Friday, January 25, 2002
Ex-Olson Lawyer Serra Sanctioned for Releasing Information on Police
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Former Sara Jane Olson attorney J. Tony Serra has been sanctioned by the State Bar for disclosing the addresses and phone numbers of two police witnesses in a court document for Olson’s Los Angeles bombing plot trial.
Serra, of the San Francisco law firm Serra, Lichter, Daar, Bustamante, Michael & Wilson, was publicly reproved Jan. 19 by the State Bar Court for failing to protect the officer’s personal information.
The document was posted on a website in November 2000 that was created to raise money for Olson’s defense. It included addresses and phone numbers of Officer John Hall and now-retired Officer James Bryan, intended targets of the bomb plot.
Trial was ultimately averted when Olson entered a guilty plea. She was sentenced last Friday to 20-years-to-life in prison.
Serra’s State Bar sanction includes taking an approved ethics course and paying court costs totaling $1,214, State Bar spokesman Marlon Villa said. The fact that Serra has a public record of discipline is noted on his membership records, Villa said.
“Outstanding, outstanding,” Hall said of the sanctions.
Hall complained to the State Bar after being notified by Bryan that their addresses and phone number had been disclosed on the website.
“If I had it my way he wouldn’t be able to practice law in California for what he has done to me and my family,” Hall said, calling Serra’s release of the documents a “criminal act.”
Hall said his family has endured a heavy security presence from the LAPD, the Sheriff’s Department and a private security company at their home since the posting of the court document. He said Bryan has experienced even more problems at his home.
But Hall said he never considered moving.
“I’m not going to bow to any terrorists,” he said.
Serra has never offered an apology, but even if he did he would not accept it, Hall said.
Serra was unavailable for comment.
He has said his secretary drew up the document, signed his name and filed it while he was out of town.
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office filed misdemeanor charges against Serra and fellow Olson attorney Shawn Chapman in May 2000 in connection with the filing. They both faced three counts of violating state law. Each count carries a possible penalty of up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine.
City prosecutors in July moved to drop the case against Serra after he agreed to pay $5,000 to the Police Memorial Foundation, which supports widows and children of slain police officers. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Katherine Mader granted the motion.
The charges against Chapman were dropped in June after the City Attorney’s Office said Chapman played no role in publicly revealing the addresses in a court document.
Deputy District Attorneys Eleanor Hunter and Michael Latin complained to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Ideman, who was handling the bombing case at the time, that Hall and Bryan were in fear of their lives as a result of the posting. Their request to double Olson’s $1-million bail and sanction Chapman and Serra was denied by Ideman, but the judge suggested that the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office review the case.
West Hollywood attorney Eric Shevin, who represented Serra in the misdemeanor case, said the posting of the document “was clearly an oversight” by Serra, but the State Bar had to take action
“The Bar had no choice but to remind the entire Bar that these rules are in place for a reason,” Shevin said.
But he argued the release of the officer’s information didn’t have the dramatic impact it could have had if it had been released right after the attempted bombings.
“That’s when you run the risk,” Shevin said. “Not when the issue is dead.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company