JUDGE DIANA HALL
Intimidating foes he can no longer control is a particular talent for Sneddon. Just ask Judge Diana Hall. When the judge “ran” for the bench (more on that later), she was actually seen as an ally to the Sneddon regime but for whatever reason, that changed and so did Sneddon’s approach to dealing with her. In September 2003, Hall was convicted of misdemeanor drunk driving but was cleared of the more serious charges that had been brought against her such as brandishing a weapon and battery. While Hall’s legal troubles had seemingly come to an end with the resolution of the trial, her contentious relationship with the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office would only intesify when she was later accused of election funding fraud.
During the 2002 re-election bid, Hall’s ex-lover Deidre Dykeman had donated an unreported $20,000 to Hall’s campaign, a donation that eventually led to eight new misdemeaner charges being brought against Hall in 2004. Her attorney Mike Scott is none too pleased. “The District Attorney knew about this gift from her former roommate in December 2002,” he said. “They did nothing with it until the DA failed to secure a felony conviction against Judge Hall last August. It was well known prior to the trial and should have been included in the original charges.”5
To say that Sneddon and his people were not thrilled that the felony charges did not stick the first time they prosecuted Hall is no doubt an understatement according to unnamed sources. Despite the prosecution’s stance that they were merely punishing a judge who had violated state campaign funding laws, someone with a brain and glasses not fogged by corruption thought differently and prevented the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office from prosecuting Hall. Perhaps the most important reason for removing the DA’s office from the case is the fact that Hall is slated to serve as a witness for Gary Dunlap in his civil lawsuit against Tom Sneddon.6 Can you say conflict of interest?
Now, if I was a District Attorney who was being targeted for violating the civil rights of some local attorney and I knew that one of the judges on my watch was testifying for the plaintiff (Dunlap, in this case), I would do my best to make sure that by the time she testified, her reputation would be so soiled with political and criminal scandal that she would not be considered credible. If making Hall look bad meant stacking a bunch of ridiculous charges against her or prosecuting her for essentially covering up a gay relationship, so be it. Of course, this is merely the hypothetical meanderings of a curious observer.
We doubt that Ms. Hall, once she has hopefully been freed from the vengeful clutches of a twisted legal scene in Santa Barbara, will allow Sneddon to rest much. We see him being sued big time for his illegal and unethical antics. Not shockingly, Hall is not the only public official Sneddon has it in for.
Just when you thought that massage parlor lovin’ had given way to chat room sex, two sisters in Santa Maria set out to prove that there is still a market for this hands-on service to the male segment of the community, even law enforcement officials (allegedly). Two sisters, April and Irene Cummings, were accused of running a prostitution ring through the guise of a massage parlor. Art Montandon, the Santa Maria city lawyer at the time, was conducting his own investigation in an attempt to get information on one of the persons alleged to have been serviced at the parlor – the Santa Maria police Chief John Sterling. A number of rumors swirled as names were floated as possible customers of the Cummings sisters, the biggest being one very important person: Tom Sneddon.
As one could imagine, Sneddon vehemently denied the allegations, even threatening to sue the sisters if they did not recant. “It’s outrageous…”I’ve never had a massage in my life,” Sneddon claimed. After meeting with Sneddon about the allegation, the Cummings’ sisters attorney Michael Clayton said that “the sisters likely confused the District Attorney with a man named ‘Tom’ who looked similar to Sneddon and allegedly visited their business on that day” and that he thought “(April) was genuinely mistaken… I don’t believe (Sneddon) was a client of either of them.”7
Making matters even more interesting was the rumor that Bill Wegener (yes, that Bill Wegener), had caught Chief Sterling on tape but none of the parties – Wegener, Montandon, or even the members of Sneddon’s office – have ever claimed to have seen such a tape.8
Enter Tom Sneddon and the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office whose job it was to prosecute the case. And this is where the trouble truly begins. As it turns out, Montandon had evidence that would prove beneficial not for the prosecution but for the defense. Upon learning about the existence of this evidence, the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office accused Montandon of bribery and interfering with their case. Although the DA’s office attempted to prevent Montandon from providing the evidence to defense attorneys, a judge would ruled that Sneddon’s office did not have the authority to stop Montandon from doing his own investigation. Montandon later promised that he would provide “the full and complete story of not only the District Attorney’s unprofessional conduct, but the inappropriate conduct and motives of others working behind the scenes to cause community conflict.”
