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HARRIS TAPPING ALL-STARS TO TRAIN DAs All the courtrooms are stages, and all the lawyers merely players. Retired Superior Court Judge Alfred Chiantelli urged San Francisco prosecutors at a training session Friday to tap their inner thespian when producing any piece of damning evidence, even if it’s just a bureaucratic slip of paper. Don’t just read the contents. Announce them, holding the sheet of paper with one hand at the top of the page and one at the bottom — “like the town crier.” “That’s the way to read an official document,” Chiantelli finished emphatically, prompting a wave of laughter from the audience of about 60 or so prosecutors. Tapping into a cadre of legal luminaries — many of whom backed Kamala Harris during her election — the rookie DA is bringing in an all-star cast of litigators and judges to teach trial skills to prosecutors. Among the big names are Cristina Arguedas of Emeryville’s Arguedas, Cassman & Headley and John Keker of Keker & Van Nest. Though the city’s budget squeeze may tie Harris’ hands when it comes to delivering on some parts of last year’s campaign platform, the pro bono help she’s getting has helped her follow through on promises to boost the office’s training and leverage resources in the community. Spearheaded by Morrison & Foerster senior counsel James Brosnahan Jr. and Assistant DA Jerry Coleman, the monthly “anatomy of a trial” seminars address topics from voir dire and arguing law, to hearsay and dealing with child witnesses. The two-hour panel discussions typically showcase a defense lawyer, a judge and a prosecutor, Coleman said. In addition to line prosecutors in San Francisco and nearby counties who specialize in one area or another, the roster includes state and federal jurists as well as some of the Bay Area’s most prominent attorneys. So far, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne Bouliane and Justice Timothy Reardon of the First District Court of Appeal have appeared, among others. And the schedule for the rest of the year is no less impressive. Judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is on the list, as are First District Justice Laurence Kay, retired First District Justice Daniel “Mike” Hanlon, Superior Court Judge James Warren and retired Superior Court Judges David Garcia and William Cahill. On Friday, three former San Francisco prosecutors — Chiantelli; Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley partner James Lassart; and San Mateo County prosecutor Alfred Giannini — returned to the DA’s office to share their wisdom on direct examination. The seasoned lawyers offered tips on how to read a judge’s mind and prepare witnesses. And they warned their students to never, ever rely solely on police or experts to sum up the evidence. Giannini used the chorus of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” to drive home a point about putting a witness through the paces of their story three times. “That process of repetition will cement the veracity,” he said. He also advised the prosecutors to review any video or audio tape in its entirety — even if “the guy is sitting there for an hour and a half scratching himself.” And, Lassart warned, “If you put in a piece of clothing, you go through the pockets.” Chiantelli related a story from his days as a young prosecutor when he relied on an expert’s description of a gun rather than looking down the barrel himself before trial. The expert got it mixed up, he said. “I introduced it in court and got really embarrassed.” Despite the sometimes formal classroom atmosphere — prosecutors in a Hall of Justice hearing room Friday raised hands to pose questions and scribbled notes on legal pads balanced on their knees — the class had its share of wisecracks and banter. After Coleman disputed a point Chiantelli made during an opening discussion on a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Chiantelli’s comeback — “If there’s a district attorney and a judge, you rely on a judge” — was rewarded with a mix of laughter and boos. Pam Smith FEDS TO JUDICIARY COMMITTEE POSEUR — NEXT TIME, USE EXPEDIA An entrepreneur learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to pretend you work for the Senate Judiciary Committee to get cheap airline tickets. Eric John Norton, a 32-year-old Sacramento man who ran a travel agency out of his home, was sentenced last week to nearly three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and falsely pretending to be a U.S. official, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento. Norton created fake letters that looked like they were on the letterhead of various government agencies, including the Judiciary Committee, and sent them to airlines so they would sell him tickets at reduced rates, according to prosecutors. Then he turned around and sold the tickets to passengers at regular prices — resulting in losses of $240,000 to $1 million to several airlines. Government workers typically get discounts of 20 to 50 percent. Assistant Federal Public Defender Mark Reichel said he didn’t want to make any excuses for his client’s criminal behavior, but said the case went much further than it had to. Norton’s forged letters were “unsophisticated,” and the airlines should have never issued the discounted tickets, he said. In fact, Reichel said he was disturbed that airlines fell for the scheme, considering they’re supposed to be more security conscious nowadays. “My 11-year-old son would have read [the letters] and not believed it,” he said. