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Deputy DA 'reproved' by state bar for misconduct

Original post made on Mar 15, 2013

A prosecutor in the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office has been "privately reproved" for misconduct by the California State Bar, according to a letter sent to a victim's advocate who filed a complaint with the agency in 2010.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 15, 2013, 10:29 AM

Comments (25)

Posted by Appalling, a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2013 at 10:46 am

What is it like to be raped as a child? By your own doctor?

Most of us, thankfully, will never know, and can never imagine.

On the thread related to this topic that was locked by the Almanac, an pseudonymous poster who based on their comments might be a victim of Dr. Ayres, said that next to Ayres himself, Steve Wagstaffe and his deputy Karen Guidotti are the two most dangerous people in San Mateo County.


What does it take for a prosecutor to garner that type of contempt from a victim?

Lack of success in a prosecution?

No. We all remember the heart-wrenching scene from the O.J. Simpson verdict when the father of Ron Goldman started bawling when the not guilty verdict was read, but then expressed his admiration for the effort of the prosecutors in the press conference thereafter.

Wagstaffe and Guidotti are utterly contemptible individuals who have intentionally tried to sabotage the prosecution of Ayres from the get-go.


Because the rapes he committed occurred when he was hired by San Mateo County officials. A guilty verdict will beget lawsuits against the county, and Wagstaffe's only duty (in his twisted, malevolent, mind) is not to the people who pay taxes in the county, but rather the people who collect county paychecks or paychecks from municipalities in the county. Extra points if that paycheck is for a law-enforcement job.

Wagstaffe "took appropriate action"? Baloney. Is he going to take appropriate action based on McKowan's PUBLIC COMMENTS just weeks ago that BALFOUR MADE A FALSE COMPLAINT AGAINST HER TO THE BAR in light of Balfour's complaint being sustained and discipline being issued? That act alone justifies terminating McKowan's employment.

A "private reproval is the most minor of sanctions" the bar issues? Less than 0.01% of complaints made to the bar get any sanction whatsoever.

And what about the efforts to silence Balfour from going public with this story? The false implications made by McKowan's letter to her, undoubtedly sanctioned by Wagstaffe, that the law mandated confidentiality? That is glossed over in the above article, but is a huge issue in my mind. Wagstaffe's comments in the article above even imply he knew that admonition was fraudulent.

Posted by Ben H. , a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 15, 2013 at 11:55 am

DA Wagstaffe says, "We took appropriate action" as a result of the DA's office investigation, which was concluded last year, but he is legally precluded from saying what the action was, he said.

Um, what is the law that says a DA can't tell the public how they disciplined a proscutor? Santa Clara DA Jeff Rosen has spoken to the press openly about how he has disciplined rogue prosecutors who commit misconduct.

Posted by Ben H. , a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 15, 2013 at 12:02 pm

"Mr. Wagstaffe said Ms. McKowan was the right choice to prosecute the case because she is already familiar with the "massive amounts of documents" already generated by the previous trial and numerous court hearings over the years."

Um, no, Mr. Wagstaffe. There are at least two victims in the case WHO HAVE NOT RECEIVED A SINGLE CALL FROM THE DA'S office since they testified in the first trial in 2009. The attorney for one family wrote a letter to the prosecutor in 2009, asking that she contact them before every hearing. This is a victim's right, per Marsy's Law. The prosecutor has never notified the family of a hearing in 3 1/2 years. How does the DA even know if these victims are dead or alive or are even willing to testify again as they haven't heard from them?

The trial was slated for March 11 before the most recent delay. But on March 5, just six days before the trial was supposed to start, the prosecutor still hadn't contacted an in statute victim from the first trial. How does the DA know if the victim is still living?

Come to think of it, Mr Wagstaffe, why is it that this case has dragged on for six years, when every other doctor who has been arrested for pedophilia around the country since Ayres was arrested, was convicted in less than a year? How is that it only took nine months for Jerry Sandusky to be convicted, after his arrest ?

Wagstaffe does not care about this case, or victim's rights, or he would have removed this prosecutor from the case and office two years ago.

This prosecutor was also sued by the family of a victim for violating Marsy's law and for lying to the court to get out of trying the case by falsely claiming the family didn't want the victim to testify. There's a much, much larger pattern of unchecked misconduct here, and the problem is going to get much worse for Wagstaffe

Posted by Ben H. , a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm

I have just learned that after legal analyst Robin Sax wrote an article for the Huffington Post that was critical of Wagstaffe and the prosecutor on the Ayres case in 2009, that Wagstaffe's office actually called up the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, where Sax was on leave, and tried to get her in trouble with her bosses for writing that piece. She did not get into trouble.

