Investigative journalist Peter Lance — who had his DUI case thrown out of court last year — is still fighting for his driver’s license but in the meantime continues his attack on Kasi Beutel, the Santa Barbara police officer who arrested him, saying she was in contempt of court. Last year, Judge Brian Hill dismissed the case against Lance — who authored a voluminous series of articles in the Santa Barbara News-Press outlining what he alleged was widespread abuse of power, perjury, and illegal procedure by Beutel — after he found there wasn’t enough probable cause for officers to pull Lance over in the first place.
Tuesday morning, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Frederick H. Bysshe said he found Beutel was not willfully ignoring a subpoena to appear at a DMV hearing. A defendant can request a DMV hearing after an arrest in an attempt to keep the license. Lance has been driving with a temporary license, he said, while his DMV hearing plays out. The judge said there would be no issue if Beutel appeared at the next DMV hearing for which she was subpoenaed, which Beutel said she fully expects — and wants — to do. He ordered that a hearing be scheduled within 30 days. Lance’s attorney, Darryl Genis, has since requested February 15 (29 days out).
Lance’s DMV hearing has been ongoing for months, and Beutel, in responding to a subpoena, showed up once already on June 30, but she was also scheduled to be in Santa Barbara on another case and didn’t get through her testimony before she had to leave. Genis subpoenaed her to appear twice more, on August 27 and October 13. Beutel was on extended medical leave from work during that time, and superiors filed declarations of unavailability on her behalf.
Genis and Lance, however, don’t think that Beutel had a valid reason for the leave and say she either lied to her superiors or they covered for her. They point to a meeting she had in the District Attorney’s Office during her time off and her appearance at a pretrial hearing for Lance in October.
According to state law, Beutel doesn’t have to reveal the medical reason behind the leave. For her part, Beutel said she was more than ready to testify at the next DMV hearing and would have been ready to testify Tuesday. She pointed out that while Genis has subpoenaed her in other DMV hearings since she returned to work more than two months ago on November 11, he has not done so in this case.