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Taylor called that a cop-out. “I think that is making excuses,” Taylor said. “That so many airlines were defrauded shows the skill with which the defendant was able to carry out the scheme.” — Jeff Chorney TAKING A PASS FOR PASSOVER San Francisco lawyer Neil Rosenbaum had eagerly anticipated arguing his client’s felony murder defense before the California Supreme Court. But when the date was finally set, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The court, which will meet in Los Angeles, chose Wednesday, April 7, the third full day of Passover. That presented a major conflict for an observant Jew such as Rosenbaum. As part of the eight-day commemoration of the Hebrew slaves’ exodus from Egypt behind Moses, Jews are not supposed to perform major work. So Rosenbaum, who represents James Freddie Cavitt, one of two men convicted of felony murder in the 1995 death of 58-year-old Brisbane resident Betty McKnight, petitioned the court for a delay. “Because I am an observant Jew,” Rosenbaum wrote, “appearing in court to present oral argument on either [April 6 or 7] would conflict with my religious obligations, especially as I would have to travel to Los Angeles from my home in San Francisco.” Rosenbaum got his wish: His case, People v. Cavitt & Williams, S105058, was reset for oral argument in early May. “I’m grateful to them for acknowledging my religious obligations,” Rosenbaum said last week. Three other attorneys weren’t as fortunate. The court denied rescheduling requested by Sacramento-based Deputy Attorneys General Raymond Brosterhous II and Janine Busch and Palo Cedro lawyer Gregory Marshall. The court didn’t care that Brosterhous had non-refundable tickets to a concert the night before his April 6 argument in a death penalty case, nor was it apparently concerned that Busch faces major deadlines in two capital cases the last week of March and the first week of April. “Respondent simply cannot see how she can professionally and competently fulfill all of these commitments,” Busch wrote, “and, therefore, beseeches this court to postpone the argument for 60 days.” Busch is scheduled to argue whether a Shasta County trial court judge had erred by removing a court-appointed lawyer representing Scott Allen Jones, who subsequently was convicted of first-degree murder. Busch’s opponent, Marshall, had sided with her in seeking a delay, noting that he also was “actively engaged” in two other death cases and had a long-planned vacation set for the week of April 5-9. No matter. The case, People v. Jones, S103689, will be heard as scheduled the morning of April 7. — Mike McKee RIDERS SETTLEMENT GETS FINAL OK As Oakland residents were debating the outcome of the Riders trial last fall, city leaders quietly settled a lawsuit brought by an Oakland family whose 1999 Christmas Eve party ended with a clash with police officers. The city struck an initial agreement to pay $450,000 to 27 plaintiffs in October. However the settlement was not formally approved until March because it took months to get the item on the City Council agenda, said lead plaintiffs attorney Walter Riley. The other attorneys who worked on the case were Oakland attorneys Barbara Rhine and Aggie Rose-Chavez. The settlement was a good business decision for the city, which admits no wrongdoing, said city attorney spokeswoman Karen Boyd. “It was a fair settlement,” she said. According to the complaint, two police officers went to a small East Oakland apartment building to investigate a noise complaint. At the time, the Fuentes family, whose relatives occupied the entire building, was having a holiday gathering. After the police and Gustavo Fuentes exchanged angry words, several officers descended on the building and roughed up attendees — including two pregnant women, the complaint says. Riley, whose clients included 14 children who witnessed the incident, says that it’s unlikely that his case will help trigger changes in the police department. During depositions, police “supervisors continued to say nothing was done improperly,” Riley said. — Jahna Berry

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