: “I would like John to be a continued—to be a lifetime friend.”
At another point, he said:
“...I intend to continue being a supportive friend. I think to do anything else is to contribute to the emotional trauma that my understanding has caused this mental illness problem.”
He explained yesterday that while he had hoped to be “a force to help” B., it “just didn’t happen,” and the relationship has “virtually ended.”
Despite his continuing objection to the line of questioning, Shinee interrupted at various junctions to protest.
Explaining the need he perceived for line of inquiry, Grimm sad:
“I think on cross-examination I’m entitled a little leeway to show that perhaps everything that’s happened to Mr. Ipsen or anyone else wasn’t purely because of anti-union animus.”
Grimm said at another point:
“There’s issues of judgment. He’s a prosecutor. He’s entrusted with enforcing the laws of the State of California on behalf of the people and on behalf of the District Attorney’s Office. And this goes to his abilities and it gives an alternative, viable reason for people to start questioning whether perhaps he was doing the best job he could, so—”
“Wait. Wait. Wait. Are we suggesting if the district attorney, the district attorney himself has had sexual liaisons with women other than his wife, that that’s relevant to his job?...Are we suggesting that it is relevant to the job of being a D.A.? For example, if we brought Steve Cooley in here and asked him if he had sexual liaisons with other women besides his wife, that that would be a relevant question?”
Kerrigan told him the analogy was not apropos.
Ipsen was also questioned as to County Code violations at his five-acre ranch.
Kerrigan said he would draw an “adverse inference” from Cooley’s failure to honor a subpoena to testify at the hearing.
“The adverse inference, when taken in whole with the other witnesses’ testimony, makes it a prima facie case from my standpoint of anti-union animus and actual skullduggery on the part of the D.A.’s Office that is shocking in the 20th [sic] Century.”
Silva insisted that statements attributed Cooley reflected not an anti-union bias, but an “anti-Mr. Ipsen bias.”
In 2004, Ipsen, ADDA president since 2002, spearheaded efforts, supported by his group, to recruit candidates to oppose two Los Angeles Superior Court judges, David Wesley and Dan Oki. Cooley endorsed them. (Both won.)
AADA animosity was triggered. Ipsen was a challenger in the 2008 primary election for district attorney.
Cooley remarked yesterday:
“I’m anti-Ipsen and anyone who does not maintain the high standards of this office in his personal life or professional activities.”
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company