Kings County Superior Court Judge Robert S. Burns ordered an attorney from the state Attorney General’s office to take over prosecution of seven criminal cases formerly being prosecuted by embattled county DA Keith Fagundes.
The matter was initiated by the court to avoid a potential conflict of interest.
The potential conflict of interest arose because the Visalia law firm of Sarsfield and Melo is representing both the criminal defendants and representing Fagundes in a separate civil action against Kings County.
The criminal defendants are: Luis Alvarado, Jonathan Espinoza, Ricardo Galvan, Aavron Manning, Isias Plata, Kasinda Sandoval and Travis Silkwood.
Even though the DA’s office didn’t think there was any conflict, a representative from the DA’s office told the judge that the DA’s office was going to voluntarily withdraw from prosecution and have an outside attorney handle prosecution.
And although Heather Gimle, a Deputy State Attorney General filed a brief objecting to prosecuting the cases, the judge on January 21 ordered her to do so anyway.
Following his ruling Burns told each criminal defendant of his decision via a video hookup and said a new trial date in those cases would be set February 3.
The county is being sued by Robert Waggle, Fagundes’ former chief investigator and a sworn peace officer, and Fagundes.
Waggle alleges Fagundes repeated sexually harassed him over a period of two years. Waggle is now on medical leave.
In his suit Fagundes against Kings County he says the county does not have the authority to transfer personnel from the DA’s office which happened late last year. The reference to personnel transfers in Fagundes’ suit involves Alexandria Smith, Fagundes’ secretary and Waggle’s girlfriend.
Smith has been reassigned by the county to the Human Resources Department. Fagundes’ suit said that Smith’s absence has negatively impacted the ability of the office to process criminal prosecutions.
Fagundes also claims that the county has to defend the DA against Waggle’s suit, said Sarsfield
Both the Waggle and Fagundes cases were initially filed in Kings Superior Court. However, the cases were transferred to San Bernardino County after Kings County judges recused themselves from the cases, said Diane Walker Freeman, Kings County Counsel.
Kings County is petitioning the San Bernardino Superior Court to have Fagundes’ suit against the Kings County transferred back to Kings but with a judge from outside Kings, said Freeman.
The county said Fagundes’ legal fees would not be reimbursed unless Fagundes relocates and works at a remote location which is a request Fagundes has refused to comply with.
In its response to Fagundes’ suit, the county has denied every allegation.
Fagundes is among three candidates who have filed for election for the district attorney’s position in the June 7 primary. Also is former DA Greg Strickland and Sarah M. Hacker, who used to work for Strickland and Fagundes.