Reasonable doubt issues likely after sex assault victims allowed to collect own evidence

As cities across the country are shutting down due to the coronavirus COVID-19, some law enforcement agencies in Northern California are allowing victims of alleged sexual assault to collect their own evidence at the direction of a telehealth specialist.

That practice has started in Marin County north of San Francisco and elsewhere after California’s Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home protective order in March.

The measure was put in place to help ease the spread of COVID-19 by allowing victims to collect their own evidence under the guidance of a qualified nurse who offer direction via a video call. Normally, collection of the evidence would be performed by medical officials themselves.

A county prosecutor said the move is meant to encourage those who were victimized to contact law enforcement and collect evidence necessary for an investigation while easing concerns of any possible COVID-19 infection. But criminal defense experts say any evidence collected this way would be challenged in court on the basis of cross-contamination and other issues, which could raise reasonable doubt in a criminal case.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Sacramento criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel said the practice was “absolutely fraught with danger because when you have a dispassionate law enforcement officer collecting evidence and replace that with the victim who then manufactures the most critical evidence, that’s going to cause reasonable doubt.”

Hypothetically, someone could collect the DNA of an innocent individual and then frame them for sexual assault if a person were allowed to collect their own evidence, Mark said. A criminal defense attorney would raise a chain-of-custody issue among others in court.

A county official who spoke with the Associated Press downplayed the concern, saying there were enough protocols in place to ensure that wouldn’t happen, though it wasn’t clear from the article what those protocols were.

In Monterey County, at least two victims have collected their own evidence in alleged sexual assault cases, a county prosecutor said.

Since March, law enforcement officials have modified many aspects of their operation in response to the threat of COVID-19. In Sacramento County, dozens of non-violent inmates with less than a month on their sentences were released by order of the Sheriff in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

At the same time, court dates have been delayed for dozens of defendants, including those brought on fresh charges. Some are being denied their constitutional right to be arranged in front of a judge in a timely manner, something Mark said could lead to a number of challenges once the courts are back in session.

Click here to read the full story from the Associated Press

What happens to criminal defendants during California’s coronavirus shutdown?

Business across California has ground to a halt as state officials work with health experts to stave off the coronavirus pandemic.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused businesses large and small to temporarily close as health officials encourage everyone to do their part to “flatten the curve.”

Sacramento criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel says for criminal defendants, the prolonged shelter-at-home order could impact their constitutional right to be heard in front of a judge after being suspected of a crime.

“Their day in court has been taken away through no fault or out of their control,” Mark told FOX40’s Lonnie Wong.

Mark said courts may see an uptick in filings on behalf of clients who weren’t given their right to a speedy trial. For now, most courts are simply continuing, or delaying, hearings until they are able to operate at full speed once again.

Read the full story on FOX40.com

Mark Reichel discusses Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Delgado

The Placer County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an apparent case of murder-suicide that allegedly involves an Assistant U.S. Attorney and his spouse.

Authorities responded to a home in Granite Bay early Monday morning where AUSA Timothy Delgado, 43, lived with his 45-year-old wife.

Officials with the sheriff’s department said on social media they were initially dispatched to a homicide investigation, but later clarified the case was a murder-suicide involving Delgado and his spouse. Police said they believed Mr. Delgado fatally shot his spouse before shooting himself, though the case remains an active investigation.

Speaking to FOX40 News on Monday, criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel said the case was “the opposite of everyone saw this coming.

“This is the polar opposite,” Mark said. “I think everyone is still in a state of shock.”

A motive for the shooting remains unknown.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento where Mr. Delgado worked said they are cooperating with federal and local law enforcement officials.

Click or tap here to read the full story on FOX40.com

Mark Reichel discusses plea offer in case of East Area Rapist

A 74-year-old former police officer who is suspected of being the East Area Rapist has filed a motion through his attorneys that aims to avoid a lengthy criminal trial.

In exchange for pleading guilty to certain offenses, Joseph DeAngelo — who is also suspected of being the Golden State Killer — has agreed to answer for his alleged crimes if the threat of the death penalty is taken off the table.

In exchange for his guilty plea, DeAngelo acknowledges he would likely be incarcerated for the rest of his life.

