THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | April 4, 2016, 6:27PM
A judge continued to push for answers Monday in the case of a Petaluma teen who was charged with resisting arrest the day after she filed a police brutality lawsuit.
Judge Gary Medvigy said a series of redacted emails suggesting the misdemeanor charge against Gabbi Lemos, 18, was in the works weeks ahead of her federal claim doesn’t fully explain why prosecutors brought the allegation.
The District Attorney’s Office previously decided it would not charge Lemos based on police reports and videos, and appeared to receive no new evidence to account for the change, Medvigy said.
Medvigy, a former Sonoma County prosecutor and two-star Army reserve general, called for transparency, comparing blacked-out emails between district attorney managers to messages from government counterintelligence officials. He is expected to rule Thursday on whether two deputy district attorneys could be called to testify about the decision.
“These look like some documents I’ve seen from the NSA,” Medvigy said in court Monday in a reference to the National Security Agency.
Prosecutors maintain the timing of the single charge against Lemos is a coincidence.
The 2015 Petaluma High School graduate was arrested June 13 outside her Liberty Road home following a graduation party. The slightly built woman was thrown to the ground and suffered facial bruising during a brief confrontation with a sheriff’s deputy.
After looking at evidence including officer videos, prosecutors announced Sept. 11 that they would not charge Lemos with any crime.
But that changed Nov. 13, one day after Lemos filed an excessive force claim. A misdemeanor conviction would prevent her from winning monetary damages.
Lemos has since asked for the case to be dismissed, arguing she is the victim of vindictive prosecution.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Honigsberg said in court documents the decision to charge Lemos was reached by office managers in early October. The case was not filed until Nov. 13 because the prosecutor was awaiting a call or email from the deputy, Honigsberg said.
Prosecutors did not know Lemos was suing the county at the time of the filing, he said.
However, prosecutors have refused to explain what exactly prompted them to charge Lemos, saying that information is privileged.
Medvigy said it is unusual that a misdemeanor case was reviewed by a panel of department managers in a process that is similar to a death penalty review.
He suggested prosecutors explain any aha! moments.
“What is not clear is … what was new?” Medvigy said. “What evidence was additionally received that caused the DA to reconsider its filing decision?”
Lemos’ lawyer, Izaak Schwaiger, urged the judge to allow him to question two prosecutors, Jenica Leonard and Julliette Hyde. He accused prosecutors of giving the case “special treatment.”
“If there is something untoward, this is the appropriate venue for discovering it,” Schwaiger told the judge.