Really hypocritical of Wagstaffe, considering that one of his prosecutors who worked on domestic violence cases, wrote an op-ed piece while he was working for the DA that criticized a bill pushed by Senator Leland Yee that ensured that battered women would not be criminally charged for not testifying against their attackers.

Posted by Appalling, a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2013 at 12:46 pm

There is no law prohibiting Wagstaffe from discussing the discipline since the prosector is not a cop. Cops got that ridiculous dispensation by their union bullying the legislature. There is no California law that prohibits this.

Santa Clara DA Rosen discussing how he disciplines prosecutors is a good example of this latest lie by Wagstaffe.

Wagstaffe [portion removed; see terms of use] will lie whenever he thinks there's a decent chance of not getting caught. The Almanac is the latest example.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Wagstaffe is a disgusting corrupt politician. The events surrounding this and the Ayers prosecution pretty much prove it. Unfortunately, the San Mateo County sheeple will continue to reelect this vile individual. Yes, as another poster on another thread wrote, there is more to fear from Wagstaffe than the victim in this case. There is nothing worse or more dangerous than a corrupt individual in law enforcement and that is exactly what Wagstaffe is.

Posted by Holly L., a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 16, 2013 at 2:06 am

Holly L. is a registered user.

Prosecutor Mckowan was sued by the family of a victim in another molestation case for lying to a judge and other fraud. Victim's rights groups and Mark Klass held a press conference to protest Mckowan and the DA's office in 2010.

From the San Mateo Daily Journal:

Web Link

A statewide victim's group and well-known advocate Mark Klaas yesterday called on the local courts to set aside the dismissal of a child molestation case, saying prosecutors violated the victims' constitutional rights by not informing them of the planned resolution, not allowing them to be at the final court hearing and lying about whether the young girl involved was willing to testify.
"Abuse is abuse and it must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Klaas, wearing a button bearing the face of his murdered daughter, Polly.

Klaas said he and the others were there to hold San Mateo County accountable.
Although the call for action by Crime Victims United was spurred by the now-closed molestation case filed then dropped against Anthony John Sadek, the news conference assembled in front of the Redwood City court branch kept its focus on the handling of the situation rather than the alleged specifics of the charges.

The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office and prosecutor Melissa McKowan didn't tell Sadek's estranged wife — who claims he drugged her with GHB in 2006 to gain access to their young daughter — about the proceedings and got the case dismissed by lying to a judge that the girl's mother wouldn't allow her to testify, said Nina Salarno-Ashford, the CVU advocate and attorney representing them.

Posted by, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 16, 2013 at 5:27 am

On March 6 of this year, Ayres' lawyer stipulated to the judge that he was filing to get a copy of the Bar complaint against Mckowan. The judge said that if any other member of the DA's office had a copy of the complaint, then Ayres' lawyer could get a copy. When the judge asked Mckowan if anyone else in the DA's office had a copy, she avoided answering. Finally after being admonished by the judge fir not answering, Mckiwan said that no one else in her office had a copy.

But Wagstaffe told the Almanac that his office conducted their own parallel investigation into Mckowan while the Bar was doing theirs. How would the DA be able to investigate what the Bar was investigating Mckowan for unless they'd seen the complaint?

Someone's lying here. And you can bet Ayres' lawyer is working to find out the answer to this as we speak. If Mckowan lied to the court then she us in huge trouble.

Pass the popcorn.

Posted by SteveC, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 16, 2013 at 6:34 am

SteveC is a registered user.

The state bar also said they wouuld fight any attempt by the lawyer to get a copy of the complaint. Me thinks the fight is on. ADA should be disbared if she told an un ruth again and to a judge!

Posted by, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 16, 2013 at 6:56 am

Ah, but the Judge on March 6 said that if DA Wagstaffe or Chief Deputy DA Guidotti had copies of the Bar complaint, then Ayres lawyer would be allowed to have them. He wouldn't even have to go to the Barbto get them.

Reporters at several news organizations have copies of the Bar complaints as well.

Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2013 at 7:51 am

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

Here is some news on those Keep your Mouth Shut letters.

FBI told to stop sending them for awhile.

