Former DA Says He Was Maliciously Prosecuted
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A former Northern California district attorney claims in court that the man who beat him in his run for re-election tried to frame him for child endangerment and driving under the influence.
Michael Riese sued Del Norte County, its Sheriff's Department, District Attorney Jon Alexander, Crescent City and its Police Department and five other people in Federal Court. Riese claims the defendants maliciously prosecuted him, fabricated evidence, and conspired to issue a warrant based on false allegations, offering to help Riese's ex-wife avoid penalties for violating a court order if she lied to a grand jury.
Riese says in the complaint that he lost his 2010 re-election bid to Alexander after local newspapers, including The Del Norte Triplicate, portrayed Riese in "an unfavorable light due to Riese's medical issues."
The lawsuit does not elucidate the nature of the medical issues.
Riese had fired Alexander from his job as deputy district attorney years earlier, "after determining that Alexander could no longer be employed as a Deputy DA while on probation. Plaintiff's act of firing Alexander began a chain of events orchestrated by Alexander to discredit, humiliate and cause injury to plaintiff," according to the complaint.
Riese claims that in August 2011, more than a year after Riese's unsuccessful run for re-election, Alexander had local newspapers, including the Triplicate, report that Riese was under criminal investigation after having a medical emergency at a Safeway in Crescent City.
Riese claims he fell asleep at the store as a side effect of medicine he had taken for an unspecified medical condition. He claims that the responding officers and the store manager concluded that he was not under the influence of alcohol or narcotics and the condition was medically related. Riese's ex-wife initially indicated the same, according to the complaint.
But Riese claims that Alexander and defendant Doug Plack, of the Del Norte County Sheriff's Department, met at Plack's home and decided to "harass and wrongfully prosecute Riese to further a personal vendetta Alexander carried."
Along with Det. Keith Doyle, also a defendant, the men agreed to have Crescent City police officers "pull Riese over every chance they got to try and catch him intoxicated because at the time they had no evidence to use against Riese at trial," the complaint states.
Riese claims he was stopped more than 10 times after the newspaper reports, pulled out of restaurants and shops and "made to administer field sobriety tests in the respective parking lots. [Sic.] Alexander has led many of these 'anonymous tips' to the Sheriff's Department about Riese driving under the influence. In other instances, Alexander would tell people to call in and report they had seen 'erratic driving' or 'erratic behavior' on Riese's part. This led to public ridicule because of Riese's former high-profile position as DA in the County and his being a well-known personality in the community. These tips were falsely made by Alexander, Plack and Doyle to further harass Riese," according to the complaint.
Riese claims Del Norte district attorney's office ignored his reports that his ex-wife had violated a court order granting him visitation rights with his daughters. He claims that his ex "made a secret deal" with Alexander and defendant Deputy Attorney General Brian Newman, in which the men promised not to prosecute her "as long as she would provide damaging testimony against Riese in an upcoming February 2012 criminal trial that defendants Alexander and Newman had filed against Riese."
Riese claims that Newman helped Officer Richard Griffin submit an affidavit for a search warrant of Riese's house, for materials connected with illegal drug activity based on the assertion that Riese's girlfriend, Tess Michelletti, worked in a doctor's office and had access to prescription pads. Riese says these allegations could have been proven false had police bothered to call the office, where Michelletti had not worked since 2001, 10 years from the date on the affidavit.
"Griffin's submittal of the affidavit of probable cause with the false allegations was not done in good faith. Instead it was done with the intent to further harass Riese," the complaint states.
Riese claims that Griffin and other officers broke into his house without announcing themselves, refused his request to see the warrant, and questioned him for 5 hours about guns he legally owned. He claims deputies confiscated a gun loaned to him by Sheriff Dean Wilson and did not return it.
The illegal search "exceeded the scope of the warrant and resulted in no criminal charges being filed against Riese in Del Norte County. The search did not even result in Riese being arrested," Riese claims.
When Riese went to trial on the DUI, child endangerment and public intoxication charges from the Safeway incident, his ex-wife contradicted her earlier statements that Riese had been tired that night, and said that Riese was "on something the night he fell asleep at Safeway," the complaint states. "She continued to change her story, lie, and contradict herself while testifying," it adds.
Riese claims that it was "for this trial that defendants had made the secret agreement with Ms. Riese for her to testify against Riese."
He claims that experts at the trial determined he was not under the influence of anything after watching the video, that the Safeway manager agreed, and the jury cleared him on all four counts.
Riese's lawsuit is not the only challenge Alexander faces. The San Jose Mercury News reported on May 15 that Alexander faces possible disbarment for allegedly taking a loan from a defense attorney working on a case he later dismissed, among other charges of professional misconduct.
The newspaper reportedthat Alexander was a recovering methamphetamine addict when he was elected after running a campaign with the slogan "death to meth."
In his own complaint, Riese alleges malicious prosecution under state and federal law, fabrication of evidence, unreasonable search and seizure, joint action or conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, supervisory liability for constitutional violations, municipal liability for unconstitutional custom and practice, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Riese is represented by Brian Claypool of Pasadena, who did not return a call seeking comment.
Alexander told Courthouse News he did not know the lawsuit had been filed and therefore was not prepared to respond but that he would when he knew more about it. He said he has "always been open with the press and will continue to do so."