Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Grand juror speaks out


I served as a member of the 2011-2012 El Dorado County Grand Jury, and began serving a second term on the 2012-2013 El Dorado County Grand Jury. Judge Stephen Bailey was the supervising judge during both of these jury sessions. At the end of the 2011-2012 jury session, the presentation of a report on one of our investigations met with court censorship. I was very vocal regarding my opinion that the report should be issued as originally written.

It became apparent to me early in my second term that the foreman, Ray Van Asten, was not following proper jury protocol (Robert’s Rules of Order/Parliamentary Procedure) in conducting meetings and conducting votes on organizational activities within the full body of the jury. Further, he failed to appoint a pro tem or a secretary prior to statewide training meetings. Each week Van Asten would appoint a member of the body to take meeting minutes which were then submitted to him. Upon our next full body meeting we would occasionally discover that votes taken or committees formed during the previous meeting had been changed in the meeting minutes and Van Asten would assert that the vote was invalid as a result of how the discussion was categorized, or he would deny any recollection of what had transpired with respect to the discrepancies.

I was very vocal about these breaches of protocol during the meetings, often stopping the proceedings to identify that procedure had not been followed. I was also vocal about the seemingly altered meeting minutes and the impropriety of not selecting officers prior to training meetings that would give those officers a guideline for managing oversight in the full body. As a result of my outspokenness, Van Asten became frustrated with me and began loudly contesting anything I had to say, ignoring me during discussions, and asking me to step back from commenting at all. A pattern of harassment began to develop.

Becoming more and more frustrated about the way the Foreman was treating me, and about the breaches of protocol which I felt bordered on illegality, I made a complaint of harassment to El Dorado County Human Resources and was told that they had no purveyance over the jury body and suggested I contact the Superior Court instead. I was told by the Court that human resources were the County’s responsibility, and that in any case, Grand Jurors were volunteers and really had no standing from an HR perspective. Nevertheless, I then took my complaint to the district attorney, Vern Pierson. He listened to my complaint and told me he would look into it.

Within two weeks of my complaint, I received an e-mail from Judge Bailey’s clerk, requesting that I meet at the judge’s office with the judge. No explanation for the meeting was given, and I received no physical/formal written notice of the meeting. Upon arriving at the meeting I was told that it had been moved from the judge’s office to his courtroom. Present in the courtroom were the judge, Van Asten, the clerk, a court stenographer, and a Sheriff’s bailiff. What ensued was not a meeting, but rather a hearing, during which I was essentially threatened with contempt of court unless I “got along” with Van Asten in the Grand Jury meetings. I took this to mean that I should simply do what Van Asten told me, period. During a previous term as Grand Jury foreman, Van Asten also acted to have a juror with whom he disagreed removed.

Now understanding that my attempts to establish order during meetings was simply not going to be allowed, and suffering increasing harassment from Van Asten (threatening e-mails, public humiliation during meetings, etc.), I decided that my best course of action was to resign from the jury to avoid a kangaroo court issuing a contempt order against me for doing my job as a Grand Jury member — identifying oversight, even amongst the full body itself. It is my belief that the problems I experienced during the early months of this Grand Jury continued even after my departure, and that the result was an unprecedented dissolution of a Civil Grand Jury in El Dorado County prior to the completion of their term, and without issuing a single investigative report, even on the state-mandated inspections of detention facilities in the county.

Pollock Pines

Editor’s note: The full transcript from the meeting/”hearing” Ryan Donner refers to in the above letter is printed on Page A10. 

Letters to the Editor


Discussion | 18 comments

  • Phil VeerkampMarch 28, 2013 - 4:58 pm

    LINK - Johnny Walker Schnozz?

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 29, 2013 - 1:17 pm

    Good for you Ryan...for speaking up.

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  • oh brotherMarch 29, 2013 - 2:38 pm

    it is great that he is speaking up, however, he better watch his back. They will find some way to get him in trouble and then Lord help him when the DA charges and prosecutes him. You go against the DA's office and you are in deep doo doo.

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 29, 2013 - 2:51 pm

    I hope thats not true...but I find things are not what I had always believed. Which is sad. He is just a nice young person.

