Monterey County prosecutors open probe into Tara Reade’s prior testimony

Prosecutors in Monterey County, California have launched a formal investigation into Tara Reade, the woman who recently accused presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former senator Joe Biden of sexual assault.

Reade, who also went by the name Alexandra McCabe, offered expert testimony in dozens of criminal cases as a special victim’s advocate, according to numerous reports.

But some of her sworn testimony has come under fire following investigations by CNN and other news outlets that show inconsistencies in her education and employment background.

Reade made international headlines earlier this year after accusing Biden of sexual assault while she worked as an employee of the senator’s office in the early 1990s (Biden has denied the accusation). Years later, Reade found herself in Washington state where she claimed she graduated from Antioch University in Seattle with an Associate’s Degree and received a law degree from Seattle University.

Reade offered that part of her education history under oath in numerous cases brought by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, some of which resulted in criminal convictions. But reporters who contacted Antioch University to confirm her education history were told she never graduated from the school.

Reade also misconstrued the nature of her work in Sen. Biden’s office, according to one report, testifying under oath that she worked as a legislative assistant when she was actually a staff assistant, according to employment records obtained by the New York Times. And in one 2018 case, Reade said she had not taken the California bar exam, even though blog posts written by her several years earlier said she twice failed the exam.

Prosecutors are now going through cases dating back several years to see if Reade intentionally lied while on the stand, according to POLITICO. An official with the prosecutor’s office said it’s unclear how many cases Reade testified in because the county doesn’t have a way to sort through cases digitally.

“We have no database or search engine to use to determine how many cases she testified,” Berkley Brannon, the county’s chief assistant district attorney, told POLITICO.

If Reade is found to have exaggerated her qualifications on the stand, it could be grounds for a reversal of some criminal convictions, Sacramento criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel told the New York Times last week.

“An expert can only testify in certain circumstances,” Mark said. “One of them is that they have expertise above the regular person. The jury is entitled to hear your qualifications.”

Class action lawsuit filed over Lompoc prison conditions during coronavirus pandemic

A chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of inmates at a federal prison in Lompoc over the ongoing health crisis brought on by the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

In a 189-page document filed in federal court earlier this month, staff attorneys with the ACLU argue conditions inside the federal prison coupled with the viral pandemic amount to cruel and unusual punishment, which violates inmates’ Eighth Amendment rights.

The pleading reveals horrific details of what is allegedly taking place inside the Lompoc prison during the crisis. One asthmatic inmate who reportedly showed symptoms of COVID-19 was “ignored for days and denied medical treatment,” the ACLU alleges, while another inmate who is scheduled to be released later this year is being forced to spend the remainder of his sentenced in “a hastily converted warehouse where he is locked in his cell and not even allowed to shower.”

The Lompoc facility has been one of the hardest hit in Bureau of Prisons system since government officials formally recognized the health crisis in early March. To date, more than 900 inmates at Lompoc’s low-security prison have tested positive for the virus, while another 112 have tested positive at an adjacent high-security penitentiary, according to data released by federal prison officials.

Between the two facilities, nearly 20 inmates have died, the data shows.

Prison officials contend inmates are receiving medical screening and care throughout their facilities, but the ACLU said that hasn’t been the case for some inmates at the Lompoc facilities. In one case, an inmate tested positive only to be locked in administrative segregation where he was denied medical attention for days, the ACLU says.

To make matters worse, while some prisons have increased phone call allowances to make up for a lack of in-person visitation during the crisis, staff at the Lompoc prisons have restricted access to institutional phones and email services, which has made it difficult for inmates to contact their families and lawyers, the ACLU says.

“Respondents and their ineffectual and unnecessarily cruel policy of isolating positive cases in solitary confinement and unsanitary makeshift living spaces has completely failed to stop or even slow the spread of the virus,” the ACLU wrote in their lawsuit. Making matters worse, the ACLU says, around 2,000 inmates still have yet to be tested at the higher-security penitentiary despite the mass outbreak at the adjacent low-security facility.

