Campaign barbs in Nevada County District Attorney’s race spill into court hearing | TheUnion.com

Campaign barbs in Nevada County District Attorney’s race spill into court hearing

A hearing focused on search warrants penned by a Nevada County deputy turned quickly into political theater, with the county's No. 2 prosecutor questioning the motives of the man challenging his boss in this June's election.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh dug into Glenn Jennings — who once held Walsh's job and now is running against District Attorney Cliff Newell — during a Friday hearing about Deputy Jason Mackey. Walsh accused Jennings of using accusations against Mackey in his bid to displace Newell and become the county's top prosecutor.

Jennings, one of several witnesses in an evidentiary hearing involving Mackey, has pointed to what he called corruption in the Nevada County District Attorney's Office as a reason for running for office. In a campaign release Jennings references an investigation into Mackey and his search warrants, though doesn't mention the deputy by name.

Walsh in his questioning of Jennings in Nevada County Superior Court attacked him for failing to read the entire search warrant Jennings has referenced in campaign materials and at a political event — a warrant that sparked the accusations against Mackey.

"You're running for office largely based off this case," Walsh said.

ON THE STAND

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Jennings testified that in May 2015 he spoke with Mackey outside a courtroom. Jennings intended to prepare the deputy for a hearing in a methamphetamine case, which is separate from the ongoing evidentiary hearing. Mackey pointed to an address in his search warrant, saying he didn't have that information when he penned the document. Jennings asked what Mackey wanted him to do. The deputy then asked for the case's dismissal.

"I know their lingo," Jennings said of officers who work narcotics cases. "When they say they can't take the stand, that means a lot."

Under questioning by Walsh, Jennings said that Mackey never told him he lied. Walsh then said he has a video showing Jennings at a campaign event claiming the deputy did, in fact, lie.

"I have him, the officer himself telling me he lied," the video shows Jennings saying. "I hate to say that. It breaks my heart. But I got three cops saying the same thing."

Contacted Monday, Jennings confirmed he appeared in the video.

"He didn't use the words 'I lied," but he told me in a different way and I formed the opinion that he lied," Jennings said.

Jennings in a late 2016 interview with The Union discussed his encounter with Mackey outside the courtroom.

"Mackey shows up and says we need to talk," Jennings said. "He tells me he can't take the stand. He shows me the warrant and points to a section where it states the address, and says, 'I didn't know this information at the time I wrote the warrant.' It's a way of saying he lied."

Jennings on the witness stand Friday said he's served as a prosecutor for over 30 years. He never before had an officer say he couldn't testify in a case.

Walsh questioned how Mackey could intend to deceive when one part of the warrant explains how he obtained the address.

"Based on the officer's statements to me, everything fit into place," Jennings said.

FALLOUT

Jennings has said the aftermath from his May 2015 talk with Mackey — which sparked an investigation and ultimately an internal affairs probe into the deputy — led to Jennings' October 2015 resignation from Newell's office.

Jennings in a news release said Newell ordered him to stop an investigation into alleged corruption. He then refused to sign a statement or approve warrants without a thorough investigation, and opted instead to resign.

The internal investigation into Mackey cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Newell has disputed Jennings' version of events, calling him an angry, disgruntled former employee.

The allegations against Mackey have been made by a handful of defense attorneys who have sought to have search warrants penned by the deputy dismissed. The evidentiary hearing involving Jennings — held Feb. 23 and Friday and scheduled to continue this coming Friday — involves one of those cases. It stems from two men facing misdemeanor marijuana accusations who want Mackey's search warrant against them scuttled.

No decision has been made in that hearing. Prosecutors continue to use warrants written by Mackey in criminal cases.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.