“The lawyer is saying if the death penalty were off the table, the case could resolve,” Mark Reichel told CBS13’s George Warren in an interview on Wednesday, noting that thanks to a moratorium on executions in California imposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year, the outcome between the plea deal and a sentence following a trial would likely be the same, assuming DeAngelo were convicted.

“The chances that this individual will be executed are very slim, in my opinion,” Mark said. “The chances of the likelihood that he would die in custody far exceed the chances that the state would execute him.”

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office declined to local media outlets about DeAngelo’s offer. Last April, officials with the DA’s office affirmed they would seek the death penalty in DeAngelo’s case if he were convicted at trial.

DeAngelo is charged with 13 counts of murder and five dozen counts of rape stemming from incidents that occurred between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s. Authorities arrested him after they said the suspect’s DNA matched that submitted through a genealogy website.

DeAngelo also stands accused of more than a dozen kidnapping and abduction attempts.

While some may be opposed to a plea deal, Mark said it could be in everyone’s best interest to avoid a lengthy trial — not just because of the financial cost associated with court cases like this, but also because the emotional and mental toll could be insurmountable.

“The cost, not just in money but in time and happiness that will be drained out, that never comes back,” Mark told FOX40 News.

Click or tap here to read the full story from CBS13 | Click or tap here to read the full story from FOX40 News

Man sues Sacramento County for being held without charge

A man held for nearly a month in the Sacramento County jail has filed a federal lawsuit alleging financial loss and damage to his reputation.

Like all criminal defendants, Taylor Brophy was entitled to attend a hearing in a quick and timely manner after being arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence. But Brophy claims other inmates heard his case called during their hearings — and he was nowhere to be found.

Brophy says not only was his blood alcohol level not above the legal limit, he was apparently lost in the system — and now he’s suing.

Criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel said it’s unusual for someone to be held in custody for so long without appearing before a judge.

“Ordinarily in California, 99 percent of the time on a first time DUI, as soon as you’re sober enough, you’re out the door,” Mark told CBS13 News. “They don’t have places to hold you so they do want you out of there.”

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, the agency that runs the central jail, didn’t comment when asked by a reporter about the lawsuit, but said charges other than DUI may have been at play and that the man may have owed jail time for a past charge, CBS13 reported.

Brophy is no longer in custody as of this writing.

Click or tap here to read the full story from CBS13 Sacramento

Was a judge right to sentence Donald Jackson to one year in jail?

A Calaveras County family is heartbroken after a judge sentenced the drunk driver who killed their daughter to one year in county jail and several years of probation.

Donald Jackson entered a plea of no contest to vehicular manslaughter, driving drunk and other charges in connection with a 2018 crash that killed 27-year-old Chelsea Lund and seriously injured her eight-year-old son.

A prosecutor asked for 12 years in state prison, but a judge ultimately decided Jackson would spend one year in county jail and five years probation.

The Lund family is devastated over the sentence, telling CBS13 they believe Jackson got off light.

“He pled to all those charges and got sentenced for none of them,” Mr. Lund told the TV station.

 

But attorney Mark Reichel said the judge’s sentence is more complicated than it appears, telling CBS13 the judge had to take into consideration the totality of Jackson’s incarceration of 14 months in county jail prior to his plea and his show of remorse before the court.

Reichel noted the judge did give Jackson eight years and eight months in jail but suspended the majority of that on condition that he complies with the terms of his probation. If Jackson violates those terms, he could be forced to serve the full five-year jail sentence.

Read the full story at CBS13.com

How common is a double DUI arrest?

The California Highway Patrol posted a photo on Facebook this week that showed a man being handcuffed and placed into a patrol car on suspicion of DUI — for the second time in a single day.

Officers with the CHP’s Solano division reported arresting the 53-year-old Antelope man last weekend in the early morning hours. He spent the night at Solano County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence, then picked up his car from a tow yard and headed home to Sacramento County.

It was there that CHP officers with the Sacramento division arrested the man again on suspicion of DUI during a traffic stop along Greenback Lane. Someone with the CHP took a photo of the man from behind and posted it to Facebook.

 

A double DUI arrest isn’t common, but attorney Mark Reichel told CBS13 it can technically happen because of the short amount of time between a defendant’s arrest and their release on bond, if eligible.

“Iif you’ve been arrested, and you can either post bail or you qualify for [release on] your own recognizance…you’re usually out of [jail] after about five or six hours,” Reichel said.

Click here to watch the full video on CBS13’s website