Montandon also fired back his own assaults on Sneddon and his office, accusing them of “prosecutorial misconduct in pursuing a local attorney.” Just who was Montandon referring to? That’s right – Gary Dunlap. In addition, Montandon even found time to chide his enemies: “Unlike (Assistant District Attorney Christie) Stanley and current and former members of her office, I have never had my license to practice law suspended by the State Bar, have never been convicted of a crime, and have never been terminated from any attorney job.”9
After “retiring” after 19 years of service, Montandon filed an official complaint against Sneddon and his office, citing that Sneddon and his employees had engaged in “discriminatory, abusive, defamatory (and) negligent” tactics against him.10 After it was revealed that the California Bar Association was investigating Sneddon and others for misconduct Montandon added that: “We’re geared up to file a federal court lawsuit in the next two months.”11
We in no way necessarily endorse the actions of any of the parties who have accused Sneddon nor do we support coddling criminals in such a way that they have carte blanche to whatever they please. We believe in law and order. We also happen to believe in due process. But it only gets more interesting when we consider another often overlooked and often threatened person who had the courage to speak up about what really goes on in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria: Dr. Thambiah Sundaram.
In an interview with Online Legal Review’s Ron Sweet, Thambiah Sundaram claimed that he was arrested and prosecuted by the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office for, among other things, grand theft, malicious mischief, and impersonating a doctor.
The case was later dismissed by then Judge Barbara Beck, who called the allegations against Sundaram “ridiculous.” The seriousness of Beck’s charge is quite obvious and adds proverbial fuel to speculation that Sneddon has a predilection to misuse his prosecutorial authority. It is little wonder that Sundaram sued Sneddon and his office for malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, false arrest, abuse of power, and conspiracy and was awarded over $300,000 for his trouble. But Sundaram also had a great deal to say about Tom Sneddon and his subordinates in the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office in regards to the way they operate in other ways.
Sundaram alleges that in late 1994 or early 1995, he heard racist comments being made by the likes of now Senior Deputy District Attorney Mag Nicola as well as Tim Rooney – all in the glorious presence of Tom Sneddon – at a private fundraising function. For instance, a man named Rajan Ayyar was referred to as a “nigger” by Nicola as he and other government officials allegedly plotted about how they were going to “go after” him. Apparently, the fact that Ayyar was a Black man who claimed to be a Stanford alum was simply too much for these respectable white folks. Moreover, they were alleged to have believed that they could get whatever they wanted since they had just put a judge on the bench whom they were blackmailing at the time with some “dirt” on her personal life. That judge? Diana Hall.12
It would take ten years and would come without Hall’s involvement but their plotting paid off and Ayyar was convicted last year of “10 counts of grand theft, four of forgery and one each of securities fraud and commission of a fraudulent securities scheme.” And take a guess who Rajan Ayyar’s attorney was? Gary Dunlap.13 Ayyar was not the only “nigger” against whom they were purportedly plotting. Sundaram also maintains that the group discussed what to do with Michael Jackson. Among the things that authorities allegedly said about Jackson:
– Some of Sneddon’s friends wanted Jackson’s property to convert it into a thriving vineyard. Consistent with Sundaram’s claims, wine-making is the leading agricultural industry in Santa Barbara where Jackson owns 2,700 acres of prime real estate.
– Authorities laughed and bragged about passing around pictures of Jackson’s genitalia, pictures that were taken during the 1993-94 investigation. This was done to embarrass Jackson. (These pictures were supposed to be sealed but are not. Even Geraldo Rivera admits that he has seen them)
– Nicola lamented that they had done everything they could to get “that nigger” out of town but had failed. Apparently, authorities did not like the fact that Jackson was the richest resident in Santa Barbara, that he had married a white woman (Lisa Marie Presley) and that he owned all of that property. They promised they would not fail to get rid of him the next time around.
– Sneddon allegedly stated that his goal was to get “some dirt to get him to leave” and that he wanted to “run him out of town.”14
These tidbits of information have been challenged by Sneddon supporters and Jackson haters alike as unsubstantiated gossip. However, if this information has any kernel of truth to it (and we believe it does), then it makes the events of November 2003 a mere fulfillment of an alleged obsession with Jackson on Sneddon’s part.
