by Tom Jensen –
During the break that we are currently on in this trial, I have had a chance to do a lot of thinking. I wonder how such a miscarriage of justice can be allowed to occur. The criminal justice system in Stanislaus County appears to be at times used as a tool to destroy people who are disliked by elected officials or people of power in our community.
The first time I became aware of this was during the trial of our former mayor Carmen Sabatino. I attended every day of testimony during this trial. The election of Carmen Sabatino came as a great shock to many people who had controlled Modesto over the years. As soon as he was elected, a concerted effort was made to find a way to get him out of office.
It appears to me that a local real estate baron, and his land use attorney were the main players in this effort. Someone contacted a Sonora attorney by the name of Roger Brown, and made allegations against Mayor Sabatino. Eventually, 12 felony charges were levied against Carmen Sabatino. None of the charges were based in fact, but Carmen was put through the trial of his life.
During the trial, the main witness against Mr. Sabatino, Patrick McGrath, decided to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, and refused to testify. It made no difference that the charges levied against Carmen Sabatino were based on Patrick McGrath’s lies, and Carmen had to endure a lengthy trial. Patrick McGrath eventually lost his license to practice law because of a Ponzi scheme that he used to steal money from others.
The District Attorney was unable to convict Carmen of any of the charges. Because of all the publicity concerning the trial, Carmen Sabatino was unable to win re-election for mayor of Modesto, and has been unable to get elected in subsequent elections. The powerbrokers succeeded in destroying his political life. Frank Carson was the defense attorney that defended Carmen Sabatino during this trial.
My next experience of this type of political prosecution was with the AJ Pontillo Bail Bonds case. AJ Pontillo had become very unpopular with law enforcement in our community, and they tried to take him out by charging him with kidnapping and other charges. These charges were totally without merit. In the end, AJ was found totally innocent of all charges. During the trial, AJ’s wife died while being pregnant. Many people feel that her death was caused by the stress of the situation. Frank Carson defended AJ Pontillo during this trial.
My third experience of this type of political prosecution was with the trial of Frank Drummond, who was teaching police science at Modesto Junior College. Mr. Drummond had exposed misconduct by local police officers who were involved with teaching at Modesto Junior College. Frank Drummond was charged with sexual crimes against a minor. These charges were totally baseless in fact, and he was not convicted. Mr. Drummond was able to get his teaching position back after the trial, and is in the process of getting back pay for what he lost. Frank Carson defended Frank Drummond during this trial.
Frank Carson has been a thorn in the side of the district attorney for many years. He is now facing the trial of his life. The district attorney is trying to build a case of murder against him based on the testimony of convicted felons and drug addicts that have been given special treatment in exchange for their cooperation. The district attorney is willing to ruin the lives of many fine people in order to take Frank Carson out. I have attended most days of testimony during this preliminary trial. I have not heard anything during this testimony that would make me think that Frank Carson, or any of the other defendants, is guilty of anything.
The burden of proof is very low during a preliminary trial. I hope that Judge Zuniga finds that the prosecution has not met the level of proof necessary for this trial to continue in front of a jury. I think this is probably wishful thinking. This trial has gone on far too long already.
It is time for the Board of Supervisors to do the right thing and stop these political prosecutions from happening ever again. By allowing this type of injustice to occur in Stanislaus County, they have become part of the injustice. Our tax dollars are being wasted trying to destroy people who have become unpopular with powerful individuals in our community. We need to root out the corruption that exists within our local law enforcement, and allow the vast majority of good officials to do their job.
Sincerely; William Thomas Jensen (Tom)