Zahau’s family attorney sees sheriff’s lawsuit appealing regardless of outcome on Friday

Rebecca Zahau’s body was found naked, gagged and bound by ropes – hanged in a Coronado mansion in July 2011. Photo via YouTube

The rubber hits the road on Friday in the Zahau family’s lawsuit against Sheriff Bill Gore when a Superior Court judge hears arguments on whether the lawsuit itself can go ahead.

Relatives of Rebecca Zahau – whose death in the Coronado mansion in 2011 was deemed a suicide by the sheriff’s department, but a homicide in a civil lawsuit – want access to all investigative files of the case, as well as the tapes of what Gore told a “review team” after that civil verdict.

Pari Zahau (Rebecca’s mother) and Mary Zahau-Loehner and Douglas Loehner (sister and brother-in-law) say that the California Public Records Act forces Gore and the county to release files in this sensational case.

Gore, represented by County Attorney Thomas Deak, notes that the Archives Act allows him to withhold investigative records from the public and wants the prosecution killed.

But Judge Timothy B. Taylor, in a 1:30 p.m. hearing Friday at the Downtown Superior Court, will consider the Zahau family’s argument that the trial should stand – with a hearing postponed to Jan. 28. 2022 on his actual request for the recordings.

Zahau family attorney C. Keith Greer first told The Times of San Diego that the January hearing would likely stand.

“It really is a question of law as to whether a public body can make a statement to the public about what it is doing and then be able to deny access to documents that show that in fact they are lying to the public. public, ”the Rancho said. Bernardo’s attorney said late Friday night via email.

But calling it an “interesting question”, he then said the case would “probably … [state] Court of Appeal. “

Greer added on Sunday: “Friday’s hearing is very important because it could result in a dismissal. Which would move the battle to the court of appeal. Conversely, a judgment in our favor bodes well for our chances of success on the merits at the final hearing.

The Deak County District Attorney declined a request for comment, saying, “I am not permitted to discuss the matter while it is pending.”

The duel briefs argue for and against the county’s opposition – which tells the court that the trial allegations are not sufficient legal reason for Gore to be prosecuted.

If Judge Taylor supports the opposition – and does not allow the Zahaus to submit a revised complaint – the case would likely be dismissed.

In a September filing, Deak wrote that the county is against it because:

  • The documents Zahaus seeks are law enforcement investigation files, exempt from disclosure under the ACPL.
  • Disclosure of certain investigative records only exempts from the exemption for disclosed records.
  • And no partial disclosure exemption waivers can occur under the CPRA under the law.

Likewise, says Deak, the Zahaus cannot cite a law saying that the sheriff’s instructions on how to proceed with an investigation are not also “exempt” investigation records under the ACPL.

A November 1 brief from the Zahau family attorney cites an October 2011 letter from Gore to the Zahaus that said, “The sheriff’s department complies with this requirement not only by publishing the information required by law, but by publishing the full investigation file. “

Attorney Greer writes: “The sheriff’s written statement is clearly sufficient to make it a question of fact as to the sheriff’s ‘actual intention to relinquish’ the [CPRA] exemption or, failing that, to constitute “conduct so incompatible with any intention to enforce the law” that it reasonably suggests that he has waived it. “

Greer said Gore also waived the right to withhold information about the case by publicly disclosing what the “review team” allegedly did.

“Such publications show that Sheriff Gore clearly wanted to either convince the public that the department was conducting a new investigation, or at a minimum acted in a manner so inconsistent with any intention to keep what the ‘review team’ was doing a secret. , so that to induce a reasonable belief that any right to secrecy about what the team was doing had been dropped.

All the Zahaus asks for is “documentation to confirm that what Sheriff Gore advised the ‘review team’ to do is consistent with what he told the public they were doing.” , said Greer.

As alleged in a revised lawsuit, the Zahaus believes Sheriff Gore’s statements to the public were intended to make it appear that he was reopening the investigation.

“[But] in fact, these portrayals were intentionally misleading and cleverly orchestrated to hide Sheriff Gore’s true intention and plan, which was to pretend to support the investigation while imposing constraints on the “review team” who were so strict they couldn’t do anything other than support Gore’s advance ruling, ”Greer said in the brief.

In a footnote, Greer said his clients asked the sheriff to produce correspondence between the officers involved in the investigation and all inter-ministerial memoranda, detective notes and detective notebooks, as well as files explaining why Gore did not attempt to obtain the cell phone tapes of Adam Shacknai, ”whom the civil jury found responsible for Rebecca’s death.

Deak in a September brief challenged the logic of the Zahau trial.

County attorney disputed arguments that “given that the sheriff has already produced the complete ‘investigation file’ … all additional documents relating to the investigation are certainly not part of the ‘investigation file’ and therefore are not subject to the privilege granted “under CPRA.

Deak continued: “It can be concluded – out of pure logic – that while all ‘investigation files’ have been produced, no ‘investigation records’ have been retained.”

“However,” he added,[The Zahaus] do not claim that the sheriff, in fact, produced all the investigation files; instead they allege that the sheriff – in 2011 – claimed to produce all of the investigative records.

“In addition, to the extent [Zahaus] allege that the sheriff produced all the investigation files, so it is not known which files [the Zahaus] claim to have been wrongly refused (i.e. there is no claim that [the Zahaus’] documents requested unrelated to the Zahau investigation).

Greer said in April he was planning a book on Zahau’s death if the investigation was reopened.

In April 2018, after a San Diego jury found the brother of Rebecca Zahau’s boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai, responsible for her death, sheriff nominee Dave Myers said, “As a sheriff, I will reopen the criminal case with a new look.

Starting again in 2022, Myers is still following the case closely. On Monday, responding to a KUSI report on the Zahau case, said: “When the evidence does not match, law enforcement has an obligation to investigate the reasons.

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