The defense’s closing argument in the Supervisor Ray Nutting trial was trying to get the jury to see only specific trees, not the forest.
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That was the sentiment of deputy district attorney James Clinchard’s rebuttal argument. Defense attorney David Weiner was focusing on a few specifics when they were not even needed for a guilty verdict.
First, with Weiner having touched on the reliability of witness Patrick McDaniel, a Cal Fire forester, Clinchard said there was “nothing to show he was not sincere,” and the defense did not confront McDaniel about any lies during cross-examination.
Clinchard compared the allegations of McDaniel’s untruthfulness to Nutting’s own testimony. When asked open-ended questions, such as what a conservative is, Nutting would have an easy answer at a political event. But on the stand, Nutting “crafted his answer to this case,” to “what he thought you wanted to hear,” he told the jury.
Weiner claimed the maps used by the prosecution were “phony,” implying the District Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office, both prosecuting the case, were being misleading. But, Clinchard said, he got the map he used from Cal Fire’s own Website, which is part of the grant process for Proposition 40 reimbursement, the heart of the trial.
Instead of taking responsibility, Nutting continually blames others, Clinchard said. He blamed Mark Stewart, his registered professional forester, for filling out forms wrong. Stewart pleaded the Fifth Amendment on the stand and his testimony was struck from the record and thus was not to be considered during deliberation. Nutting blamed McDaniel for more paperwork problems and Chuck Holland for bail problems. He blamed the DA’s Office for “this and that,” and that it was all politics, but Clinchard pointed out the Attorney General’s Office is co-prosecuting.
The defense told the jury that the prosecution was not giving the jury transcripts, but Clinchard said the defense could just as easily provide the same transcripts — they were not attempting to hide anything. Yet, giving some 30,000 pages of documents was apparently too much — a Catch 22.
Nutting said that Cal Fire was going off what was said in the field — a verbal agreement to extend the Prop. 40 contract deadline so work could be finished and Nutting could be reimbursed. But that is only what the defendant wants to be true, Clinchard said. When asked if he had to follow what was in the contract, Nutting said yes, but the contract did not say he could work past the written deadline.
For the conflict of interest charge, the defense was ignoring the actual law. They were focusing on actual conflicts, where Nutting would directly benefit, where the law allows for “possible” or “potential” conflicts and treats both the same as actual conflicts. As for not having been part of the Board of Supervisors when the budget of the Georgetown Divide and El Dorado County resource conservation districts, for fiscal year 2009, Clinchard pointed out that Nutting did vote for the budgets in 2012. A month after, he added, he was reimbursed by Prop. 40 grant money from the Sierra Coordinated Resource Management Council, a joint powers authority that both RCDs had members on the board.
The loans for bail were just that — loans. Kitty Miller, Nutting’s personal assistant, gave money to Jennifer, Nutting’s wife, while Nutting was in the room. Under the law, it was the same as giving the money straight to Nutting. A loan by any other name is still a loan.
Clinchard reiterated that most of the case hinged on what Nutting wanted to be true. He could not tell a few people about his income from Prop. 40 but leave it off of his Form 700, economic disclosure for elected officials. He wanted the Prop. 40 contract to end in June 2009 so he could get his work done, but the contract ended in April 2009.
When asked to show on a blown-up check made out to him where it said Cal Fire, Clinchard said in closing, Nutting circled the dollar amount and wrote, in large letters, “Cal Fire” on the exhibit. “That,” Clinchard said, “is not Cal Fire.”
The jury then began deliberating and will continue on Tuesday.