California Defense Attorney Sues DA Office for Wrongful Arrest in Murder Case

Frank Carson was acquitted last year of being involved in a murder-for-hire plot. (Photo courtesy of Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department)

(CN) — Modesto defense attorney Frank Carson, acquitted of an alleged murder-for-hire plot in the 2012 death of Turlock resident Korey Kauffman, filed a federal lawsuit against several law enforcement officials, claiming they lied to procure an arrest warrant, withheld evidence of his innocence and forced confessions in order to frame him for murder and destroy his reputation.

Carson, since his arrest in August 2015, has been vehement in his assertion that the entire case was itself retaliation against him for their frustration at “a series of high-profile courtroom defeats and accusations of corruption,” according to a statement released by his defense team of Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer.

Shortly after Kauffman’s body was found in the Stanislaus National Forest in 2013, Carson alleges the Stanislaus County DA office, including Birgit Fladager, DA Supervisor Marlissa Ferreira, and Chief Deputy DA David Harris, “concocted a fanciful tale.”

That “tale” said Carson had “resorted to murder for hire,” and that antique thefts from his property gave them an opportunity to tie him to Kauffman’s murder, get back at him for their courtroom embarrassments and prevent him from winning an election against Fladager for her DA spot.

Despite the lack of physical evidence linking Carson to the murder, the complaint states, such as “blood, hair, clothing, fibers, fingerprints, spit, sweat, or any such thing,” Cory Brown, a member of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, went ahead with a 235-page Ramey Warrant, also authored by DA Investigator Kirk Bunch, and arrested Carson even though it “contained fabrications and omissions.”

Carson’s lawsuit, filed at the end of May, alleges that the warrant did not contain information about the lack of witness credibility and didn’t inform the judge that immunity deals were given in exchange for testimony against Carson.

Ferreira, according to the complaint, had told Carson’s wife, Georgia DeFilippo, and his stepdaughter, Christina DeFilippo, who were also arrested as accessories to murder, that their charges would be dropped if they gave testimony implicating Carson. A judge eventually released them both for lack of evidence, but they filed their own complaint for damages in 2018.

The alleged murder-for-hire scheme at the heart of the DA’s case involved a supposed deal Carson had with brothers Baljit and Daljit Atwal, owners of the Turlock Pop-N-Cork liquor store, and one of their former employees, Robert Woody.

According to the complaint, Bunch, DA Investigator Steve Jacobson, and Modesto officer Jon Evers, during a seven-hour interrogation, coerced Woody, “a drug addicted felon,” to finger Carson as the main culprit in Kauffman’s murder despite “knowing full well it was false.”

It was then that “Woody’s statement morphed into the ridiculous allegation that Kauffman was shot on Carson’s Turlock property by one of the Atwals, who patrolled Carson’s property in exchange for Carson representing Woody in a minor criminal case,” according to the complaint.

The press release from Carson’s defense team states that “almost every witness that in any way implicated Frank Carson was a career criminal whose own criminal charges were dropped or significantly reduced in exchange for testimony against Carson.”

In addition to the arrests, the lawsuit alleges that officials ignored evidence that Carson’s neighbor Michael Cooley, a “career criminal, drug dealer and an informant,” was the last one to see Kauffman alive and had at one point even confessed to witnesses his involvement in the murder.

Jacobson, according to the lawsuit, has “a long history of animosity against (Carson) and has repeatedly been exposed as a liar by him in court.” Carson even sued Jacobson for assaulting him in a courthouse.

Along with Bunch, the complaint claims that Derek Perry, an officer with the Ceres police, had set up game cameras in the forest where Kauffman’s body was found and then destroyed video evidence that showed two marijuana growers, both of whom had ties to Kauffman, were seen in the area before details of the location went public.

Carson, who seeks millions in damages, said in a statement that he “has been fighting corruption in law enforcement my entire career, especially with the Stanislaus County DA … and I hope it causes Stanislaus County voters or councilmembers to clean house and make sure there is integrity at the DA’s office and in law enforcement.”

Carson’s lead counsel, J. Gary Gwilliam, said in that same statement that they “intend to hold (the defendants) fully accountable for the outrageous conduct that cost Frank Carson and his family their reputation and financial ruin.”

Gwilliam, reiterated that sentiment in an interview, saying that the case was “one of the worst prosecutions in the history of California.”

Gwilliam, who has been practicing law for over 50 years, added that he has “never seen anything like it.”

The Stanislaus County DA Office could not be reached for comment.

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