No special prosecutor in dog case
December 23, 2005
A judge won’t be ruling on whether an enemies list supposedly kept by the District Attorney’s Office warrants appointment of a special prosecutor in a dog-shooting case.Instead, District Court Judge Dan Petre decided Thursday that DA Colleen Truden’s recall earlier this month made the matter moot.But he also agreed to delay further action in the case until she’s no longer in office.Defense attorney Jeff Cheney had requested the special prosecutor in the case of Ken Newton, who faces a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals, and felony charges of tampering with physical evidence and criminal mischief. Authorities say Newton shot a neighbor’s dog and then buried it in a makeshift grave without telling the neighbor.Cheney formerly worked for Truden and later helped lead the campaign for her recall. He says Truden’s office allegedly based plea bargain decisions on whether they disliked defense attorneys, which jeopardized Newton’s chances of receiving fair treatment.Truden’s office denied the allegations of bias against certain attorneys. A court hearing over Cheney’s request in November turned into something of a recall debate over one of many concerns that had been raised about Truden since she took office at the start of the year.At last month’s hearing, Petre noted that agreeing to a special prosecutor request could have had widespread ramifications, opening the door to requests by other attorneys also believed to be on an enemies list. Even if Petre hadn’t found much evidence to support the allegations, he could have ruled that a special prosecutor would have been best in the Newton case to avoid any appearance of impropriety.But after Truden was recalled, it left Petre wondering Thursday why Cheney was continuing to request a special prosecutor.”It seems moot to me, frankly, and I’m trying to figure out what you’re concerned about or what eventuality you foresee,” Petre told Cheney.Cheney had argued that the matter still was pertinent because the election results have not yet been certified. That may not occur until sometime next week or in early January, after which DA-elect Martin Beeson can take office. Truden remains in office until then.But Petre didn’t see the need for a special prosecutor between now and then. He also noted that Cheney wasn’t concerned with the treatment he’s received from chief deputy district attorney Scott Turner, who has been handling the dog shooting case.Still, while ruling out the need for a special prosecutor, he agreed to Cheney’s request to postpone further action on the case until Jan. 12.”As Mr. Cheney said, perhaps the dust will settle then and the landscape will be much clearer,” Petre said.Cheney also has said it’s possible Beeson will ask for a special prosecutor once he takes office because Cheney had been his campaign manager.Petre expressed the hope that things would move quickly with the case come January.”Mr. Newton has been waiting for quite a while” for the case to proceed, he said.The pace of proceedings in other cases also may be slowed by questions surrounding the coming DA transition. Defense attorney Chris Gaddis, speaking in court about another case Thursday, said he has informed his client he may need to find another attorney next month.Gaddis didn’t elaborate and could not be reached for further comment, and Beeson has not made any staffing announcements. However, it’s possible Gaddis may seek employment as a deputy DA. He was among those deputy DAs who left Truden’s office earlier this year, as concerns grew about how she was running her office.Meanwhile, Turner said in an interview Thursday that he is interested in remaining with the DA’s office “if Mr. Beeson will have me.””I would love to stay but that is not necessarily my decision. … I enjoy the job, I enjoy the community.”He said he hasn’t talked with Beeson but the two have exchanged phone calls.