Disbarment Order of California|DA Marks First of Its Kind for State

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A California prosecutor with a checkered disciplinary record should be disbarred for their latest infraction, which he also lied about, a judge ruled.
     The lengthy disciplinary record of Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander includes one suspension for allegedly having an ex parte communication with a sentencing judge in a criminal case.
     State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz’s recommendation against Alexander will reportedly make him the state’s first district attorney to be disbarred.
     He was caught this time after Michelle Taylor, a suspect in a drug-possession case, burst into his office on July 8, 2011, with a hidden recording device. She told Alexander that the methamphetamine and marijuana that police had found on her belonged to her and not to Damion VanParks, another suspect, according to Armendariz’s report.
     Alexander allegedly asked Taylor if she had a lawyer but failed to stop the conversation once Taylor she said she was represented by public defender Darren McElfresh.
     Instead he spoke to Taylor about the facts surrounding the criminal charges, including asking who sold her the drugs, Armendariz noted, adding that McElfresh had not consented to Alexander’s conversation with his client.
     Alexander did not inform McElfresh or William Cater, the lawyer for VanParks, about the conversation until VanParks obtained a copy of the recording and gave it to his new court-appointed attorney Leroy Davies on Aug. 10, 2011.
     The ruling notes that Alexander had also staying silent at a July 19 preliminary hearing against VanParks.
     Alexander also allegedly denied having a conversation with Taylor when confronted by Assistant District Attorney Katherine Micks. The court dismissed all charges against VanParks soon after the tape-recording was revealed.
     Alexander insisted in a declaration made under penalty of perjury that “any prior discussions with Michelle Taylor, presently represented by attorney Darren McElfresh, were immediately brought to Mr. McElfresh’s attention,” according to the ruling
     Armendariz found, however, that “McElfresh never gave such consent.”
     “Therefore, Taylor was denied the basic protections of the guarantee of the Sixth Amendment when respondent elicited information from her in the absence of her counsel,” according to the ruling.
     The evidence shows that Alexander “clearly and convincingly committed acts involving moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption in willful violation of California Business and Professions Code Section 6106,” Armendariz wrote.
     The judge also found that Alexander had suppressed evidence by not informing VanParks and his lawyer that Taylor said the drugs were hers.
     Alexander “intentionally concealed these statements until he discovered that there was a tape of their conversation,” according to the ruling.
     In determining whether to disbar or merely suspend Alexander, the judge considered three prior disciplines against Alexander and character statements.
     The disciplines include failing to return unearned fees, practicing law with a suspended license, and having an ex parte communication with a sentencing judge in a criminal case in order to influence the sentence, according to the ruling.
     Furthermore, the “aggravating circumstance of prior misconduct was magnified by the fact that respondent committed the current misconduct while on probation in prior disciplinary proceeding,” Armendariz added.
     Alexander’s lack of insight and candor also favor disbarment, the judge found.
     “Respondent demonstrated lack of insight into his wrongdoing,” Armendariz wrote. “He blames others for his ethical and professional relapses, including outside political forces and the State Bar. He continues to assert, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that he did not commit any acts of misconduct and that he had permission from defense attorney to speak to the defendant. Respondent contends that the State Bar was vindictive and targeted him, resulting in this alleged discriminatory prosecution. He argues that he has been deliberately singled out for prosecution on the basis of his prior disability and medical condition of former drug use.”
     In an October 2012 lawsuit against the state bar, Alexander even claimed that these proceedings were brought because he is a recovered methamphetamine addict. Alexander was elected in 2010 on the platform “Death to Meth.”
     The state bar found Alexander’s accusations lacked merit.
     While the law does not require “false penitence,” it does require that the respondent “accept responsibility for his acts and come to grips with his culpability,” according to the ruling.
     Yet, in Alexander’s closing brief he states: “it remains Respondent’s abiding conviction that he has not violated any of his duties as an attorney and that all the charges against him should be dismissed.”
     While Alexander proffered many laudatory character witnesses including judges, mayors, and defense attorneys who extolled Alexander’s good moral character and dedication to the community, including work with drug recovery programs, she also noted that he has attracted a “group of vociferous enemies in the community.”
     Indeed, Alexander was sued by former Del Norte DA Michael Riese in July 2012 for malicious prosecution for allegedly trying to frame him for child endangerment and driving under the influence. Earlier this month, Alexander faced a different lawsuit that accuses him of shielding a child molester.
     Armendariz said she ultimately “urges disbarment” because Alexander “represents an unmitigated danger to the public, that respondent does not believe that the normal ethical and legal rules apply to him, and that he believes anyone who objects to his egregious misconduct is motivated by malice and in league with his adversaries.”
     “An attorney’s failure to accept responsibility for his actions which are wrong or to understand that wrongfulness is an aggravating factor,” she added.
     Alexander “knew or should have known, as an experienced prosecutor, that there was no excuse for his conversation with a defendant in the absence of her retained counsel, regardless whether she had ‘barged’ into his office and voluntarily made several incriminating statements during the course of their conversation,” the ruling states.
     Alexander also aggravated the harm by keeping the conversation to himself until the tape became known to the court, according to the ruling.
     “Respondent still maintains that he had permission to speak to Taylor when in fact he did not,” Armendariz added. “His lack of candor and truthfulness in his dealings with the court and opposing counsel demonstrate that he did not comprehend his special duty as a prosecutor to promote justice and seek truth, and not merely to convict.”
     The “impressive array of good character testimony” Alexander submitted furthermore does not “outweigh the substance and nature of his extensive record of prior discipline and the egregiousness of his current misconduct,” according to the ruling.
     “Respondent’s refusal to recognize his misdeeds and the severity he had harmed the administration of justice and the integrity of the legal profession concerns this court,” Armendariz wrote. “For 20 years, respondent’s ethical and professional violations have continued to occur, beginning from 1991 (conviction for driving without a valid driver’s license) to 2011 (prosecutorial misconduct).” (Parentheses in original.)
     Alexander also owes costs to the State Bar, according to the ruling.

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