Deputy DA again facing state bar sanctions over alleged dishonesty


Melissa McKowan, a San Mateo County deputy district attorney and the subject of a March 2013 sanction by the state bar over dishonesty in connection with the prosecution of psychiatrist and convicted child molester Dr. William Ayres, is again facing sanctions by the state bar over a charge of dishonesty.

In a complaint filed in March 2017 with the State Bar Court in San Francisco, Robert K. Sall, special deputy trial counsel for the bar, alleges that Ms. McKowan was dishonest in a May 2013 email to the father of one Dr. Ayres' victims. In the email, Ms. McKowan wrote: "Every agency that has been forced into investigating this case by (Victoria) Balfour has found that her accusations are entirely false and have no bases whatsoever."

In the complaint, Mr. Sall says that neither the DA nor the state bar found that accusations by Ms. Balfour, a victim's advocate, to be "entirely false" or to have "no bases whatsoever," adding that Ms. McKowan "willfully violated Business and Professions Code ... by engaging in dishonesty and moral turpitude."

If the court finds that Ms. McKowan's conduct "poses a substantial threat of harm to the interests of (her) clients or to the public," she could be relegated to the status of an inactive member of the state bar and could be required to pay the costs of the investigation, hearing and review of the matter, the complaint says.

The parties met for a settlement conference on May 15, according to bar association records. A pretrial conference is set for today (May 22).

Previous case

The case in question was that of Dr. William H. Ayres,

Ms. McKowan prosecuted the case against Dr. Ayres, a San Mateo child psychiatrist alleged to have molested boys during examinations in the 1980s and 1990s. The result was a hung jury and mistrial in 2009.

Facing a retrial in 2013, Dr. Ayres, 81 at the time, pleaded no contest to the charges against him. He died of natural causes in prison in April 2016 at the age of 84.

In her complaint to the state bar about the first trial, Ms. Balfour accused Ms. McKowan of unethical and inappropriate behavior, including lying to a victim's mother, Barbara Ross, about having contacted a potential witness who could have undercut Dr. Ayers' defense that his physical examinations of patients were appropriate.

In August 2011, Ms. McKowan admitted to San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti that she had not contacted the potential witness. After investigating the accusations against Ms. McKowan, the DA's Office in August 2012 took disciplinary action against her, including a suspension "for an act or acts of dishonesty," the complaint says.

Ms. McKowan's attorney Paul F. DeMeester described the discipline by the DA's Office as three days of suspension without pay and a written reprimand.

The state bar issued Ms. McKowan a private reproval in March 2013, the "most minor" of the sanctions that the bar issues, according to previous reporting by the Almanac.

The sanction included a requirement that she attend a one-day state bar ethics school, according to a letter from the state bar to Ms. McKowan that was made public by Ms. Balfour.

The county DA's office did its own investigation based on the complaint against Ms. McKowan, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told the Almanac. "We took appropriate action," he said in March 2013, noting that regulations precluded him from describing the action. "We don't wait to see what the state bar decides" when there is a complaint against a prosecutor, he said at the time.

Responding to the bar association's recent complaint over Ms. McKowan's assertion to a victim's father that "Every agency that has been forced into investigating this case by (Victoria) Balfour has found that her accusations are entirely false and have no bases whatsoever," Ms. McKowan's attorney, Mr. DeMeester, argues that the investigations by the DA and the state bar of the 2010 allegations against Ms. McKowan were based on complaints by Ms. Ross, the mother of a victim, not on complaints by Ms. Balfour.


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11 people like this
Posted by mpcitizen
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 22, 2017 at 12:30 pm

mpcitizen is a registered user.

"no bases whatsoever"? where is the (sic) here?

9 people like this
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2017 at 4:28 pm

What do you do when you have an employee who is dishonest. You call them in and see if you can get them back on track, explain the job to them, make sure they understand the importance of honesty when you have the authority to prosecute citizens. District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe and Deputy Chief Karen Guidotti investigated the original allegations and determined a 3 day suspension without pay was appropriate for those allegations. They did not refer to the Attorney General the facts that Melissa McKowan was dishonest in her responses to Karen Guidotti during her investigation. That was a Free Pass.
Now we have the State Bar again filing charges, 2 counts of Dishonesty the same subject as before so it looks like the 3 day suspension without pay didn't make much impact, because the alleged action happened just 60 days after she was suspended.
April 17, 2017 was the first Court Hearing in San Francisco,
The response that was filed by Melissa KcKowan in 2017 was Dishonest, what a surprise, She has never been given the help she needs. I don't know how you fix dishonest.

Melissa McKowan should not be employed by San Mateo County, and should be disbarred.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 22, 2017 at 7:38 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

She'll skate. Welcome to San Mateo County

2 people like this
Posted by Disgusted
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2017 at 10:46 pm

I'm so disgusted hearing time and time again about misconduct with the SMC DA and law enforcement. It all seems to get swept under the rug. Hold the people at the top responsible, as Michael G Stogner said, it was up to them to appropriately discipline this LIAR and they did not.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2017 at 9:08 am

Every single case that SMCDDA Melissa McKowan has been involved in since 2010 should be reviewed.

How many peoples lives have been negatively impacted (Prison) by this SMC Employee.

Like this comment
Posted by Holly L
a resident of Oak Knoll School
on May 25, 2017 at 6:03 pm

Has the Almanac looked into the other cases of Mckowan's that members of the public have brought to the attention of the DA, and yet nothing was done? In April 2012 attorney Robert Allsrd blasted Mckowan to the press for failing to notify the victim of pedophile Scott Mckibbin that she had done a plea deal with him. In 2010 Mckowan was sued for violating Marsy's Law, the victims rights law by the family of victim after she failed to tell them she was dropping the case. Their complaints to Wagstafffe and Fox were ignored, which is why they filed a lawsuit. Major, major problem in the DA's office which will not be resolved until the press holds them accountable

Like this comment
Posted by Holly L.
a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Jun 5, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Let's hope the Almanac attends the trial on July 5 in San Francisco. District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said he might be a witness. What witnesses does the California Bar have lined up to testify against Mckowan? When was the last time a San Mateo prosecutor went to trial for committing misconduct? Should be interesting!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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