SNEDDON’S OBSESSION WITH JACKSON
Not too long after the now-infamous November 2003 press conference in which Tom Sneddon joked about Michael Jackson with Sheriff Jim Anderson, Sneddon was quick to point out that he did not have a vendetta against the superstar.15 In light of the aforementioned accusations from others in the Santa Barbara area along the same lines, one should at least be willing to consider the possibility. Sneddon went so far as to state that he had not even thought about the singer or the allegations during the ten-year interval between the cases. However, a plethora of articles from news outlets from 1994-2003 reveal something altogether different. The following quotes, courtesy of Talkleft.com, are evidence of Sneddon’s lack of attention to Jackson:
The Independent (London), August 20, 1994 :
A ruddy-faced veteran prosecutor with a reputation for bloody-mindedness, Thomas Sneddon is not burdened by a litany of heavily publicised previous blunders. Nor is he willing to accept that his case is hopeless without the testimony of its central figure – Jordan Chandler. ”The Santa Barbara office is still quite involved in investigation of the Jackson allegations,” says Michael Cooney, an attorney who knows Sneddon well. ”Tom Sneddon is a very determined individual who will go further than almost anyone to prove something which he feels needs proving. Once he decides action is worth taking, he will pursue it to the very end.”
The New York Times, September 22, 1994:
Tom Sneddon, the District Attorney in Santa Barbara, where Mr. Jackson owns an estate, said more than 400 witnesses had been interviewed in the case and that two other possible victims had been identified. But he said one of these, who is now in therapy, had asked not to be involved in the case and the other was out of the country and had made a “general denial” of wrongdoing by Mr. Jackson.
Showbiz Today, September 22, 1994:
GIL GARCETTI, Los Angeles County District Attorney: We have concluded that because the young boy who was the catalyst for this investigation has recently informed us that he does not wish to participate in any criminal proceeding where he is named as a victim, that we must decline prosecution involving Mr. Jackson.
VERCAMMEN: Prosecutors said their investigation also turned up two other children allegedly molested by Michael Jackson. But the district attorneys added one boy is out of the country and denies wrongdoing by Jackson, and the third alleged victim is reluctant to testify. Prosecutors said they will reopen the case should any witnesses have a change of heart.
TOM SNEDDON, Santa Barbara County District Attorney: Should circumstances change, should other evidence become available within this period of the statute of limitations, like Los Angeles County, we would re-evaluate the situation based upon what information is available to us at that particular point in time.
The Chattanooga Times, August 19, 1995:
Meanwhile, Saturday’s Today newspaper said Santa Barbara, Calif., District Attorney Tom Sneddon had twice contacted Presley’s mother, Priscilla, for information about Jackson’s relationships with young boys.
The New York Beacon August 23, 1995
Magazine: Michael Jackson Lied To Interviewer Diane Sawyer. Michael Jackson lied to Diane Sawyer about his relationship with young boys and withheld information about a pending civil action, Vanity Fair reported. Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon told the magazine that Jackson has not been “cleared” of sexual involvement with two boys, as Sawyer said during his interview of Jackson on ABC’s “Prime Time Live.”
“The state of the investigation is in suspension until somebody comes forward,” Sneddon said. The magazine also reported, quoting unidentified sources, that there is a third boy whose lawyer is working on a settlement with Jackson. In the June 14 interview, Jackson told Sawyer there was “not one iota of information that was found that could connect me to these charges” of child molestation. But Sneddon told the magazine in its September issue that he has seen photos of Jackson’s genitalia, and “his statement on TV is untrue and incorrect and not consistent with the evidence in the case.” Others familiar with the evidence told Vanity Fair that the photos match descriptions given by a young boy to investigators.
The Advertiser January 27, 1996:
“But the reality is, no matter what he does, he can’t escape the fact that he paid out millions of dollars to prevent a 13-year-old boy from testifying against him in court,” says Santa Barbara District-Attorney Tom Sneddon, who originally investigated claims Jackson had molested the boy at his Neverland ranch. Charges against Jackson were dropped when the boy refused to testify. But Mr Sneddon says, contrary to popular belief, it would be “inaccurate” to say Jackson was cleared of all charges. “The state of the investigation is in suspension until somebody comes forward and testifies,” he says.
