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Veteran Santa Clara prosecutor Edward Fernandez was apparently relieved of his duties last month when an investigator called him downstairs, took away his keys, and told him he wasn’t allowed back in, according to several sources inside and outside the office. Officials in the DA’s office declined to comment on Fernandez’s status, citing it as a personnel matter. “He is not in the building currently,” Assistant DA David Tomkins said. Fernandez’s assignment handling restitution has already been transferred to Mike Galli, who said he took over Feb. 20 after being transferred in from Palo Alto. Fernandez, 54, has hired San Jose attorney Craig Brown to represent him. Neither Fernandez nor Brown could be reached for comment. Fernandez’s 22-year career in the DA’s office has been punctuated with controversy. He was arrested in December 2005 on charges of misdemeanor marijuana possession but reported back to the office within weeks. The judicial outcome of that case is not clear. And Fernandez’s name surfaced last year in connection with an internal investigation into a 1997 drug case, which the office declined to prosecute at the time. That investigation also probed Assistant DA Karyn Sinunu’s role in the case. The inquiry transpired last year as Sinunu campaigned for DA. Then-DA George Kennedy last fall announced that the probe had concluded. “An allegation was made in an anonymous flier that a narcotics case was corruptly buried in 1997,” Kennedy said in October. “That allegation was thoroughly investigated by an independent investigator. That allegation was unfounded.” Sinunu and Fernandez are reportedly close friends, and the former lost the November election to Dolores Carr. On Thursday, Sinunu said Fernandez had not been fired but declined to comment further. The reasons for Fernandez’s departure were unclear Thursday, since no officials would provide an explanation. The timing of the incident � just two months into Carr’s term as DA � has insiders speculating on whether the decision was politically motivated. Fernandez’s dismissal could be Carr’s way of cleaning house, some insiders speculated. Prosecutors facing dismissal are entitled to a Skelly hearing in which they can contest the disciplinary action to a hearing officer appointed by the DA. After that, they could also appeal to the county’s personnel board. Fernandez graduated from Hastings College of the Law and was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1983. He prosecuted several high-profile cases, including the 2001 trial of a Newark man sentenced to life in prison for shaking an infant to death. In 1999, Fernandez got the maximum 109 years to life for Larry Lavell, the white supremacist who killed his estranged wife and her boyfriend.

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