Wednesday, May 16, 2012
D.A. With Troubled Past Says He Will ‘Go to War’ Against State Bar
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
The district attorney of a remote Northern California county is facing possible disbarment after officials said he violated rules of professional conduct, including that he took a loan from a defense attorney working on a case he later dismissed.
Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander was a recovering methamphetamine addict when he was elected to office in 2010 after running a campaign with the slogan “death to meth.” The district attorney’s office is located in Crescent City, the county seat, where Alexander was a criminal defense lawyer prior to winning election as the county’s top prosecutor.
His story of recovery and second chances appealed to voters in the small, rural area known for its salmon fishing and methamphetamine problems.
But now Alexander is being investigated for giving money to a public official and failing to recuse himself from a case in which he had a conflict of interest, he said yesterday. He’s also being investigated for speaking directly with a defendant without her attorney present.
Alexander denied the charges in a statement, and accused the State Bar of conspiring to kick him out of office because they do not like him.
“The bar association’s prosecutors hold the cards. But their charges don’t hold water in this county or within any notion of justice. They do not expect a lone attorney, let alone an elected official, to go to war with them,” he said.
“But you elected me, and I won’t quit until you tell me to. So I guess I’m going to war,” he said.
Alexander’s problems with the State Bar have been reported on before. The Sacramento Bee earlier this year quoted a trial lawyer as saying in an e-mail:
“I do not believe for a second that Alexander should be [because] I think his mental abilities continue to be adversely affected by his long time meth use, even though he appears to be sober now. No doubt the agrees.”
The Bee also reported that Alexander is the subject of a bribery investigation by the FBI, related to charges that he sought payment in exchange for recommending another attorney for one of the county’s contract public defender positions, a role he himself played before becoming district attorney. Alexander has denied any impropriety.
No State Bar Comment
Alexander yesterday provided The Associated Press with a summary of the State Bar’s current investigation, which relates to conduct in which he is alleged to have engaged since becoming the county’s top prosecutor. A State Bar spokeswoman declined to comment on an open investigation.
In one instance, Alexander is accused of corruption for dismissing a case handled by a defense attorney who had loaned the prosecutor $6,000. Alexander used the money to help pay for hair transplants, according to the Bee.
The State Bar has indicated Alexander should have recused himself from the case because of his previous relationship with the defense attorney, George Mavris.
Alexander does not deny taking the money, and said he repaid the loan “within five days.” He said he gave no special treatment to Mavris in court because of the loan.
He said the case was destined to be dismissed, even without his involvement. “As the deputy assigned to the case, the trial judge and I all concluded, the case should have been dismissed and I would do so again,” he said.
Alexander is also accused of loaning the county’s chief probation officer $14,000, which would violate the state’s rules of professional conduct. Alexander admitted he loaned the money, saying the probation officer and her husband needed help to “stave off foreclosure.”
And in the third case, Alexander is accused of talking directly with a criminal defendant about the case, even though he knew she had an attorney.
Alexander said the defendant appeared at his office unannounced, wearing “an undisclosed wire,” and spontaneously started speaking about the case.
State Bar records show that Alexander received a private reproval with public disclosure in 1996, was suspended for six months in 2003, was placed on probation in 2004, was placed on inactive status in 2006, and is currently on probation.
He was suspended for nonpayment of bar dues in 1989, 2002, and 2003.
The current probation is based on a stipulation he entered into just months before being elected district attorney, following participation in the Alternative Discipline Program.
He admitted that he had failed to advise a criminal client that he was under suspension for nonpayment of dues, then failed to appear at two hearings, and that the client had to retain new counsel to complete the case; that he improperly represented a client while on involuntary inactive status; that he improperly attempted to influence a sentencing while under suspension from his post as a deputy district attorney.
The three incidents occurred in 2002, 2003, and 2005. The State Bar Court found in mitigation that Alexander was dealing with his drug addiction, which he attributed to the pressure of maintaining a law practice while caring for his now-deceased mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease, and that he had made many contributions to the community.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company