Witness: No problems exist with Jason Mackey warrant; prosecutor calls court development ‘huge’ | TheUnion.com

Witness: No problems exist with Jason Mackey warrant; prosecutor calls court development ‘huge’

An investigation into Deputy Jason Mackey sparked into existence from a May 2015 discussion between the Nevada County sheriff's officer and former Assistant District Attorney Glenn Jennings.

At issue in that discussion was a search warrant penned by Mackey. Discussing the warrant outside of a courtroom, Mackey told the prosecutor he didn't have an address when he wrote it. He wanted Jennings to dismiss the case, Jennings has said.

That act almost three years ago was followed by an internal investigation and multiple attacks by defense attorneys in cases involving Mackey. One of those attacks against Mackey's credibility has led to an evidentiary hearing that's occurred over the past four Fridays and is scheduled next month for a fifth.

A handful of witnesses, including Jennings, have testified in that hearing about whether Mackey improperly drafted the warrant that resulted in the May 2015 dismissal of a narcotics case. Running against District Attorney Cliff Newell, Jennings has referenced Mackey during a political event this year and said the former Narcotics Task Force member lied in that warrant.

Last Friday Sgt. Justin Martin, Mackey's former superior in the Narcotics Task Force, testified that he recently examined the signed search warrant filed with the court, as opposed to the printed copy Mackey showed Jennings in May 2015.

The signed copy filed with the court is correct. It shows that Mackey followed Martin's commands and corrected a draft copy before a judge signed it, the sergeant said.

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"That 100 percent proves that Mackey didn't lie," Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said after Friday's hearing. "It's definitive proof."

The warrant

Walsh said he asked a judge to unseal Mackey's warrant after questioning Jennings during a March 9 hearing. He then saw the warrant filed with the court differed from the copy attorneys have used in the hearing.

Walsh, who currently holds the position Jennings once held, called the discovery "huge." Stephen Munkelt, a defense attorney involved in the evidentiary hearing, said in a statement that Martin's claim — that Mackey's warrant was accurate — was never found in an internal investigation into Mackey nor the brief probe by the District Attorney's Office.

"If Mackey wrote the Bell affidavit correctly, why did he not know that?" Munkelt questioned in his statement. "If the evidence was in the court file how could the 'extensive' (internal investigation) completely miss it? Trying to connect the dots leads to a conclusion that Mackey and the investigators for the Sheriff are incompetent, or possibly that there is a larger problem of dishonesty in the Sheriff's department that is veiled by privacy laws and allowed to go unchecked because the District Attorney would not do an independent investigation."

Walsh said he believes he's the first person to view the sealed warrant since Mackey filed it with the court. On the witness stand Friday, Martin said he had no explanation when Superior Court Judge Robert Tice-Raskin asked why he didn't view the original warrant when the corruption allegations against Mackey arose.

Martin also said he didn't know if anyone with the Sheriff's Office viewed the sealed warrant when it conducted its internal investigation into Mackey.

Authorities have said the internal investigation revealed no wrongdoing by Mackey. Prosecutors continue to use his search warrants in criminal cases.

Contacted Monday, Sheriff Keith Royal said his staff had no authority to view the sealed warrant, though a prosecutor does.

"Had Glenn Jennings pulled the search warrant, that would have resolved a lot of these issues and there wouldn't have been an internal investigation," Royal said.

Royal when asked said he supported Newell's re-election bid for Nevada County district attorney.

Accusations

Jennings, who didn't appear at Friday's hearing, said the revelation about the warrant changed little in his mind. He dismissed Royal's comment about him.

"That's his opinion," Jennings said on Monday. "All they're doing is covering this thing up.

"The guy told me he can't take the stand," Jennings said of Mackey.

Jennings said his office's investigation into Mackey intended to examine several of the deputy's warrants. He planned on asking a judge to release them, but Newell closed the investigation before Jennings could make the request.

Jennings said Newell cut that probe short. Jennings later refused to sign a statement declaring an investigation into Mackey was complete and that no wrongdoing was found. He resigned when Newell said he'd upset the Sheriff's Office, giving him the option of leaving or being fired.

Jennings on Monday reiterated points that he discussed on the witness stand during the evidentiary hearing. He noted that three officers expressed their doubts about Mackey during June 2015 interviews. Additionally, he said the District Attorney's Office is obligated to do a separate investigation.

The evidentiary hearing that's occurred over four Fridays, and is scheduled to continue April 6, stems from two misdemeanor marijuana cases which involve Mackey. Defense attorneys argue Mackey's warrant should be tossed, which would lead to the dismissal of their clients' cases.

The judge has made no decision.

Telling attorneys that April 6 will be the last session of the hearing, Tice-Raskin left the courtroom briefly Friday afternoon.

"You going to get Glenn Jennings here to apologize for calling him a liar?" Walsh said to Munkelt in the courtroom during the break.

"You're the only person making this political, dude," Munkelt replied.

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