New felony charges in Yuba County against attorneys
New felony charges have been filed in a 5-year-old Yuba County case against two prominent Yuba-Sutter attorneys accused of attempting to buy-off a key witness in a high-profile sexual harassment case.
A 4-year-old indictment was dismissed and the state Attorney General's Office filed felony charges in Yuba County Superior Court against Jesse I. Santana and David W. Vasquez.
Both attorneys appeared in court Tuesday, but neither entered a plea. Defense attorneys asked for more time to review the new complaint.
Both attorneys were indicted in 2008, but the 3rd District Court of Appeals said a Yuba County judge improperly impaneled the grand jury and dismissed the indictment earlier this year.
"A new complaint was filed to keep both cases together," said Barton Bowers, deputy attorney general.
Both attorneys were charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and dissuading a witness, both felonies. Vasquez faces an additional felony count of dissuading a witness for financial gain, according to the complaint.
News of the charges pleased former towing company owner Joseph Griesa.
Santana and Vasquez allegedly tried to orchestrate an illegal contract that would have kept the victim from testifying against Griesa in 2008 in exchange for $100,000.
Vasquez represented Griesa for the alleged contract, and Santana represented the 17-year-old girl.
"Maybe justice will actually be served, finally," Griesa said Tuesday.
Despite being convicted in 2009 of a misdemeanor count of sending inappropriate text messages to the 17-year-old former employee, Griesa has adamantly maintained he is innocent and continues to fight to have the conviction overturned.
Griesa noted that both attorneys were indicted in 2008, a month after he was charged. Griesa has been convicted, sentenced and served his time and filed several appeals, while Santana and Vasquez have yet to be arraigned.
"I wonder what technicality they will try to use to get out of it this time," Griesa said.
Griesa also filed a civil lawsuit against both attorneys, but that case was also tossed out earlier this year.
Vasquez's attorney, Michael Barrette, called the new case "a total waste of taxpayer time and money."
"It's ludicrous these two attorneys, both pillars of the community, should have to go through this any further — it's just a tragedy," Barrette said. "The case depends on what Griesa had to say and, time after time, he's proven himself to be the unreliable witness that he is."
Barrette said neither Vasquez nor Santana broke any laws.
"This has taken a toll on my client, and now it's as if the last five years never happened," Barrette said.
Santana and Vasquez are due back in court Dec. 11 for arraignment.
CONTACT Rob Parsons at email@example.com or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.