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Judge Closes|Former D.A.’s Case

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A former Bay Area district attorney who said he was maliciously prosecuted for the alleged rape of a colleague cannot pursue remaining claims against county officials, a federal judge ruled.

Michael Gressett, of Martinez, sued the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office, a retired district attorney, and other officers and attorneys in 2012.

Gressett was arrested and indicted on charges that he raped a contract deputy district attorney when consensual sex got out of hand one afternoon in 2008.

Gressett was charged with 12 felony counts of sexual assault and fired in 2009.

The case against him was dismissed in 2011, when a judge found that prosecutors had failed to tell a grand jury that Contra Costa paid his accuser a $450,000 settlement.

An arbitrator ordered Gressett reinstated, finding that the evidence supported allegations that political animosity tainted his investigation.

In his 2012 lawsuit, Gressett said that at the time of the alleged rape he had been publicly supporting a candidate for the DA's office whom the outgoing prosecutor, Robert Kochly, opposed. The DA allegedly wanted to be succeeded by Daniel O'Malley. Both Kochly and O'Malley were also named as defendants.

Gressett said the defendants conspired to prosecute him on the false allegations to secure O'Malley's election in 2010. O'Malley then allegedly used the case against Gressett in his campaign.

Gressett also sued several people who had contributed political and financial support to O'Malley's campaign. Gressett noted that O'Malley's sister became the district attorney for Alameda County, and that her office in turn hired the chief of the Martinez police.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen dismissed Gressett's defamation and malicious prosecution claims in part in 2013, finding that he failed to establish a "plausible claim" that the defendants participated in a "putative conspiracy."

Months later, Chen found that Gressett "adequately" pleaded malicious prosecution claims against O'Malley and ruled that the defendants were not entitled to qualified or absolute immunity.

As recounted by Chen, the victim said she and Gressett planned to have lunch, but at the appointed hour, he drove her to his house instead.

"Once plaintiff and [the woman] arrived at his house, they began engaging in consensual sexual activity," the ruling states. "However, at a certain point, plaintiff forcefully grabbed [the woman] and proceeded to engage in anal sex with her despite [her] repeated protestations. At a certain point, plaintiff put a gun to the back of [her] head. Plaintiff handcuffed [the woman] and then took ice and inserted it in her anus and vagina using an ice pick. Plaintiff then instructed [the woman] to get in the shower. After [she] showered, plaintiff took her and forced her to engage in oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Plaintiff then returned [her] to the office."

She contacted her sister and a friend, then met with investigators.

Judge Chen on Tuesday dismissed Gressett's remaining defamation and malicious prosecution claims against Kochly and five DA employees.

Chen found there was no legal termination in Gressett's favor and there was probable cause to support the legal proceedings against him.

"As previously noted, probable cause simply requires that there be a fair probability that a crime was committed," the 29-page ruling states. "Here, a prudent officer would have believed that Mr. Gressett sexually assaulted Ms. Doe without consent."

Gressett's defamation claims against an assistant chief deputy and DA investigator, whom he said separately called him a "sexual deviant," also fell short. Chen cited California Government Code § 821.6, that a public employee is not liable for injury caused by "his instituting or prosecuting any judicial or administrative proceeding within the scope of his employment, even if he acts maliciously and without probable cause."

"Regardless of whether Ms. Doe consented to the sexual acts, [Gressett] has not established that the use of a handgun, icepick, and/or handcuffs during sex falls within accepted norms," Chen added, citing a Merriam-Webster definition.

Because the ruling resolved all remaining claims, Chen ordered the case closed.

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