Web Link

Posted by, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm

The Palo Alto Daily Post has a story up today ( no link- they don't have an online version.) Headline is:"New Plot in Child Molest Trial."

First paragraph: " A San Mateo County prosecutor will retry a molestation case despite an internal investigation into allegations that she committed professional misconduct during the first trial."

Go out and get a copy if you are in San Mateo County. The victims have a right to know what their investigation turned up.f

Posted by Holly L., a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 17, 2013 at 5:18 am

Holly L. is a registered user.

It is extremely rare that prosecutors who commit misconduct are punished at all. Out of 707 complaints of prosecutorial misconduct over an 11 year period - only SIX prosecutors were disciplined.

Web Link
Report: Prosecutorial Misconduct Often Unpunished in California

Posted: October 5, 2010 6:32 pm

Judges in California are "casting a blind eye to prosecutors who place their thumbs on the scale of justice," according to a report released yesterday by the Veritas Initiative, a new investigative arm at the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University Law School.

The report, "Preventable Error: A Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct in California 1997–2009," examined 707 cases in which courts had found prosecutorial misconduct in the 11 year period. Of all of those cases, only six prosecutors were disciplined.

Maurice Possley, an award-winning journalist who worked on the study by the Northern California Innocence Project, told the Los Angeles Times, "Prosecutors aren't held accountable. Absent that, why should they change their habits?"

The misconduct covered in the report ranged from failing to turn over evidence to presenting false evidence in court. As a response to their research, the Northern California Innocence Project is calling for legal reforms requiring courts to report all findings of misconduct to the state bar, which they currently are not required to do. When a court decides the misconduct was harmless, those cases often go unreported.

Posted by Holly L., a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 17, 2013 at 5:51 am

Holly L. is a registered user.

In an October 2011 Mercury News story about the Bar investigation into the Ayres prosecutor, a California Bar spokesperson said that the Bar could recall only TWO complaints brought by CRIME VICTIMS against prosecutors in a twenty-year period.

Posted by Holly L., a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 17, 2013 at 6:26 am

Holly L. is a registered user.

Who fed the false information to Mercury News reporter Josh Melvin about the results of the Bar probe, before the probe had even been completed ?

This Mercury News story by Josh Melvin was published on February 26, 2013, before the Bar had completed its probe.
Web Link

"McDougall said he plans to ask that the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office be recused from the case. He points to the State Bar of California's investigation into McKowan prompted by complaints from Balfour and others, including alleged victims in the Ayres case. That investigation, which remains open, pitted the prosecutor against witnesses who would presumably testify at a retrial.

The probe revealed that some witnesses from the Ayres case had made false accusations against McKowan in the state bar probe."

The Bar probe did NOT reveal that some witnesses had made false allegations.

It found that Mckowan had made false allegations !! So who fed this false information to the reporter? If anyone in the DA's office gave it to him , then they are in trouble.

Posted by Holly L., a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 19, 2013 at 3:49 am

Holly L. is a registered user.

New SF Chronicle story today about prosecutor Mckowan being disciplined in the Ayres case:

Web Link

Posted by Holly L., a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 19, 2013 at 5:30 am

Holly L. is a registered user.

[Post removed. Please don't use Town Square to accuse people of misconduct. That can be done in legal filings.]

Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2013 at 8:18 am

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

Thank You, Renee Batti and the Almanac for publishing this important story of Prosecutorial Misconduct. You were the only paper for days to make it available to the public. Today the 2nd paper SF Gate has let the public now about it. San Mateo County Times..No Way. San Mateo Daily Journal....No Way, SF Examiner Nope, PA Daily Post did a sort of story where they fabricated a statement they claimed Victoria said so I give them a NO on PM story.

Holly asks a great question, "When are the citizens of San Mateo County going to STAND up and fight back against the abuse by the San Mateo DA's office?"

When the media stops hiding stories that aren't favorable. So far the Citizens don't know.

Posted by Holly L., a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 19, 2013 at 11:09 am

Holly L. is a registered user.

Other crime victims' families on other molestation cases handled by this prosecutor and who were on the receiving end of troubling behavior and statements by her also made complaints to District Attorney Steve. Wagstaffe.

But he never responded. And the problem got worse, I don't think readers of the Almanac will ever know how horrible it is to be mistreated and lied to by a prosecutor who is supposed to be on your side, until they've been in those shoes.

