While the motions between the District Attorney’s office and Robert Pape’s attorney became more heated, the contention between the prosecutor and defense ultimately became moot when the DA’s office dismissed its charges against Pape for the 2006 triple homicides in Pinyon.
Whether Riverside County DA Paul Zellerbach would have to appear as witness to be questioned by Pape’s attorney, Richard Blumenfeld, became the equivalent of a legal food fight.
In its Sept. 19 motion, the DA’s office complained that Blumenfeld’s original motion of 32 pages, “exceeds the page limit set forth by local court rules …” Further on, the motion accuses Blumenfeld of “wast[ing] scant judicial resources and the time of an elected official by frivolously serving subpoenas …” and characterizes his motion as “an improper ‘fishing expedition.’”
In his response, Pape’s attorney compared the DA’s office efforts to dismiss Zellerbach’s subpoena to notorious political actions of the past.
“[T]he entire episode more resembles a second-story operation like the Watergate break-in than a judicial proceeding. Instead of E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, the henchmen here were Kelli Catlett and Emily Hanks [the deputy DAs working this case]. And like Watergate the object of the exercise is the obstruction of justice,” he wrote.
Blumenfeld originally filed a subpoena for Zellerbach on Sept. 9. A hearing was held on Sept. 12, and Judge Michael Naughton, who was not assigned to the case, quashed the subpoena. However, Blumenfeld missed the hearing.
But at the scheduled hearing on Sept. 15, Blumenfeld appealed that decision to Judge Charles Stafford, who acknowledged that another judicial official had quashed the subpoena and he was unwilling to overrule it. Eventually, during the hearing, he decided to order Zellerbach to appear at the October proceeding and said the court does not need to subpoena his presence.
After this hearing, the DA’s office said, “DA Zellerbach is aware of the judge’s order and intends at this time to abide by the order.”
Subsequently, on Sept. 19 and 24 and as late as Oct. 2, the day before dismissing the charges, the DA’s office filed motions to quash Zellerbach’s court appearance. Basically, they argued that Blumenfeld had provided no reason why Zellerbach knew anything about the case that the deputy DAs wouldn’t know. Since he had no direct personal knowledge of the grand jury proceedings, his appearance as witness was unnecessary.
Near the conclusion of the Sept. 19 motion, the DA’s office shared its opinion of the defense’s actions. “Other than the inherent harassment, intended fishing expedition and resultant sideshow circus created by compelling the presence and testimony of the current top law enforcement officer in Riverside County post-election, there is no legitimate purpose in subpoenaing Mr. Zellerbach.”
Blumenfeld’s opinion of the DA’s argument for quashing the intended court appearance was to liken him to the “Sun King, …somehow above the law and that the law must bend to his will or whim.”
On Oct. 2, the DA’s office described Blumenfeld’s response as “unprofessional vitriol” and diversion tactics, blatant intimidation and gamesmanship. The next day, the DA’s office dismissed all charges.
Since the charges against Pape and his friend Cristin Smith were dismissed at the hearing scheduled to decide whether the DA should be a witness, the court avoided making a decision on this peculiar and antagonistic legal debate.