The ACLU says it is not seeking the release of any inmates connected to the lawsuit. Instead, the lawsuit is seeking an order that would require prison officials at Lompoc to expeditiously review inmates that may be eligible for home confinement, implement social distancing measures and provide adequate medical care to inmates at the prison facilities there, among other things.

The lawsuit names Lompoc Warden Louis Milusnic and Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal as defendants in the suit. A similar lawsuit was filed simultaneously against the warden of the Terminal Island prison near Los Angeles.

Sacramento jail population plummets by one-third since pandemic started, report says

Sacramento County’s jail population has dropped by nearly one-third since the start of the global pandemic brought on by the novel coronavirus COVID-19, according to a report.

The Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday that Sacramento County was one of several to see a population drop in county jails since mid-March as officials worked to curb the spread of the virus.

The state’s overall jail population dropped by around 21,000 people while California prisons reported more than 5,000 fewer inmates since March, the Bee said.

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

Supreme Court says vulnerable inmates can be released due to coronavirus

The Supreme Court has rejected a Trump administration request to block a lower court’s order to release more than 800 medically-vulnerable inmates from a federal prison in Ohio.

The order handed down on Tuesday comes after four prisoners at the Federal Correctional Institute in Elkton, Ohio filed a class-action lawsuit saying conditions at the prison violated their Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

“Prisons are not Constitution-free zones,” Joseph Mead, a cooperating attorney for the ACLU’s Ohio chapter, said in a statement as reported by the Davis Vanguard. “People who live and work in prisons should not be forced to face unnecessary risk of death and disease.”

Nine inmates have died and more than 200 others have become infected at the Elkhorn prison since the start of the global pandemic linked to the novel coronavirus COVID-19, according to figures published by the Bureau of Prisons as of Wednesday. In addition to the inmate infections, seven staff members at the prison have tested positive.

The Elkhorn facility has the third-highest rate of infections among inmates according to BOP data.

“People at Elkton are dying. The situation is particularly dire, even compared to other corrections facilities,” David Carey, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU in Ohio, told the Cleveland Scene in April. “We’ve already seen that prisons are tinderboxes for COVID-19 because people are forced to exist in close, shared spaces for eating, sleeping, and bathing. … Further delay will result in further death.”

The Supreme Court agreed, refusing to block a lower court’s judgment that BOP officials immediately start releasing more than 800 medically-vulnerable inmates from the low-security prison.

In a one-page ruling on the matter, the Supreme Court said the Trump administration failed to challenge an order issued by the federal court on May 19. Instead, the Trump administration requested a review of a preliminary injunction issued on April 22.

The May 19 order superseded the April 22 ruling, and since the Trump administration failed to challenge the newer order, the Supreme Court declined to take up the issue.

Even if the Trump administration had challenged both injunctions, only three Supreme Court justices would have granted their request, the order released on Tuesday said. That would have fallen short of the majority needed to overturn the lower court’s decisions.

A decision in the overall case is still pending in federal court, meaning vulnerable inmates will likely have to wait in custody a bit longer.

First Amendment Coalition to host media shield law workship following police raid on San Francisco journalist

The First Amendment Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California chapter will hold a Zoom workshop on California’s shield law for members of the media on June 2, 2020.

The workshop comes more than one year after San Francisco police officers raided the home and office of freelance journalist Bryan Carmody in connection with the publication of leaked documents related to the death of former San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

Carmody received the materials from an anonymous source and distributed them to members of the television news media, many of whom used that material in news reports on Adachi’s death.

Though police had warrants to search Carmody’s home and office, judges tossed the warrants and suppressed information obtained from Carmody’s home, office and personal devices. In their rulings, judges determined officers overstepped their bounds because Carmody was a recognized member of the news media and was protected by California’s journalism shield law, which protects reporters from having to disclose anonymous sources used in the course of news-gathering operations.

California’s journalism shield law — one of the toughest in the country — says reporters, editors, producers and other members of the news media cannot be held in contempt for refusing to disclose sources. It protects members of the commercial and non-commercial news media as well as freelancers, bloggers, writers and other journalists equally.

On June 2, the First Amendment Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists will hold a joint workshop to discuss that shield law and other laws in California and at the federal level that protect the news-gathering and reporting activities of journalists.

The workshop will be held via Zoom and is free and open to the public. Click or tap here for details.

Note: The information in this post is presented for educational and informational purposes only. The Law Office of Mark Reichel neither warrants nor endorses, and is in no way affiliated with, this event or its organizers.

What will court hearings and trials look like after the coronavirus?

Federal courts are preparing for a slow reopening of courthouses for civil jury trials and other matters after weeks of being closed due to the ongoing health crisis brought on by the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Bloomberg Law reports courthouses in some states that have seen lower rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths are easing into new measures that will see measuring tape, disinfectant and extra jurors become the new norm in courtrooms for at least a little while.

Federal courts are re-opening in different parts of the country on a case-by-case basis. In Texas, a federal ivil trial was scheduled to begin in the first week of June, though the case was eventually settled. Other matters are scheduled to be heard before the court in July, according to Bloomberg.

That’s different from other parts of the country, including Connecticut where the federal court system has delayed all jury trials until September.

In California, routine court matters are being heard through phone and videoconferencing, including arraignments and most hearings. Jury trials are still weeks away at the earliest.

In the federal Eastern District of California, courthouses have been closed and jury cases postponed indefinitely, according to a recent order issued by Chief Judge Kimberly Mueller. The order affects six federal courthouses in Northern and Central California located in Sacramento, Modesto, Fresno, Redding, Bakersfield and Yosemite.

The emergency declaration signed by Mueller on May 13 said jurors won’t be called for service in either criminal or civil cases for the foreseeable future.

In the federal Northern District of California, Chief Judge Phyllis Hamilton also arranged for routine court matters to be conducted through videoconference. An emergency ordered issued in that district, which includes San Francisco, says no civil or criminal jury trials will take place until September 30, 2020 at the earliest.

A photo of Kelvin Atkinson from his profile.

Former Nevada senator wins compassionate release from prison over coronavirus concerns

A former Nevada state lawmaker who was convicted last year on campaign finance violations has won an early release from federal prison due to the ongoing health crisis brought on by the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Kelvin Atkinson, a Nevada Democrat and the state’s former senate majority leader, was charged with misusing nearly $500,000 in campaign funds between 2010 and 2017. He resigned from the legislature in March 2019 and later pled guilty to the charge.

He was sentenced to 27 months in prison and fined nearly $250,000. He began serving his sentence at the federal prison camp in Atwater, California, a minimum-security facility that houses defendants with low-level criminal convictions.

Federal prisons have been a hotbed of viral COVID-19 infections since the outbreak began in late February.

The satellite prison camp is one of the few federal prisons to report no outbreak of COVID-19, according to information released by the Bureau of Prisons. An adjacent high-security penitentiary also has reported no instances of inmates or staff being infected with the virus.

Other federal prisons in California have reported a steady increase in infections since March. A satellite prison camp and adjacent high-security facility in Lompoc have the highest collective number of inmate infections in the entire Bureau of Prisons system, according to information published by the agency.

The Bureau of Prisons says it is maintaining adequate measures to prevent and screen for COVID-19. In a document called “Correcting Myths and Misinformation about BOP and COVID-19,” prison officials say they’ve provided inmates with cloth masks and are segregating those who experience symptoms of COVID-19 infection.

But in a motion filed in late March, Atkinson said staff at the Atwater prison camp didn’t provide him with adequate cleaning materials and weren’t actively taking temperatures of symptomatic inmates.

In a rebuttal to Atkinson’s motion, the U.S. Attorney’s office wrote the former lawmaker had access to cleaning materials and was more than capable of taking care of himself.

Both Atkinson’s health information and the U.S. Attorney’s rebuttal were filed under seal, but they were referenced by a federal judge in public court documents reviewed by the Nevada Independent.

In mid-April, Judge James Mahan ruled in favor of Atkinson, finding that Atkinson suffered from a “severe illness” and that the COVID-19 outbreak put his life at risk.

Mahan ordered Atkinson released within 72 hours of his order. Atkinson was further ordered to spend two weeks in self-isolation, then spend the remainder of his sentence in home detention.