Daily News (New York) February 14, 2001:
Michael Jackson is not out of the woods. So says Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon, the man who brought child molestation charges against the singer in 1993. Jackson is scheduled to deliver a speech tonight at Carnegie Hall on behalf of his Heal the Kids initiative. Although Sneddon can’t be there in person, he’s definitely arching an eyebrow from 3,000 miles away. “The case against Michael Jackson was never closed, and he was never exonerated,” Sneddon says. “It’s in suspended animation and can be reopened at any time.” 16
Clearly, Mr. Sneddon had been doing a great deal of thinking about Jackson and the 1993 case that he did not get to prosecute. Furthermore, either Sneddon had the gift of prophecy or he was smelling pay dirt in February 2003 when, in an interview with Court TV investigative reporter Diane Dimond (we’ll get to her later), Sneddon once again stated that all he needed was “one more victim” to re-open his case against Mr. Jackson.17
QUESTIONABLE LEGAL TACTICS
Despite the protests of Sneddon and his supporters, the tactics that the defense allege he has engaged in throughout the investigation support the idea that a vendetta is indeed the driving force behind this entire “case”. There are so many egregious acts on the district attorney’s part, that a list might be more practical:
§ Excessive number of search warrants (over 105 at the present writing), the majority of which came after Jackson was indicted by a grand jury.18
§ Bullying witnesses at the grand jury hearing.19
§ Lying to the media and the general public about the actual nature of the two grand juries that were called in 1993-94. While Sneddon insisted that neither were asked to indict Jackson, blaming collapse of the case on the fact that Jackson had settled with the Chandler family, both grand juries could have returned indictments. Based on the flimsy evidence, however, both grand juries wisely decided not to do so.20 Sneddon once again proves himself to be something else besides “Mad Dog”: A liar.
§ Harassment of persons close to Jackson with the express attempt to get them to turn on Jackson.21
§ Tossing in a conspiracy charge while not indicting the other five alleged co-conspirators (how can there be a conspiracy with only one person being charge?)22
§ Intentionally violating Jackson’s attorney-client privilege by (1) breaking in to the office of private investigator Bradley Miller, who worked for then-Jackson defense attorney Mark Geragos;23 (2) seizing material from the home of Jackson’s personal assistant Evelyn Tavvasci, material clearly marked “Mesereau” (the surname of Jackson’s current defense attorney)24
§ Allegedly leaking damaging information through Diane Dimond (isn’t it obvious?)
§ Searching Neverland with 60 officers over a year after Jackson’s arrest, all to allegedly “take pictures” and “get measurements” of some of the rooms in Jackson’s home.25
§ Seizing records that clearly have nothing to do with child molestation: financial, bank, land, rental car records.
§ Attempting to harass Jackson supporters, particularly online fan communities such as MJJForum. Sneddon actually went so far as to accuse MJJForum of being Jackson’s official site and, therefore, violating the gag order by showing public support for Jackson.26
§ Inappropriately joking and laughing at the now-infamous press conference announcing Jackon’s arrest in November 2003 27
§ Inappropriately interjecting himself into the case as a witness during grand jury testimony. He made himself a witness and was summarily examined by Tom Mesereau at a later hearing.28
The list literally could go on and on but we have decided to end it here. The sad fact is that Sneddon, based upon the documented cases of so many others, has used the courts as his own little playground to metaphorically assassinate if not convict his enemies. And it does not help when the judge (who has already sat as trial judge over other questionable Sneddon cases) overseeing the Michael Jackson case has a history of reversing himself on certain key motions and also being checked by higher courts. Now that both Melville and the Attorney General of California have blocked any chance of Sneddon and his office from being recused, Sneddon may appear to have the upper hand. But do not bet it on for a minute.
Even as this is project is being written, there are other investigative bodies who have fleshed out a number of other documented cases where Sneddon and his office have been cited for prosecutorial misconduct.29 Egregious judicial and government malfeasance of this kind cannot and will not last forever. The chickens will, in the words of Malcolm X, come home to roost. The kingdom of Sneddon is a ticking time bomb.
1“Prosecutor Profile.” National District Attorney’s Association. 2004.
2Hobbs, Dawn. “DA has locked Horns with Defense Lawyers in Past.” Santa Barbara News-Press. 2 Nov. 2004.
3Abramsam, Mark. “Dunlap Sues Over Arrest.” The Lompoc Record. 5 Dec. 2003.
4Brown, Patricia and Ron Sweet. Interview with Gary Dunlap. MJJForum Talk Radio. 2 Jan. 2004.
5Hobbs, Dawn. “Judge’s Lawyer Accuses DA of Unfair Retaliation.” Santa Barbara News-Press. 13 Jul. 2004.
6Cushner, Quintin. “D.A’s Office Recused from Case.” The Santa Maria Times. 31 Aug. 2004.
