The already tense relationship between lawyer Michael Pekin and
District Attorney John Sarsfield becomes more strained by the day,
with Sarsfield calling the cops on Pekin Friday for allegedly
causing a disturbance in his office and asking the county counsel
to grant a restraining order against him.
Hollister – The already tense relationship between lawyer Michael Pekin and District Attorney John Sarsfield becomes more strained by the day, with Sarsfield calling the cops on Pekin Friday for allegedly causing a disturbance in his office and asking the county counsel to grant a restraining order against him.
After Pekin allegedly behaved inappropriately while trying to retrieve some court documents in the lobby of his office, Sarsfield asked San Benito County Counsel Claude Biddle to draw up a restraining order against Pekin because he is worried about the safety of his staff, Sarsfield said Monday.
Two San Benito County Sheriff’s deputies and one Hollister Police sergeant responded to the District Attorney’s Office Friday around 4:15pm after Sarsfield reported that Pekin was in the District Attorney’s office lobby, banging on the window sills and door, Sarsfield said.
Ignacio Velazquez, a former client of Pekin’s and the person spearheading a recall attempt against Sarsfield, dropped several copies of some legal documents off at the District Attorney’s Office for Pekin. But he accidentally dropped off one copy too many and when Pekin went to the district attorney’s office to attempt to get one of the copies back, Sarsfield refused to give it to him.
And sparks flew.
“The walls were shaking. He was pounding on window sills and doors, trying to get into the office,” Sarsfield said. “I called the sheriff’s department, it went to the dispatch center, and (police) showed up, calmed the situation down and wrote it up.”
But Pekin, ostensibly, has a different rendition of events.
Velazquez was instructed to give Sarsfield three of four copies of a document demanding a copy of an investigative report into Sarsfield’s office, among several other requests concerning Pekin’s defense in the pending criminal case against him. Pekin was indicted by a criminal grand jury in February for five felony counts, including attempting to elicit perjury, obstructing justice and filing frivolous lawsuits.
But Velazquez delivered all four copies by accident, so Pekin went to Sarsfield’s office to get one of the copies back to deliver it to Biddle, Pekin said.
“Sarsfield refused to give it back, so I knocked on the door (to the inner office) and he called the police,” Pekin said. “I never raised my voice. What would the gentlemanly thing to do be if somebody left something behind?”
But when police arrived, Pekin was quietly standing in the district attorney’s lobby, according to Hollister Police Capt. Richard Vasquez.
Pekin told police Sgt. Carlos Reynoso the situation. After talking with Sarsfield’s receptionist, Reynoso informed Pekin – who was waiting in the lobby with two sheriff’s deputies – that Sarsfield would not return the document before he had a chance to read them, Vasquez said. Pekin agreed to leave empty handed and had to get another copy of the document to deliver to the county counsel’s office.
Vasquez said that Reynoso stated in his report that he did not hear a disturbance of any kind and that Pekin was cooperative with all the officers involved.
“From talking with the officer he wasn’t (upset), but we don’t know what happened before we got there,” Vasquez said.
But Pekin’s alleged behavior was enough to incite Sarsfield to request Biddle draw up a restraining order against him. Biddle did not return several phone calls to his office Monday, but Sarsfield said the restraining order would not be against him personally, but his entire office.
If it is granted by a judge, Pekin would not be allowed inside the district attorney’s office.
“The county has an obligation to provide a peaceful and safe work place,” Sarsfield said. “I am concerned about my employees.”
But Pekin believes the restraining order has nothing to do with what happened last week. He is attempting to depose Sarsfield and his office manager, Nancy Leon, about what he believes was a romantic relationship the two had, and which he made public last year.
“Right now the DA is attempting to prevent that,” Pekin said. “This (possible deposition) is far more important than this little boy’s tat.”
Pekin went public with the affair allegation when he was defending Velazquez and Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz for election violation allegations in the heated District 5 supervisor race controversy. At the time, he was attempting to have Sarsfield recused from prosecuting the duo because he said his relationship with Leon created a conflict of interest. Leon is the niece of Mickie Luna, who is a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens, which commissioned a private investigation into De La Cruz’s 10-vote win over former Supervisor Bob Cruz. LULAC later dropped its investigation, but the county conducted its own probe of the election.
Pekin believes Sarsfield has a personal vendetta against him for airing the affair allegation, which is what he believes has fueled the criminal charges against him and his assistant, Amanda Hernandez. Sarsfield charged Hernandez several weeks ago with practicing law without a license.
“I want to know if the prosecutor who’s prosecuting me is falsely accusing me of lying and he knows he had an affair,” Pekin said. “He’s buckling. The weight is too much, and he’s trying to prosecute me and keep the truth from the public about himself.”
After Pekin’s accusation, two women in the Victim Witness Department filed a sexual harassment suit against Sarsfield, which ended with a $35,000 settlement and a summary of an investigation into his office being leaked to the Free Lance. Although Sarsfield’s attorney, Jon Giffen, has denied the existence of an affair between the two, the summary of the investigation sustained a number of the allegations made in the women’s complaint – including that he had a romantic relationship with Leon and that he retaliated against some of his employees for political reasons.
But Sarsfield said he didn’t charge Pekin with the five felony counts – it was the 18 members of the grand jury that leveled the charges that could send Pekin to jail for up to three years or strip him of his ability to practice law. Sarsfield has repeatedly denied having a personal vendetta against the eccentric lawyer and says he’s just doing his job.
Pekin will appear before San Benito County Superior Court Judge Harry Tobias on Thursday to argue why he should be able to dispose Sarsfield and Leon. If his request is granted, he would depose them in the county administrative building in the presence of a court reporter. While the deposition would not be public, the transcripts would be, he said.
Erin Musgrave covers public safety for the Free Lance. Reach her at 637-5566, ext. 336 or [email protected]