Expensive secrets. Why?
Why are Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten, and Patricia Murphy, the Presiding Judge of all the Ventura County Superior Courts fighting the search for the whole truth about the cost of a decades old court case?
“It’s time California taxpayers start asking some real tough questions,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of the Houston based investigative communications firm Dolcefino Consulting. Dolcefino is a long time investigative journalist who has exposed public corruption in dozens of cases. “Both the Judge and the District Attorney have some explaining to do.”
Dolcefino Consulting has been investigating how much California taxpayer money has been spent in the last few years fighting to keep secrets about a 28-year old misdemeanor court case. You have probably never even heard of it.
Now you will.
Sean Mireskandari was one of England’s most powerful lawyers and was investigating public corruption in London when his trouble started. The Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA), the English version of our state bar, took away his license, in part because they claimed Mireskandari was a convicted criminal based on a 28-year old fraud case suddenly unearthed in Ventura County, California.
But what really happened?
Mireskandari called the investigation by the SRA in England a hit job, even accusing English investigators of perjured testimony. A criminal complaint was filed here in Houston. There’s even harsher criticism for the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, allegations they falsified the true results of the case. Mireskandari says he simply admitted not properly registering a company, hardly a reason to take away his law license.
Mireskandari has accused members of the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office of accepting payoffs from England to help frame him. There is a big fight over whether the Ventura County court records are even real. Mireskandari has spent over a million dollars in the legal fight to prove he was framed.
“If there’s nothing to see here, why is the District Attorney’s Office playing so many games to keep records on this case a secret. We have been fighting with Ventura County for months. Why? Makes you real curious,” says Dolcefino.
Ventura County has spent an awful lot of California taxpayer money fighting to keep the whole Mireskandari story a secret, fighting our requests for public records, withholding important e-mails. Why fight, if there are no secrets?
One of the mysteries in the Mireskandari case is the old court record itself. Mireskandari hired top investigators to try to find it. They couldn’t. It was gone. Suddenly, more than a year later, those key court documents reappeared, supposedly found by a veteran Ventura County prosecutor by the name of Linda Groberg.
When did the old court records turn up? Right as Groberg was being forced to give sworn testimony in the lawsuit. There are accusations the new court record was a fake.
Those are serious charges.
Ventura County District Attorney Gregg Totten says he’s tough on corruption in his own office, but when we asked to see the records of the internal investigation in this case, we got nothing. Why wouldn’t the DA order a probe to get to the bottom of the charges?
To prove the court record was a fake, Mireskandari filed suit against the Ventura County Superior Court Clerk. That federal case has lasted for years and Ventura County brought in two big California law firms, Jones & Day and Cummings, McClorey, Davis and Acho, P.LC., to defend them.
So where are those bills? Just how much California tax money has been spent in this fight? We asked the law firms. We asked the courts. We asked the District Attorney. We asked the Presiding Judge.
All we got is a rather nasty letter from the Court Executive Officer, Michael Planet, telling us that the court “does not have any judicial administrative records responsive to your requests.”
“You’d think we were asking for state secrets,” says Dolcefino. Where are the bills? Did the law firms do it free? They really are simple questions. Taxpayers have a right to know. Period.”
The legal bills from the federal case may be a secret, but we do know Ventura County taxpayers already spent $74,000 dollars paying outside law firms to represent District Attorney Greg Totten’s office in this curious case. County attorneys also spent years on the case.
We asked to speak to Totten about the corruption charges leveled against his office and the growing cost of this decades old court case. His deputy told us no. The District Attorney has so far refused to even talk with us.
“Wouldn’t you think the District Attorney would want to clear the air on this case if there is nothing to see here,” asks Dolcefino? “They aren’t. They are fighting us big time. In my world that’s a big red flag.”