(CN) – There is something rotten in Stanislaus County, California, according to a federal lawsuit filed late Tuesday.
In the lawsuit, Georgia and Christina DeFilippo allege widespread corruption and conspiracy mongering infecting every level of the county’s criminal justice apparatus, which ultimately led to the mother-daughter pair being falsely accused of murder.
“The defendants, all members of Stanislaus County law enforcement, conspired to conduct a retaliatory, unconstitutional investigation and prosecution of Frank Carson and his family, solely based on their own disdain for Carson because of his successes against them,” the DeFilippos allege in the complaint.
Carson, the husband of Georgia and stepfather to Christina, is a prominent defense attorney in Stanislaus County, a county of about a half million people in California’s agriculture-dominant Central Valley.
According to the complaint, Stanislaus County law enforcement officials, and the office of District Attorney Birgit Fladager in particular, were stung by a series of high-profile legal defeats at the hands of Carson and hatched a plot to get revenge.
The plot began with the murder of Korey Kauffman, a young Stanislaus County man with a criminal record detailing a history of drug use and petty theft, according to the lawsuit.
After Kauffman’s body was found in 2013, law enforcement officials tried to connect Georgia and Christina DeFilippo to his murder despite an overwhelming lack of evidence, the complaint says.
The evidence was so paltry that after an 18-month long preliminary hearing — one of the longest in state history — Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga dismissed the murder charges against Georgia and the accessory to murder charges against Christina.
She characterized the decision to toss the case as “not difficult.”
“In addition to the obvious lack of evidence against Georgia DeFilippo and Christina DeFilippo, the defendants made lies and misrepresentations in search warrants that violated their privacy and Fourth Amendment rights,” the complaint says.
Law enforcement based their theory on threats Carson had made in an attempt to dissuade thieves from continuing to steal valuable antiques from his property in Turlock, also in Stanislaus County.
Carson and Georgia DeFilippo are avid antique collectors, with a specialty in old books and advertising signs, the complaint says.
They stored most of these possessions at a house in Turlock where Christina was staying. Having found the house was routinely being broken into, Carson took steps to prevent future depredations by installing motion sensors, lights and additional locks. He also confronted the owners of neighboring property, from where he believed the thieves were gaining access.
While Kauffman was friends with the owner of that property, Carson says he and his family did not know who he was and did not include him in a list of suspected thieves.
Nevertheless, relying on testimony from Kauffman’s disreputable associates that Kauffman had been planning to steal property from Carson’s Turlock house on the night he disappeared, law enforcement officials centered on Carson and his family as perpetrators of a murder for hire plot, the complaint says.
Carson and two owners of a liquor store were also charged with the murder of Kauffman in a case still pending in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
A glance at the docket on Tuesday evening indicates the case is closed but it is unclear whether the docket is accurate.
Regarding Georgia and Christina DeFilippo, the case is closed.
Georgia spent 50 days in maximum-security prison. She seeks $390,000 in bail costs, $500,000 in legal fees and $87,000 in court costs along with other damages.
Christina DeFilippo was attending art college in Brooklyn, New York, at the time she was arrested. She says her career prospects were gravely harmed by the arrest and subsequent case.
The pair claim civil rights violations as well, saying their due process rights were impaired by a litany of improper activity carried out by Fladager’s office, the sheriff’s department and officers from multiple city police departments.
“Defendant Kirk Bunch, Stanislaus County district attorney investigator, is a leader of the conspiracy, and Georgia DeFilippo and Christina DeFilippo are informed and believe that he orchestrated the case against them,” the complaint says. “Bunch submitted false affidavits to the criminal court and directed the malicious investigation and arrest of Georgia and Christina as part of the conspiracy.”
The complaint also accuses a detective from the Ceres Police Department of destroying exculpatory evidence found at the scene where Kauffman’s body was found, including the destruction of game cameras meant to track wildlife that would have shown the identity of the real killer.
Deputy District Attorney Melissa Ferreira, who prosecuted the case against Georgia and Christina DeFilippo, tampered with defense witnesses, fabricated evidence, publicly defamed both women and tried to coerce them into lying about the role of Carson in the murder, the complaint says.
Finally, the complaint alleges a variety of law enforcement officials from several departments misrepresented the facts of the case on warrants.
The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s office did not return an immediate request for comment Tuesday evening.
Georgia and Christina DeFilippo are represented by J. Gary Gwilliam of Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer located in Oakland, California.