They talked background, law school, plea bargaining, juvenile justice, new laws. Then the two candidates for Inyo District Attorney got down to the nitty-gritty back story – The hard feelings between the two and what they really think of each other and the DA’s office.
Nancy Masters of the Independence Civic Club read questions from the audience during the second half of Tuesday night’s Candidates Forum. She asked Harvey about his arrest for being under the influence of drugs and why he thinks he should be elected as the top prosecutor?
Harvey said, “Because this man is human. I’ll pay my dues. I went to rehab on my own.” Then he turned to other court charges lodged by DA Art Maillet – numerous charges involving alleged witness intimidation. Harvey said all those charges were dismissed by the Kern County DA who took over the case. He called them “scurrilous charges” by the Inyo DA.
Art Maillet said the DA has to be trusted. He can’t show up in court under the influence of drugs. Then Maillet was asked
about criticism that he has no control over his staff and that they over charge defendants wasting time and money. Maillet said he would make no apology on how his office charges crimes. He said his staff can’t tolerate “name-calling and threats to fight us.”
Harvey shot back that the current DA’s office has failed to serve the public. He said for years, the public defenders and prosecutors have been available for Wednesday morning court arraignments to try to settle cases. Harvey said this cost less money and time. Now, he said, the DA won’t even appear to resolve the Wednesday morning cases. People from out of town have to come back. Other cases drag on, he said. “They do waste time and money and don’t effectively manage their cases.”
Harvey also accused Maillet’s staff of being an emotional “armed camp” with no courteous relations with colleagues. In fact, other local attorneys have agreed with this criticism of Maillet’s staff, describing some of them as arrogant and high-handed. After the Forum, I asked Maillet, Assistant DA Mark Johnson and Deputy DA Joel Samuels about that criticism. Samuels snapped loudly, “I’ve got to go.” He brushed past me and left.
Harvey also accused the DA of failure to effectively plea bargain in a timely fashion which he said causes continuance after continuance and more court time. Maillet denied that and said his office provides offers at early stages of proceedings. “We don’t run up expenses,” said Maillet firmly.
A question from the audience asked Maillet if he and his office are out to get Gerard Harvey? He said no. Maillet’s Assistant, Mark Johnson denied trying to get Harvey’s county contract cancelled.
Did his need for a public defender mean he can’t manage money? Harvey said, “Financial ruin was inflicted on me by the false charges filed by the DA.”
These two candidates will appear in another Candidates Forum Thursday night at 7pm at the Bishop Senior Center, along with candidates for County Clerk and County Tax Collector.