Judge turns over fired of­fi­cers’ files to coun­sel

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY JULIO MO­RALES Staff Writer

EL CEN­TRO — A county Su­pe­rior Court judge ruled Wednesday in fa­vor of a de­fense mo­tion that sought ac­cess to the per­son­nel files of two fired Calex­ico po­lice of­fi­cers that han­dled ev­i­dence dur­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­leged rob­bery and as­sault of a Calex­ico teen in 2014.

Judge Christo­pher J. Plourd’s rul­ing al­lowed for some items found within the for­mer of­fi­cers’ per­son­nel files to be pro­vided to the pros­e­cu­tion and at­tor­neys of the three de­fen­dants who face mul­ti­ple charges in con­nec­tion with the al­leged in­ci­dent.

De­fense at­tor­ney Chris Ytur­ralde had pre­vi­ously filed a Pitchess mo­tion seek­ing ac­cess to the per­son­nel files in an­tic­i­pa­tion that pre­vi­ous on-duty in­stances of mis­con­duct or cred­i­bil­ity is­sues by for­mer of­fi­cers Luis Casil­las and Gabriel Ro­driguez would come to light.

“There are some items that the judge ob­vi­ously felt that needed be turned over,” said county Deputy Dis­trict At­tor­ney Michael Domen­zain, fol­low­ing Wednesday’s hear­ing.

Plourd had pre­vi­ously re­viewed the “vo­lu­mi­nous” files in his cham­bers in the ab­sence of coun­sel as part of the Pitchess mo­tion. A Calex­ico Po­lice Depart­ment of­fi­cial was ob­served at the hear­ing on Wednesday tot­ing around two card­board fil­ing boxes crammed with doc­u­ments.

Plourd also granted a protective or­der sought by the city of Calex­ico bar­ring coun­sel from dis­clos­ing the con­tents of the items in the per­son­nel files to be re­viewed.

The con­tents of the files to be turned over by the city of Calex­ico and its Po­lice Depart­ment cur­rently re­main un­known to both the de­fense and pros­e­cu­tion, Domen­zain said.

Par­ties are due back in court Oct. 31, al­low­ing time for coun­sel to re­view the items, de­ter­mine their sig­nif­i­cance and whether they may im­pact the case.

Both Casil­las and Ro­driguez were among sev­eral of­fi­cers that were fired by then-chief Michael Bos­tic, who had pub­licly stated in Novem­ber 2014 that the depart­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­leged rob­bery and as­sault had been “botched.”

Dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the fired of­fi­cers’ had han­dled a blood-stained seat­belt re­moved from the ve­hi­cle re­port­edly used dur­ing the al­leged in­ci­dent. That piece of ev­i­dence re­mains in cus­tody, al­though po­lice re­port­edly were not able to save a copy of the al­leged vic­tim’s 911 call.

Casil­las’ and Ro­driguez’s in­volve­ment in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the al­leged in­ci­dent had re­cently come to light, as did two sup­ple­men­tal re­ports that were au­thored by one of them in con­nec­tion with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Nei­ther of them were among the four Calex­ico of­fi­cers whose per­son­nel files were orig­i­nally sought by Ytur­ralde’s Pitchess mo­tion of 2015.

Three de­fen­dants are fac­ing mul­ti­ple charges in con­nec­tion to the Oct. 17, 2014, al­leged kid­nap­ping, beat­ing and rob­bery of then 17-year-old Calex­ico res­i­dent Mussa Asiad, who was re­port­edly the ex-boyfriend of de­fen­dant Si­nai Zepeda.

Zepeda, 21, and Jesus Ju­nior Flores, 23, are both charged with rob­bery, false im­pris­on­ment and mak­ing crim­i­nal threats. Este­ban San­tos, 41, faces a charge of kid­nap­ping, as­sault with a deadly weapon, rob­bery, false im­pris­on­ment, all felonies, and mak­ing crim­i­nal threats.

Asiad and his fam­ily have ex­pressed frus­tra­tion at the slow pace the case ap­pears to be ad­vanc­ing at, and have been crit­i­cal of both the Calex­ico Po­lice Depart­ment’s and county Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice’s han­dling of the case.

“It’s been a waste of our time and our lives,” said Mo­hamed Asiad, Mussa’s father.

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