Judge Thomas T. Hastings told the criminal defense lawyers for Deputy District Attorney Michael Gressett this afternoon that he is dismissing all rape charges against their client for allegedly raping a young co-worker during a lunch break in 2009.
Hastings' 68-page order explained his reasons for the dismissal, which included the failure of the California Attorney General to put vital information before the grand jury that indicted Gressett, including that the alleged victim —Holly Harpham — had received a $450,000 settlement from the county.
The case made huge headlines in May of 2009 when the DA announced that Gressett had been arrested for the violent rape of a contract deputy DA — Harpham, who has only been referred to as “Jane Doe” in the press. But the case had problems right away. For example, the DA had waited more than four months to begin investigating the charges and the investigation was riddled with conflict of interest issues.
The case also appeared to have an exceptional amount of crossover with the a close campaign for district attorney. For example, Gressett’s immediate supervisor, Deputy District Attorney Mark Peterson, was demoted during the investigation for reasons that appeared to be more related to his candidacy for district attorney than anything to do with the alleged rape case.
Then there were numerous problems with the victim’s story. Harpham, now a public defender in Florida, repeatedly changed her account of the assault, which involved a gun, an ice pick, ice cubes and handcuffs. Harpham did not have any medical evidence that supported her claims of a particularly violent assault. In fact, 15 minutes after alleged attack, Harpham went shopping with a co-worker.
For days after the alleged attack, Harpham did not go to the police or a doctor. Instead she went to the law partner of well-connected criminal defense attorney Dan O’Malley, a former superior court judge and the son of a former county DA. At the time, O’Malley was a candidate for district attorney and the power structure’s chosen heir apparent.
At one point in the investigation, Brian Baker and Paul Sequiera, the second and third in command under former District Attorney Robert Kochly, made a dodgy deal with a methamphetamine addicted prostitute to testify that Gressett had inappropriately had sex with her while she was facing criminal charges in 2006. In exchange, Baker and Sequeira agreed to release her boyfriend from jail where he was awaiting charges that he attacked a man with a sledgehammer. Gordon, a convicted sex offender, was arrested within a few weeks for his part in a botched home invasion robbery in which more than thirty gunshots were fired.
The prostitute showed up to Gressett’s arbitration hearing for his job in February and recanted her claims about the inappropriate encounter and made a public apology to Gressett through the press. Gressett later prevailed in the arbitration and Kochly was ordered to rehire Gressett with full back pay and benefits.
Gressett, who was facing a possible sentence of life imprisonment, is not commenting on the dismissal, according to his attorneys.