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A Troubled Rape Case Becomes Even More Troubling

After Contra Costa County prosecutors agree to a dodgy plea deal that they hoped would advance their case against a former political rival, the felon they released allegedly terrorizes a couple.



In late 2008, Roy Gerald Gordon was stewing in a Contra Costa County jail on a charge that he had violently assaulted a man with a sledgehammer. As a registered sex offender with a long record of drug offenses, gun possession, and parole violations, Gordon appeared to have a bleak future. With his bail set at $130,000, he wasn't going anywhere, and given his previous convictions, he faced a long prison sentence. But then, without explanation, a superior court judge waived his bail and freed him. It was only after Gordon was allegedly involved in another violent crime that it came to light his bail was part of a dodgy deal between his girlfriend and the troubled Contra Costa District Attorney's Office.

Gordon's girlfriend, Jessie Deguzman, does not seem particularly savvy. Her life has been characterized by a series of bad decisions. Many of the men in her life have been criminals, pimps, or drug addicts, and she has often supported them, and her own crystal methamphetamine addiction, by working as a prostitute. But she apparently had the smarts to dupe the District Attorney's Office into releasing her boyfriend by making flimsy charges in an unrelated case.

Deguzman agreed to allege that former Deputy District Attorney Michael Gressett had exchanged sex with her twice in 2006 in exchange for reduced charges against her pimp. Prosecutors were interested in this allegation because it would help them corroborate their very troubled rape case against Gressett. The former deputy DA, who was fired in 2008, has denied the charges and is currently in arbitration to get his old job back.

But when the time came for Deguzman to testify against Gressett earlier this month, she suddenly said that she had made up all the charges just to get her boyfriend Gordon out of jail. The plea deal blew up in the faces of the DA's two top managing prosecutors, but not before an innocent Pittsburg couple had been thrown into a desperate battle for their lives against a group of armed intruders that appears to have included Gordon.

The bungled bail deal is just the latest unsavory episode in a series of embarrassing and questionable actions connected to the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office and the political campaign to replace District Attorney Bob Kochly. The increasingly absurd situation calls into question the judgment of the two most powerful prosecutors in the DA's office. And the problems also lead to the private law offices of Dan O'Malley, a leading candidate for district attorney.

A hot topic during this election season has been how deeply troubled the DA's office has become. Besides deep budget cuts, the office has been revealed to be the home of a sex-obsessed office culture, strong-arm political intimidation, and an election-related fistfight between a top administrator and his lead homicide prosecutor. Most troubling is the questionable investigation into rape allegations against the veteran prosecutor Gressett, who was charged with sexually assaulting a junior colleague during a lunch break. District Attorney Kochly fired Gressett after he was arrested for the rape.

The rape investigation was seriously flawed (see "A Troubled Case of Rape," Oct. 28, 2009). It also has been criticized as designed to enhance O'Malley's bid for district attorney by destroying Gressett, a popular attorney who had challenged his boss in three previous elections. The investigation just also happened to throw dirt on Gressett's supervisor at the time of the alleged rape, Deputy District Attorney Mark Peterson, a 25-year prosecutor who is running against O'Malley and the power structure that has dominated the DA's Office for more than three decades.

Details of the Deguzman deal came out during Gressett's arbitration hearing earlier this month. It began when candidate O'Malley, a criminal defense attorney, was visiting a client at the West County Detention Facility. Gordon, who was awaiting trial on the sledgehammer assault, asked O'Malley to represent him. O'Malley has said that he referred the case to his law partner, Thomas O'Connor.

After O'Connor took the case, he ended up meeting with Gordon's girlfriend, Deguzman, and it somehow came up that she had information on the unrelated rape case against Gressett. Deguzman later said she told O'Connor that she had twice performed oral sex on Gressett in 2006 in order to get him to reduce the charges against her pimp, whom he was prosecuting. According to O'Malley, O'Connor passed this information onto the DA's Office.

Probably because the Gressett rape investigation had produced such a weak case, Deguzman's story touched a nerve at the DA's office. The victim in the Gressett rape case, who has been identified as Jane Doe, has given conflicting versions of the incident and showed no physical evidence of assault despite what she described as a violent attack. Furthermore, when the case made a splash in the media, not one other woman aside from Deguzman came forward to claim that the 51-year-old veteran prosecutor had so much as made an inappropriate comment.

Consequently, the DA's Office gave Deguzman's story top priority. According to testimony at Gressett's job arbitration hearing by Chief Assistant District Attorney Brian Baker, on January 7, 2009 Baker and Chief Inspector Gene Greenwald picked up Deguzman at the drug treatment facility where she was being treated for addiction to crystal methamphetamine. From there, they drove her to O'Malley's law office where they met Assistant District Attorney Paul Sequeira and Lt. Inspector Daryl Jackson. Deguzman then made her allegations about Gressett. Baker and Sequeira were apparently so eager to shore up the case against Gressett that they agreed to remove Gordon's bail without verifying any of Deguzman's claims, according to Baker's testimony.

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