California State Bar officials confirmed that they have secured a criminal immunity deal with a key witness in their misconduct case against Del Norte district attorney Jon Alexander that will enable them to take testimony on an alleged improper conversation Alexander had with a represented defendant.
Prosecutors claim Alexander has engaged in a host of misconduct during his tenure as DA of the tiny county, including the alleged conversation with a represented defendant in a drug case outside the presence of her counsel. Michelle Taylor wore a wire during the meeting, and the tape of the conversation has been entered into evidence in the bar’s case against Alexander. Alexander and his defense counsel, Kurt Melchior of Nossaman, say the bar has wrongfully accused a good man who is unpopular because of his status as a former methamphetamine addict.
The immunity deal between Taylor and the attorney general’s office, which handled the underlying drug matter after Alexander recused his office, was signed by Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Marilyn Miles during an Oct. 12 telephonic hearing.
According to prosecutors and court documents, Taylor entered Alexander’s office to discuss her recent arrest and her boyfriend’s pending drug charges. Taylor allegedly told Alexander that the drugs found on her during a traffic stop were hers, not her boyfriend’s, although he was a known drug dealer. Taylor and Alexander discussed the charges in Alexander’s office, without her counsel present. Bar prosecutors say Alexander knew she had a lawyer. According to Alexander, though, Taylor “barged” into his office unannounced and began talking before he could stop her.
State Bar spokeswoman Laura Ernde said the bar has sought immunity deals for witnesses in the past, though two discipline defense lawyers with lengthy histories with bar prosecutions couldn’t recall another time such a deal had been made. Arthur Margolis of Margolis & Margolis in Los Angeles, who prosecuted cases for the State Bar and now represents bar defendants, said the deal is an aggressive move and more pro-active than he’s seen the bar be.
Jonathan Arons, who has represented discipline defendants for nearly 30 years, said the move looked “peculiar” and that it would have been better for the bar to wait for the AG’s office to make a decision on whether or not to prosecute Taylor.
But Margolis noted that criminal prosecutors secure immunity deals for witnesses frequently. “So, why can’t the bar?” he said.
According to Ernde, the bar pursued the deal because Taylor pleaded the Fifth Amendment when deposed. Ernde said she believes Taylor has agreed to testify to the recording now that she’s immune from criminal prosecution.
Melchior said the bar’s latest move is one in a series that add up to a political prosecution.
“Here’s a person who commits a criminal act in recording this conversation, and in order to get Jon they see to it that she’s not prosecuted for that crime. Figure it out for yourself,” he said.
Taylor’s new deposition is scheduled to take place in November.