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March 19, 2013
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Yuba City attorney faces witness tampering in Sacramento court

A prominent Yuba City attorney representing both defendants in a Nevada County drug case involving a large amount of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and hashish is facing legal woes of his own.

Jesse Santana entered a not-guilty plea in Sacramento County Superior Court March 8 on a charge of attempting to buy off a key witness in a high-profile sexual harassment case. The attorneys for Santana and co-defendant David Vasquez told the Marysville Appeal-Democrat their clients did nothing illegal or improper.

The case against the two men dates back to 2009, when prosecutors accused them of orchestrating an illegal contract for $100,000 to keep a victim from testifying in a 2008 sex harassment case.

They allegedly tried to bribe the young woman to prevent her from testifying against a former Marysville towing company manager, Joe Griesa, who was charged and eventually convicted of sexually assaulting a then-17-year-old girl, his employee.

Vasquez represented Griesa while Santana represented the victim. Both lawyers are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and dissuading a witness for financial gain. Vasquez faces an additional felony count of dissuading a witness.

The deal allegedly put together by Santana and Vasquez was never completed, but Griesa maintained both attorneys knew the contract was illegal when they asked him to sign it. Griesa sued both attorneys on those grounds, but his case was thrown out of court.

The original criminal indictment against the two attorneys in Yuba County was dismissed earlier this year after an appellate court ruled the indicting grand jury was impaneled improperly. At the time of that dismissal, Santana’s attorney, Roberto Marquez, claimed his client had been trying to protect the female victim from a predator.

Griesa, however, questioned Santana’s handling of the old case.

“If (Santana) truly thought I was guilty and his client was really a victim, then why not let it go to the police and have me arrested? No, instead they tried to squeeze me out of $100,000,” he said.

But after all the local judges recused themselves from the case, citing conflicts of interest, the state Attorney General re-filed the case.

On March 8, Sacramento Judge Maryanne Gilliard denied a defense motion to dismiss the case based on an argument that the statute of limitations has expired on the case. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 8 in Sacramento.

Santana handling Nevada County drug case

Santana’s clients in the Nevada County case, Juli Abdeen and Jose Jesus Magana Montez, are set to go to trial April 16.

Their charges stem from an April 2012 arrest when narcotics task force officers found a wide variety of illegal drugs during a search of Abdeen’s Penn Valley residence.

Abdeen, 60 at the time, had been to court just that morning on a drug-related case, before being arrested again hours later.

Members of the Nevada County Sheriff’s task force served a search warrant at her home in the 16000 block of Del Mar Way; Abdeen was on search terms for the earlier case.

She initially had been arrested July 27, 2011, when probation officers came to her residence to do a probation search on her juvenile son. While there, officers allegedly found a methamphetamine pipe and arrested Abdeen; they then searched a couch where she had been sitting and allegedly found narcotics in a purse hidden under a pillow. Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies also allegedly found a 12-gauge shotgun and a .22-caliber rifle in the residence.

During the April incident, Magana Montez, who had been standing in the driveway, allegedly fled on foot over a fence, across Del Mar Way, through a field and through a blackberry patch before deputies found him hiding in a stream bed. Magana Montez allegedly refused to comply with instructions and was pepper-sprayed.

He was subsequently arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest and was searched; deputies allegedly found about $1,000 in cash on him, along with one counterfeit $100 bill.

Magana Montez’s vehicle was searched and deputies allegedly found a large amount of drugs in baggies inside a small duffel bag — 5 grams of cocaine, 40 grams of heroin, 128 grams of methamphetamine and 155 grams of concentrated cannabis.

Deputies did a protective sweep of the residence and found Abdeen inside, the spokesman said. Abdeen was arrested on suspicion of keeping a place for the sale of controlled substances, as well as being an accessory to a crime.

In August of last year, a Nevada County judge ruled that despite the fact that Sheriff’s deputies should have obtained a warrant to search Magana Montez’s truck, the evidence found inside was valid enough to hold the alleged driver to answer on multiple drug charges. Santana has filed an appeal in that decision.

In September, a judge found sufficient evidence against Abdeen to hold her to answer on multiple drug charges stemming from the two separate arrests at her home.

Santana had questioned whether probation officers had provided sufficient “knock notice” when they announced themselves, then walked into the house through an already-open door. Santana also sought to have the evidence against Abdeen suppressed, arguing that deputies did not have the right to search the purse without her consent, since she was not the person on probation.

But Judge R.M. Smith ruled that the probation officers provided adequate notice of their arrival at Abdeen’s residence and that officers had the right to search Abdeen and anything within a “grabbing area” after she had been arrested for possessing the meth pipe.

Santana has also filed an appeal in Abdeen’s case, and the Court of Appeals reportedly has asked for a response from the state Attorney General’s office.

Santana and both defendants were in Nevada County Superior Court Monday afternoon; he indicated he wants to proceed with the April 16 trial date and a trial readiness conference was set for April 5.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail lkellar@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4229. Marysville Appeal-Democrat reporter Rob Parsons contributed to this report.


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The Union Updated Mar 19, 2013 09:03AM Published Mar 20, 2013 12:38PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.