Evans case against Nevada County Sheriff’s Office goes to jury | TheUnion.com

Evans case against Nevada County Sheriff’s Office goes to jury

Ninety hours of testimony. Six weeks. Dozens of witnesses.

A civil suit involving alleged wrongdoing within the Nevada County Sheriff's Office that dates back to 2011 wrapped up with closing arguments Thursday afternoon. The jury deliberated briefly that day and is expected to resume on Tuesday.

The crux of the suit involves allegations by former Sheriff's Office employee Yvonne Evans and her husband, now-retired Lt. Bill Evans.

Yvonne Evans claims she was retaliated against, with criminal charges of embezzlement and eventual termination, after complaining of sexual harassment by then-Undersheriff Richard Kimball. Bill Evans claimed he was forced to retire after being subjected to an internal affairs investigation and a fitness-for-duty evaluation.

The Evans' attorney, Kerry Schaffer, sought to paint the Sheriff's Office — from Sheriff Keith Royal on down — as engaging in a conspiracy to discredit his clients.

"You've seen a parade of witnesses," Schaffer said. "But credibility is the key to everything."

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Carl Fessenden, the attorney for the county, agreed that the case comes down to credibility — but told the jury it was the plaintiffs' claims that were not credible.

According to Schaffer, the original documents used in the embezzlement investigation against Yvonne Evans are missing, suggesting that their disappearance made it easier for the county to manipulate the evidence.

He also told the jury that the audits and investigation were of a very narrow scope designed to target and smear Yvonne.

Schaffer grew colorful in his denunciations, calling the assertion by the defense that Yvonne Evans never mentioned a concern about the harassment and retaliation until she received a notice of termination "a complete god—-ed lie."

Later, he called others liars, including Kimball and current Undersheriff Joseph Salivar.

"Are people trying to preserve their jobs? I don't know, but they're not telling the truth," Schaffer charged.

The attorney called Royal a "slick guy" who lied on the stand abut his prior knowledge of Kimball's affairs with underlings.

"The two top guys in the Sheriff's Office lied to you," Schaffer said, calling accusations against Yvonne Evans "preposterous" and "a bunch of bunkum."

In Bill Evans' case, Schaffer likened a recommendation that he undergo counseling to forcing him into a re-education camp, asking, "What is this? North Korea?"

In conclusion, Schaffer warned the jury, "Don't let them get away with this — or this is the Sheriff's Office you are going to have."

While the jury is free to decide what Bill and Yvonne Evans are entitled to, if anything, Schaffer put the price tag for economic losses, pain and suffering at about $4.75 million.

Defense argues no retaliation occurred

Fessenden lost no time in firing back, attacking Schaffer for making "spurious allegations."

"Good people are called liars," he said, ridiculing the idea there was "some grand conspiracy" to get Yvonne and Bill Evans. "That makes me angry."

He sought to dismantle a large portion of the plaintiffs' case as having nothing to do with the actual issue — whether Yvonne's termination and Bill's resignation were connected to her complaint of sexual harassment and retaliation.

"You have been overwhelmed by a mountain of evidence that is largely immaterial to this case," Fessenden said. "I believe this is all designed to confuse you and distract you … and to create sympathy for (the plaintiffs)."

Fessenden then listed the evidence presented that he said did not matter ­— testimony about Yvonne's ex-husband, Keith Cantrell; Bill and Yvonne's marriage; problems in Yvonne's personal life; whether Bill Evans was a good deputy; Kimball's affairs; and a theft in the Truckee office that was not linked to Yvonne.

Fessenden asked why no forensic accountants or investigators testified for the plaintiffs, telling the jury they failed to present any hard evidence.

Instead, he said, Bill and Yvonne Evans cast a "circle of blame."

"Anyone who had anything negative to say, they called liars," he said. "It's awful."

Fessenden said it could be argued that Yvonne Evans complained about the harassment and was fired, but there was no connection between the two events. Bill Evans, he said, retired of his own free will.

To contact reporter Liz Kellar, email lizk@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.