7Cushner, Quintin. “Sneddon rejects masseuse’s allegations.” The Santa Maria Times. 28 Dec. 2003.
8Cushner, Quintin. “City, D.A. office clash.” The Santa Maria Times. 3 Dec. 2003.
9Cushner, Quintin. “City attorney fires back at D.A.” The Santa Maria Times. 13 Feb. 2004.
10Cushner, Quintin. “Montandon Files Claim Against D.A.” The Santa Maria Times. 1 Jul. 2004.
11Cushner, Quintin. “State Bar Looks into Complaint Against D.A.” The Santa Maria Times. 17 Jul. 2004.
12Arceneaux, K.C. “New Allegations Against Prosecutor of Michael Jackson.” The Raw Story. 2004. Exclusives. 30 Apr. 2004. (http://www.rawstory.com/exclusives/contributors/sneddon_allegations_michael_jackson.htm).
13“Rajan Ayyar Sentencing Set for Thursday.” News and Articles on Gary Real Estate. Real Estate News. 2004. (http://news.surfwax.com/realestate/files/Real_Estate_Gary.html)
14Arceneaux, K.C. “New Allegations Against Prosecutor of Michael Jackson.” The Raw Story. 2004. Exclusives. 30 Apr. 2004. (http://www.rawstory.com/exclusives/contributors/sneddon_allegations_michael_jackson.htm).
15Bean, Matt. “Court TV Exclusive: D.A. discusses case against Michael Jackson.” Court TV. 20 Nov. 2003. (http://courttv.com/people/2003/1120/jackson_exclusive_ctv.html)
16“The DA in the Michael Jackson Case.” TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime. 19 Nov. 2003. CrimeLynx. (http://talkleft.com/new_archives/004397.html#004397)
17Friedman, Roger. “Jacko: A Valentine From the District Attorney.” Fox 411. 14 Feb. 2003. Fox News. 25 Jun. 2004. (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,78599,00.html)
18Hobbs, Dawn. “Pop star’s legal battles began year ago today.” Santa Barbara News-Press. 18 Nov. 2004. (http://www.newspress.com/mjacksonupdate/111804legalbattles.htm)
19Notice of Motion and Motion to Set Aside the Indictment (Penal Code §995) 6 Jul. 2004. (http://www.mjjforum.com/main/index.php?option=com_remository&Itemid;=61&func;=fileinfo&parent;=folder&filecatid;=188)
20 Hobbes, Dawn. “Pop Superstar Can’t Shake 1993 Allegations.” Santa Barbara News-press. 5 Apr. 2004. (http://www.newspress.com/mjacksonupdate/0405cantshake.htm)
21Spilbor, Jonna M. “The Michael Jackson Case.” Find Law Commentary. Find Law. 4 May 2004. (http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20040504_spilbor.html)
22 Hobbs, Dawn. “Jackson defense blasts attempt to use evidence from ’93.” Santa Barbara News-Press. 8 Jan. 2005. (http://www.newspress.com/mjacksonupdate/010805defenseblasts.html)
23 Hobbs, Dawn. “Jackson team goes on offense.” Santa Barbara News-Press. 17 Aug. 2004. (http://www.newspress.com/mjacksonupdate/0817jacksonteam.htm)
24 Hobbs, Dawn. “Authorities searched home of Jackson’s assistant.” Santa Barbara News-Press. 23 Sept. 2004. (http://www.newspress.com/mjacksonupdate/092304searched.html)
25 Hobbs, Dawn. “Authorities conduct raid on Neverland.” Santa Barbara News-Press. 4 Dec. 2004.(http://www.newspress.com/mjacksonupdate/120404raid.html)
26Plaintiff’s Request for Clarification Re: Court’s Protective Order. 2004 Jun. 25. (http://184.108.40.206/main/index.php?option=com_remository&Itemid;=61&func;=fileinfo&parent;=folder&filecatid;=194)
27Press Conference. Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon. 19 Nov. 2003.
28 Hobbs, Dawn. “Jackson team goes on offense.” Santa Barbara News-Press. 17 Aug. 2004. (http://www.newspress.com/mjacksonupdate/0817jacksonteam.htm)
28“Prosecutorial Misconduct Investigation.” MJJF Investigates. MJJForum. (http://www.mjjforum.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=44168)
For more examples of prosecutorial misconduct on Sneddon’s part, see the following websites: