Wendy Segall, a prosecutor with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s “Stalking and Threat Assessment Team” has been posting evidence and arguments to prove feeble claims of “stalking” against Los Angeles men.
Jurors in Los Angeles are demanding better evidence from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. The D.A. has been troubled by comments from jurors who demand better evidence in the cases the L.A.D.A. bring to them for consideration. With the advent of TV shows such as L.A.Law in the 90’s came the verbal theatrics that Johnnie Cochran ran with in the O.J. matter. Now, shows such as CSI (and its off-shoots) have raised the bar.
The L.A.D.A. has been asking jurors whether they think that “CSI” quality evidence is necessary to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. In many cases, the answer is “yes” and the D.A. is left to explain that such evidence is just not economical to produce. . . and yet, they demand that jurors find defendants guilty on otherwise scant evidence.
One such example occurred in a case handled by Deputy District Attorney, Wendy Segall who sought a conviction against a defendant who was alleged to have emailed his ex-girlfriend threatening emails. No evidence existed that the emails originated from the defendant and efforts to obtain the I.P. addresses through written discovery requests were lost on this D.A. who proceeded to rely upon the hearsay documents consisting merely of printouts of the suspicious email. To make matters worse, Segall charged the defendant with 15 strike offenses relating to Penal Code 422 (making a terrorist threats). To repeat, Ms. Segall charged the defendant with 15 serious felony charges for what consisted of 15 so-called threatening emails and exposed to 56-years-to-life in jail while refusing to source the origin of the emails.
While Wendy Segall stonewalled written discovery efforts to glean the I.P. address, she insisted on excessively high bail and otherwise incarcerated the (presumed innocent) defendant in jail (for 9 months) during her dilatory conduct and refusal to provide I.P. information and the names of servers and other indicia of authentication of the suspect emails. Indeed, she refused to even inquire about the possibility that the suspect emails were ghost emails or worse, fabricated by the jaded ex-girlfriend. Come to find out, she hadn’t even tasked an investigator to make an inquiry about the emails but, instead, tasked the investigator to investigate the inquisitive defense attorney, Sean Erenstoft.
Today, the Los Angeles District Attorney is bringing more and more “electronic” cases and relying on weaker and weaker evidence to convict defendants. It is up to the defense bar to demand, through discovery and from poignant questioning, what efforts are being taken to shore-up the evidence that is offered as proof. When it comes to electronic crimes such as email threats, fraud and identity theft, asute attorneys should call upon the D.A. to show their work. . . and when the work is scant; they’ve cut corners; or simply ignored discovery inquiries, make sure the jury knows that more reliable (and better) evidence exists but the D.A. simply didn’t take the time or care enough to make sure the evidence was solid. . . beyond a reasonable doubt. When more criminal defense attorneys stand up to the D.A. and demand to be heard at trial, only then can we expect that judges will begin to push the D.A. to produce better evidence.
When Erenstoft was stonewalled by Wendy Segall, he filed a civil suit against the D.A.’s victim/witness (supported by a written police report alleging her battery on Erenstoft’s client). The civil suit survived a demurrer filed by the victim/witness and Erenstoft proceeded to obtain the I.P. data via civil discovery. A day after tendering a copy of the evidence on the D.A., Segall was forced to dismiss the case against Erenstoft’s client.
“Hell hath not fury like a woman scorned. . .” Segall then convened a grand jury to indict Erenstoft for “dissuading a witness” in connection with his filing the civil suit against her witness. Segall effectively bypassed judicial oversight by seeking an indictment against Erenstoft — despite the fact that Judge Stephen A. Marcus would later dismiss the case against him. The criminal litigation was otherwise a S.L.A.P.P. intended to quash Erenstoft’s First Amendment right to “petition the government for the redress of grievances” via the civil suit).
Erenstoft was asute to observe that the civil litigation initiated against the prosection witness was a means to an end — the attainment of discovery that was otherwise being sequestered by Wendy Segall. The filing of civil litigation is a valid mechanism for the redress of grievances. Civil litigation also provides a means (through the Code of Civil Procedure) to obtain information that may be relied upon to push-back against the momentum of a biased prosecutor who is otherwise withholding Brady evidence. And of course, the validity of any civil litigation is subject to demurrer or similar procedure at virtually any stage of the litigation. Indeed, Erenstoft’s civil complaint filed on behalf of his client handily survived a civil demurrer.
When a prosecutor tasks its investigators to investigate a criminal defense attorney, as Wendy Segall did in the case of People of California v. Chris Stewart, we must certainly question the ethics of the prosecutor. At the precise time in which Wendy Segall was tasked with responding to criminal discovery consisting of the source of any emails claimed to have been sent by Chris Stewart, Wendy Segall sent a tax-payer-funded investigator to investigate her opponent.
Criminal defense attorneys exercising their client’s First Amendment Right to petition the government for the redress of grievances (by the filing of civil suits against corrupt government witnesses) should be wary of Wendy Segall. Research on Wendy Segall reveals that Wendy Segall prosecuted a man for crimes when she knew she had no evidence to prove a crucial element of the crime she alleged. In the matter of People v. Ghaffari, the 2nd Appellate District overturned a conviction Segall had obtained when she otherwise painted the defendant reprehensible with a comprehensive and repetitive recitation of unflattering allegations. The jury was said to have improperly confused Ghaffari’s unsavory conduct with his relatively innocuous online speech. It was the unethical prosecutorial conduct which carried the case past the jury despite Wendy Segall’s knowing lack of evidence. (See, Daily Journal, Friday, September 29, 2000 – Court Reverses Jury in Cybersex-Chat Case).
Sean Erenstoft can be reached at (310) 613-8887.