Legal battle continues: Felony case heard Friday involves narcotics detective Jason Mackey | TheUnion.com

Legal battle continues: Felony case heard Friday involves narcotics detective Jason Mackey

The defendant wasn't present, but five attorneys were on hand Friday morning to wrangle over legal issues that have been raised in his felony drug cases, as part of what Assistant District Attorney Joe Alexander referred to as "quite a bit of litigation surrounding" narcotics detective Jason Mackey.

Mackey, a member of the Nevada County Sheriff's Narcotics Task Force, has been under scrutiny by the defense bar for more than a year.

This week, attorneys in two cases involving Mackey argued for the disclosure of information relating to Mackey's credibility that might be favorable to their clients in Nevada County Superior Court. Both hearings came after the release by the Nevada County District Attorney's Office of documents in a 2015 internal investigation of Mackey.

Alexander said that his office did initiate an investigation into Mackey, but that a decision was made to turn it over to the Sheriff's Office. Mackey reportedly was cleared by his department of any misconduct after a lengthy internal affairs investigation.

The complaints the DA's office uncovered didn't rise to the level of criminal conduct, Alexander said. But, he said, he reviewed the file and decided to disclose it, even though he did not feel it constituted Brady material — evidence or information that would prove the innocence of the defendant or impeach the credibility of government witnesses.

At a hearing in court on Tuesday, Alexander and defense attorney Heather Burke appeared to agree that the dispute over whether the disclosed information constitutes Brady material should be turned over to the court for an evidentiary hearing with live testimony. No such motion has yet been made.

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Defense attorney Stephen Munkelt appeared in Nevada County Superior Court Friday before Judge Candace Heidelberger to argue similar issues on behalf of his client, Joel Franks. Also on hand in court were ADA Alexander, Deputy District Attorney Jim Phillips, Assistant County Counsel Amanda Uhrhammer and Deputy County Counsel Jamie Hogenson.

Franks has three pending cases — from April 2015 for possessing a controlled substance and possession for sale, September 2015 for possessing a controlled substance, possession for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia, and March 2016, for possession of a controlled substance for sale and transporting a controlled substance.

Munkelt had filed subpoenas and some ancillary motions that he withdrew at the hearing, because he had been provided the documents by Alexander. A Pitchess motion to uncover information from Mackey's personnel files was set for Jan. 6.

"I believe I was over-responsive," Alexander said, referring to the litigation surrounding Mackey and adding that he wanted to err on the side of caution by disclosing the entirety of the "quote unquote investigation" conducted by then-Assistant District Attorney Glenn Jennings.

Alexander also said that he wanted to combat any lingering misconceptions that his office was holding onto "voluminous files" of information relating to Mackey.

Munkelt sad that a memo released by the DA's office from District Attorney Cliff Newell to Sheriff Keith Royal reflects a misunderstanding of the law as to what constitutes Brady material, adding that the prosecution's duty to turn over exculpatory evidence is much broader and includes anything that could potentially impeach the truthfulness of the officer.

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

Prior coverage

Dec. 7, 2016: Documents disclosed in case involving Nevada County Sheriff’s narcotics detective

Dec. 6, 2016: Probe shut down: Former ADA allegedly forced to resign after investigation into narcotics detective

Dec. 5, 2016: Defense attorneys continue to question credibility of Nevada County Sheriff’s narcotics detective

May 2, 2016: DA memo released in cases involving Nevada County narcotics officer

April 29, 2016: Sheriff: Narcotics officer cleared of misconduct after months-long investigation

April 25, 2016: Legal battle brewing over narcotics cases filed by Nevada County Sheriff’s Office