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Perhaps the biggest question to emerge from the indictment of Santa Clara Superior Court Judge William Danser for alleged ticket fixing is: Why would he do it? The indictment doesn’t include any allegation that the judge profited from his handling of the cases, leaving lawyers and bench colleagues to wonder if he’d risk his career just to help out a handful of sports stars and personal acquaintances. “To my knowledge, there was no allegation that he received any money or financial gain in any form,” his attorney, Kenneth Robinson, said Thursday. “He would be charged with bribery if that was the case.” Daniel Mayfield, a defense lawyer, said Danser is the kind of judge who’d “cut through the bullshit and say, ‘Why are you here? What’s going on — why can’t we fix this up?’” “That’s a good attitude to have in court,” said Mayfield, and it helped Danser settle cases. “It may be the same attitude that got him in trouble — the ‘hey, I can fix it.’” Motive, or the lack of it, could turn into a major point of contention in the court battle that looms between Robinson and District Attorney George Kennedy and David Pandori, the deputy DA who will try the case. In what may be a preview of Danser’s defense, Robinson contended Thursday that any departures from proper court procedure were made in good faith. “I don’t think there was any corrupt intent on Bill Danser’s part, and therefore there was no crime,” Robinson said. “I don’t believe that Bill Danser is the kind of a person who would sit down with another person and decide to willfully pervert and obstruct justice. I believe whatever he did was done to promote justice, not obstruct it. It is not uncommon for judges to dismiss things that they feel are not appropriate to be prosecuted criminally — this is done all the time.” Several lawyers and judges pointed out that Danser and his wife, fellow Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Catherine Gallagher, together earn almost $280,000 a year. “I don’t seem him as in a situation of wanting to travel in certain circles,” Mayfield said. “We are not talking about helping Willie Mays or Cal Ripken Jr.,” but lesser known hockey players and personnel associated with the team. Of course, Danser is a huge fan. He’s part of a group of lawyers and judges that chip in together for season tickets, said Judge Ray Cunningham, who has purchased the block of tickets in his name since the Sharks’ first season. Danser has been on the bench seven years, with decidedly mixed reviews. While most colleagues don’t speak well of his work ethic, several lawyers who appear before him say he’s usually affable. One staffer said the judge likes to crack open Cokes on the bench, and often fought with other judges. “There’s good and bad with Bill Danser,” said Deputy Public Defender Seth Flagsberg, who spent a year arguing motions in his court. “He is willing to rule in favor of the defense. He wasn’t willing to kowtow to prosecutors, which angered some of them. “His reputation was terrible among other judges. His reputation among other judges was that he wasn’t willing to do work,” Flagsberg said. “I certainly didn’t look at that courtroom as a great place for defense lawyers and a bad place for DAs,” countered Mayfield, also a defense lawyer. “If anything, I thought it was a pro-DA court.” “I personally like Judge Danser,” said another San Jose lawyer, Ronald Berki. “I thought he was likeable. His rulings were pretty fair. I never saw him lose his temper.” Danser was appointed to the municipal court in 1995 by Gov. Pete Wilson, and was elevated when the courts unified in 1998. He spent four years in the DA’s office early in his career and left in 1984 for private practice. He partnered with Eugene Hyman — now a fellow judge — but the two had a falling out that led to a bitter legal dispute that dragged on for years. The indictment handed down Monday had its beginnings in a Commission on Judicial Performance investigation launched in February after Danser self-reported that he’d attempted to order the dismissal of a pair of parking tickets issued on his son’s car. District Attorney George Kennedy confirmed that the commission approached his office and the attorney general with their findings. “They referred it to both of us,” Kennedy said Thursday. Armed with statements and information gathered by the commission, the DA convened the grand jury earlier this month that heard from 40 witnesses, including a handful of professional athletes. The DA released a nine-count indictment Tuesday accusing Danser and former Los Gatos police officer Randall Bishop of felony conspiracy and misdemeanor obstruction of justice. Danser allegedly fixed 20 traffic tickets and two DUI cases for Sharks and Earthquakes players, Los Gatos residents, and friends and family of court staff. Bishop, who worked security for the Sharks, allegedly conspired with Danser in the dismissal of many of the cases. Bishop’s attorney, Craig Brown, said his client had spoken twice with investigators from the commission. When Bishop was notified he was a target of the grand jury, prosecutors told him they had copies of his CJP interviews. Commission staff attorney Bradford Battson also testified before the grand jury. Battson could not be reached for comment. Attorneys said Thursday that Danser had made a wise choice in hiring Robinson to defend him. During the past two decades, Robinson has represented mayors, city council members, a deputy DA and a member of the county board of supervisors. “Ken is a great lawyer,” said Mayfield. “He’s one of the handful of people lawyers would call if we were in trouble, because we know who works and who doesn’t.” Last year, Robinson represented former Mountain View Mayor Mario Ambra, who was removed from office and convicted of one count of violating the city’s charter but acquitted of a corruption charge. Three additional corruption charges were dropped before trial. In 1991, he represented then-Deputy DA Alan Nudelman, who was accused of buying stolen goods. Nudelman pleaded to a misdemeanor charge and now practices law in Los Gatos. In 1988, he won an acquittal for Santa Clara County Supervisor Thomas Legan, who was charged with molesting his daughter. Robinson discredited the victim, the DA’s key witness. Robinson has also represented a sheriff’s captain charged with accepting a bribe and a Los Altos councilwoman accused of a conflict of interest. On the other side of the counsel table is Deputy DA David Pandori, who spent eight years on the San Jose City Council. He joined the DA’s office in January 1999 and now handles career criminal and corruption cases. Pandori also served as an aide to former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnry. His name has been circulated as a possible contender to succeed Kennedy in the 2006 election, though Pandori has never confirmed his interest in the office. “He has a reputation for being extremely thorough, finding additional victims, taking a weak case and making it strong,” said Assistant DA Karyn Sinunu. “He is very thorough and very intelligent.”

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