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  • Compass2TruthMarch 29, 2013 - 5:51 pm

    Our founding fathers risked their lives and fortunes in order that we may be free from tyranny. Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing." We need more courageous GOOD MEN like Ryan (and women for that matter) who are willing to stand up to the political GOBs who've ruled EDC for far too long. Change will only happen when citizens realize they have nothing left to lose.

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  • NancyMarch 30, 2013 - 3:08 am

    In my opinion, our civil legal system is a sham. Truth, justice and the American way is reserved for Superman. The winners are the elite with big money who use legal gamesmanship, loopholes, and technicalities to win. The little guy gets trampled by the lawyers and the legal system itself. So, if you're a little guy looking for justice or compensation from the big guy, don't waste your money and time. They can and will outspend you.

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 30, 2013 - 9:46 am

    Truth...that was horrible...Ryan is just a person who has the right to comment. You do not agree--that is okay...but the other stuff--come on. You go into another story. Ryan is talking about a separate item. This ploy of "oh look at the sex in the story"--what does that have to do with anything? The story is about the grand jury. I just want the facts on that story to decide on what happened. I like things to be explained from both sides of one story. Im not looking toward answers to the other one. This is BIG...what happened to the Grand jury--no one just resigns--something happened. I hope more people talk...I am not as naive as to think nothing went wrong. That these people all decided they just didnt like working on the Grand Jury. Use something else to discredit these people--not sex. Facts would be good.

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  • EvelynMarch 30, 2013 - 9:57 am

    Nancy: Though not exactly "on topic", you'll like this!

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  • Compass2TruthMarch 30, 2013 - 12:27 pm

    Nancy: Thomas Jefferson said "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." It's not about $$$, but HOW you play the GAME. If you don't play, you'll lose by default. Most will agree our "justice system" has become a total mess. Conversely most citizens are too lazy to learn how to successfully navigate the shark infested waters in order to defend our precious liberties from the GOB. Citizens need to be eternally vigilant of those manipulating the SYSTEM, get properly EDUCATED about the system, and be PERSISTENT in holding certain feet to the fire. Although a tedious process, the TRUTH will prevail.

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  • oh brotherMarch 30, 2013 - 2:09 pm

    Truth must be a member of the courts, DA's office or law enforcement. Stupid unrelated comments.

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  • Compass2TruthMarch 30, 2013 - 11:02 pm

    Oh Brother: For clarification pseudonym "Truth" in this posting is unrelated to Compass2Truth. You're probably onto something insinuating that Truth works for law enforcement, the DA or a member of the court system. Lord help those who are courageous enough to dare expose the corruption in EDC.

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  • Phil VeerkampMarch 31, 2013 - 7:06 am

    Truth - You give TRUTH a bad name. In the manner that scoundrels wrap themselves in the red, white and blue and patriotism you wrap lies in TRUTH. SHAME on you!

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  • EvelynMarch 31, 2013 - 7:10 am

    Ditto . . . and, amen to that, brother.

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  • BobMarch 31, 2013 - 8:00 am

    The truth is the doo-doo is just beginning to hit the fan. My bet is most will be surprised to see just how far it is flung.

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  • 1036-FrankMarch 31, 2013 - 9:36 am

    Turns out the smartest person in the room may have been the judge who dismissed the panel and went on a working vacation. Sometimes it is best to start over with new people without conflicts or agendas which prevent the GJ from functioning, the GJ has to have ability to honestly investigate local Govt. If that can't be done it is a waste. this last GJ looks like a disaster waiting to happen because of unforeseen and unknown agendas. Now it is time to start over with a new group of what all hope are average concerned citizens and residents who's concern is to serve their community for the better of it, honestly and appropriately investigate, and try to put the derailed train back on the track and proceed forward.

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  • oh brotherMarch 31, 2013 - 7:41 pm

    Compass2Truth-trust me I know which Truth I am talking about and it is not you:)I keep good track of which bloggers I am responding to. Thanks though for your comments and support of mine.

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 31, 2013 - 8:05 pm

    Bob--do you have a story to share--come on--spit it out....thanks for the smile.

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMay 30, 2013 - 3:15 pm

    "oh brotherMarch 29, 2013 - 2:38 pm it is great that he is speaking up, however, he better watch his back. They will find some way to get him in trouble and then Lord help him when the DA charges and prosecutes him. You go against the DA's office and you are in deep doo doo." Grand jury articles come out around the same time as the Grant issue...

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