And if DA Wagstaffe refuses to step in, then the crime victims have no one to turn to. One day some of you may also find that you are a crime victim and that the case will be tried by the San Mateo DA. It is only then that you will find that the DA's office doesn't care about you or how they treat crime victims. Start paying attention. Vote Wagstaffe out. Or recall him. But get him out. He's been getting away with stomping on the rights of victims for too long and now he thinks he can do whatever he wants.

Posted by Holly L., a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 22, 2013 at 5:18 am

Holly L. is a registered user.

At the suggestion of a San Mateo Supervisor, a list of violations of Marsy's Law (the Victim's Right Bill enacted in 2008) by prosecutor Melissa Mckowan in three molestation cases has just been submitted to the San Mateo Board of Supervisors by crime victims' families.

For the past three years, crime victims' families have written to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe on these egregious violations of Marsy's Law that have been committed by his prosecutor in three cases. DA Wagstaffe has never bothered to respond.

Will the San Mateo Board of Supervisors take this matter up?

Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2013 at 8:11 am

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

I support a Single Point Data Base for ALL Whistleblowers in San Mateo County.

Thank You, Supervisor Dave Pine for trying agenda item 9.

Web Link

Posted by Holly L., a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:56 am

Holly L. is a registered user.

A second complaint has been submitted to the San Mateo Board of Supervisors concerning the Ayres prosecutor's false statements to victims during the Ayres trial in 2009 that victim's advocate Victoria Balfour was actually " working for Ayres' lawyer and getting paid by him" and that Balfour " was not to be trusted."

Balfour was the person who found all of the Ayres victims whose names were used to get a search warrant on Ayres' home in 2006. Without her turning over these names to the San Mateo Police Department - at their request- there would have been no criminal investigation into Ayres. Years before there was a criminal case against Ayres, Balfour worked to keep the hopes up of victims who despaired there would never be an investigation. She found civil lawyers for some of them, and persuaded them to file complaints with the California Medical Board. Most importantly she got them to go to the police

Complaints were sent to San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe in 2009 and 2010 about the prosecutor's false and outrageous allegations that Balfour was actually working for Ayres' lawyer. . As is typical, Wagstaffe never bothered to respond.

Something needs to be done, fast, about the problem in the DA's office. This is out of control.

Posted by Holly L., a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 22, 2013 at 11:54 am

Holly L. is a registered user.

A high number of men on trial for murder in San Mateo County have reported that San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe showed up for their trials to assist the assistant district attorneys on the case every step of the way.

Curiously, neither Wagstaffe nor Deputy Chief Karen Guidotti ever showed up at the three- week Ayres trial once. No one was overseeing the prosecutor. What does that say about how important the Ayres case was to the San Mateo DA? Is it because the DA's office itself has hired Ayres over the years?

Posted by Holly L., a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 22, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Holly L. is a registered user.

In reference to the Ayres' prosecutor telling victims whom Balfour had found for the San Mateo Police that Balfour was actually working for Ayres' lawyer during the 2009 trial:

Oddly, while Mckowan was telling victims and their families during the Ayres trial in 2009 that Balfour was actually working for and getting paid by Ayres' lawyer Doron Weinberg, acting as some kind of secret double agent or something, AT THE SAME TIME she was making these false accusations, the prosecutor came over to Balfour at the trial and asked for help in checking Ayres' resume to see if it was accurate. This was just a few minutes before the prosecutor was to cross-examine Ayres for the first time. It was clear she herself had never bothered to look at the resume, which was extremely lengthy.

So a prosecutor asks for assistance from a victim's advocate who she thinks is working as a double agent for the defendant ? District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe was informed of the prosecutor's nutso behavior. He never responded. But the California Bar did!!!

Posted by Holly L., a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 22, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Holly L. is a registered user.

Has it ever occurred to anyone that it is odd that Ayres has still not been convicted, six years after his arrest? Jerry Sandusky was convicted just nine months after his arrest. Every pedophile doctor in the US who has been arrested AFTER Ayres was arrested in 2007 has been convicted in less than a year.

Why did the San Mateo DA put a relative rookie on one of its most important cases to be tried by their office in recent years? The New York Times did a story when Ayres was arrested, but Wagstaffe can't be bothered to show up for a single day at the Ayres trial. It was clear the prosecutor was ill prepared and in over her head, but no one from the DA's office bothered to show up to monitor her. [Portion removed. Please don't speculate about motives in this case.]

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