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SAN JOSE — Judge William Danser took the stand in his own defense Monday and all but confessed that he had no good reason to dismiss 20 traffic tickets given to acquaintances and others.

The Santa Clara County Superior Court judge told the jury he dismissed tickets for San Jose Sharks players and people he knew through his son’s Little League team in the interest of justice, even though he never spoke with the officers who issued the tickets or heard argument in court.

“The way I interpreted it was whatever I believed to be fair under the circumstances was in the interest of justice,” Danser explained.

Danser is on trial for felony conspiracy and misdemeanor obstruction of justice charges for using his power as a judge to dismiss tickets and give lenient sentences in two drunken driving cases.

Danser said he trusted co-conspirator and former Los Gatos Police Det. Randall Bishop to check into traffic tickets and get permission from the issuing police agency before dismissing them.

“He was an honest cop and had a good reputation in the community,” Danser said.

Danser said Bishop either brought a ticket to his attention — as was the case with tickets issued to Sharks CEO Gregory Jamison and other Sharks players and staff — or Danser sought out Bishop to look into tickets received by his acquaintances.

That’s what Danser said had happened when Paul Pavicich, a former professional baseball player who was helping coach Little League, started complaining at practice about a citation for running a metering light at a freeway on-ramp.

But on cross-examination, Danser said that he didn’t necessarily require his friends to explain why the tickets were no good and should be dismissed. He said his first concern was helping out a friend.

“Were you given a reason why this ticket should be dismissed?” asked Deputy DA David Pandori.

“I guess the answer is no,” Danser said.

“You shouldn’t have even been involved with Paul Pavicich’s ticket?” Pandori asked.

“Looking here, from this point of view, yes,” Danser answered. He tried to explain, though, why he had wanted to help.

“They are a very well-respected family. Mr. Pavicich runs the Los Gatos brewery in town,” he said. “I was trying to be nice and look into the situation for him.”

Danser said he wasn’t concerned about the ex parte communications or the fact that police officers didn’t provide written notice to dismiss the tickets, as required by statutes. He said he simply trusted Bishop.

Bishop, who left the Los Gatos Police Department and now lives in Canada, pleaded no contest to felony conspiracy and misdemeanor obstruction of justice before trial. Bishop has been subpoenaed as a prosecution witness, but Pandori rested his case Monday morning without calling him.

“Traffic court is a very informal place,” Danser told jurors, explaining that he had heard from his friends — Commissioner Gregory Saldivar and Judge Ray Cunningham — about the informal way tickets could be handled in Santa Clara County.

During cross-examination, Pandori hammered on Danser’s ethics. He started by asking why he became a judge.

“I was tired of being a lawyer,” Danser replied.

When pressed about any principles he had sought to uphold as a judge, Danser answered, “I don’t know if I thought about it in that philosophical sort of way.”

Pandori later asked Danser if he was familiar with the judicial code of ethics.

“I can’t say I sat down and read it,” Danser answered.

“Have you ever read it?” Pandori asked.

“Oh yeah,” Danser said.

Pandori also pressed Danser about when he realized what he had done might be wrong. He asked Danser if he realized there was a problem last fall, when prosecutors first contacted him about dismissed tickets. Danser said yes, there was a problem: “My wife had breast cancer. That was a bigger problem.”

Jurors gave few signs that they appreciated Danser’s folksy approach or his back-scratching ways of doing business.

During initial questioning, Danser explained how he worked as the Little League’s equipment manager, making him responsible for equipment purchases. That year, the owner of a sporting goods store, who benefited from the Little League’s business, sponsored Danser’s son’s team for $500.

Danser explained that he must have thought it in his “best interest” to provide the sponsorship, with a chuckle and smile to the jury.

Danser was the second, and perhaps final, defense witness. His testimony Monday came after the prosecution called about 80 witnesses.

The judge faces up to three years in prison and $10,000 in fines if convicted. He also faces an ethics complaint before the Commission on Judicial Performance.

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