Judge Brian Hill denied a motion to dismiss the misdemeanor DUI case against investigative journalist Peter Lance due to a breach of due process. After being charged shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day, Lance has written a long-running series in the Santa Barbara News-Press alleging a number of improprieties by his arresting officer, Kasi Beutel, and the SBPD.
At issue was the Trombetta blood-test waiver that the police department shredded before it could be entered into evidence. The original documents, typically scanned into the SBPD’s records system and then destroyed after about 90 days, would have offered definitive proof that Beutel used (or did not use) forms with pre-checked boxes, a practice she has seemingly engaged in in the past. Defense attorney Darryl Genis argued that Deputy District Attorney Sanford Horowitz deliberately waited until Lance’s original arrest report was destroyed before he requested it. “I know that he knew what I didn’t know,” said Genis, referring to the 90-day policy.
As it is, document examiners for the prosecution are arguing that Beutel did not use prefilled forms on the night Lance was arrested based on comparisons to the 20 arrest reports immediately preceding and the 20 immediately following Lance’s arrest. One of the prosecution’s experts, a Department of Justice examiner, is the former nephew of the defense’s expert, James Blanco, who said that Beutel wrote on top of “x” marks that had already been photocopied from a master document.
The pretrial hearings felt like a family affair from the start when Judge Hill offered fatherly advice to the litigants — who, at times, resembled bickering siblings — to refrain from “hyperbole” and “nasty language.” The tensions between defense attorney Genis and Deputy District Attorney Horowitz surfaced when the former accused the latter of lying to the court. Horowitz demanded an apology which was not forthcoming. Nor, Judge Hill added, was it legally required. Argument of pretrial motions will resume on October 25.