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The ex-wife of a Santa Clara County deputy district attorney has filed a claim against the DA’s office, alleging her former husband has misused his position in a nasty custody dispute. Sheila Van Duyne, who worked as a lawyer in Santa Clara County before recently moving to Nevada, and her new husband, businessman Nelson Romero, alleged Friday that Deputy DA George Chadwick conspired with the Santa Clara County sheriff’s department to have Romero arrested on suspicion of abusing Van Duyne and Chadwick’s 9-year-old son. Although the DA’s office did not file charges in connection with the Oct. 13 arrest, Romero spent a night in jail, according to the claim. James McManis, of San Jose’s McManis, Faulkner & Morgan, who represents Van Duyne and Romero, said the incident was just the latest example of Chadwick using his official position for personal advantage. He called on the DA’s office to put a stop to it. “I think he is a guy who has lost sight of who and what he is,” McManis said. “I don’t think [the DA's office] should allow this sort of thing to go on.” Chadwick said Friday’s claim is without merit and needs to be viewed in the context of an acrimonious divorce and custody dispute that began in 2002 when Chadwick was running for judge. Van Duyne and Romero were married last summer. “I believe [Romero and Van Duyne] do not care if the claim will be successful. They’re just trying to demoralize me and the kids,” Chadwick said. He pointed out that he and Van Duyne are scheduled to appear in court April 26 to determine who gets custody of their four sons, ages 15, 13, 9 and 6. Van Duyne had primary custody, but after Romero’s arrest, Chadwick gained custody. Even though the DA’s office conducted an investigation and found Van Duyne’s claim to be baseless, Chadwick said Van Duyne wants to suggest to the family court “that where there’s smoke there’s fire.” “The purpose is not to rebuild the reputation of Romero,” Chadwick said. “It’s the latest in a long line of tawdry incidents.” McManis denied that the claim was designed to influence the family court case. “If I could figure out what influences the courts, I’d be a much more successful lawyer,” he said. The claim also accuses Chadwick of being racist against Hispanics — Romero is from Colombia — a charge Chadwick called “completely false.” The claim said Chadwick’s control over the sheriff’s department is such that Van Duyne couldn’t even get a copy of Romero’s arrest report. Other than initially calling police to make the abuse allegation, Chadwick denied influencing sheriff’s deputies and said he didn’t know for days that Romero had even been arrested. Van Duyne and Romero also allege that Chadwick has used his position to initiate other inappropriate investigations and that he improperly used office resources for personal business. The claim alleges civil rights violations, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Van Duyne first made the same accusations in a complaint to the DA’s office last fall. Assistant DA Marc Buller said he looked into her allegations but found no indication that Chadwick violated any office procedures. “He did everything he needs to do,” Buller said Friday. “I can’t emphasize enough how baseless this is.” It’s not the first time the couple’s dirty laundry was aired in public. In 2001, Chadwick began a run for judge with his wife as campaign manager. Chadwick said his campaign hired Romero to make signs. After the primary, Van Duyne told him she wanted a divorce. By fall 2002, Chadwick had lost some key endorsements, and some office colleagues worried that he didn’t have a judicial temperament after hearing angry telephone exchanges with Van Duyne. Chadwick alleged in court papers that his wife threatened to jeopardize his campaign. He ended up losing to Arthur Bocanegra.

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