The saga that is the San Benito County District Attorney’s
Office versus the anonymous group Los Valientes and its
controversial lawyer Michael Pekin continues to unfold slowly.
Hollister – The saga that is the San Benito County District Attorney’s Office versus the anonymous group Los Valientes and its controversial lawyer Michael Pekin continues to unfold slowly.

The most recent development stems from Superior Court Judge Harry Tobias’ ruling Wednesday allowing the District Attorney’s Office to depose Pekin later this month to question him about his conduct regarding a corruption lawsuit against former Supervisor Richard Scagliotti. Pekin alleged Scagliotti used his position as supervisor for financial gain, among several other allegations.

Pekin said he doesn’t know what type of questions to expect, but that he will refuse to divulge the names of Los Valientes members if asked.

“I won’t say who Los Valientes are. I’m real sure about that,” he said. “I could be held in contempt if a judge ordered I answer a question and I refused.”

Sarsfield also declined to comment about the questions at this time, or whether he believes this is his chance to unmask the elusive Los Valientes. Sarsfield said in June he hoped to uncover their identities by mid-July, however he’s had trouble getting Pekin into court to testify about his lawsuit and former clients, he said.

If the prosecutor hadn’t had to “drag him into court” through a court order, Sarsfield said he would have determined who members of the group were months ago.

But Pekin believes a judge won’t order him to give up Los Valientes, and was more concerned about another component of Wednesday’s court hearing. Pekin said Tobias also preliminarily declared that the civil case Sarsfield filed against Pekin, his associates and Los Valientes was initiated to “stifle” Pekin’s lawsuit against Scagliotti. The preliminary nature of the ruling, according to Pekin, meant that he hasn’t established discriminatory prosecution, and that both sides can continue to take statements and ask for documents. Pekin plans to present Tobias with a list of documents, called discovery, in court on Nov. 2 that he believes will bolster his case alleging discriminatory prosecution.

Sarsfiled dismissed Pekin’s claim alleging discriminatory prosecution, and said obtaining discovery documents is simply a basic legal process in any lawsuit.

In Sarsfield’s civil case, he claimed that Pekin, his associates and Los Valientes filed frivolous lawsuits against the county and public officials that were bleeding taxpayers dry.

Sarsfield filed the civil case against Los Valientes members, Pekin, his son Patrick and his legal aide, Amanda Hernandez, almost a year ago that would require Pekin obtain a judge’s permission before filing any more lawsuits against the county and that they pay a fine equaling as much as $500,000 and attorney’s fees.

Sarsfield included Los Valientes in that suit because he said they waged a campaign of intimidation and harassment against private citizens and government officials.

Pekin claims Tobias’ decision was based on an out-of-town judge’s statements that were made in connection with a criminal case involving Hernandez. Sarsfield charged her with misdemeanor practicing law without a license, but dropped the case for insufficient evidence last month.

Before the case was dismissed, the out-of-town judge Kenneth Andreen stated that the case against Hernandez was “extremely weak” and “an attempt to stifle” Pekin’s suit against Scagliotti.

“What that exactly means is that ordinarily, a prosecutor can exercise his authority for a number of reasons, but he cannot exercise his authority for unconstitutional reasons,” Pekin said.

While Tobias’ ruling doesn’t put an end to the civil case, it does mean Pekin has the opportunity to delve into Sarsfield’s motives for filing suit, including interviewing the prosecuting in person if a judge allows him to.

Pekin’s deposition and his extensive list of discovery demands draws out the nearly year-long legal battle even further – a fight Supervisor Anthony Botelho believes shouldn’t have been started in the first place. Botelho said he believes Sarsfield should focus less on Pekin and allow the county to resolve its lawsuits on its own.

“I don’t think it serves anybody justice by his getting involved with Pekin – I just hope it’s not personal,” Botelho. “He should be more focused on criminal matters and keeping his office open 52 weeks.”

Sarsfield, who defended himself by stating that Pekin’s lawsuits have cost the county big bucks, recently appeared before the board, asking for increased funding to pay for additional staffing in his office. He closed his office to the public last week to allow his staff to get caught up on between 200 to 300 cases that hadn’t been entered into the court system.

Pekin has already put a list of his demands together which he will present to Tobias next month. At that time the judge will decide which documents Pekin will be allowed to get.

Included in Pekin’s demands are all materials Sarsfield used to file charges or lawsuits against Pekin, his associates and Los Valientes, identities of everyone interviewed concerning cases against Pekin and Los Valientes, and any notes or memos from meetings or conversations Sarsfield had with Scagliotti and other former Board of Supervisor members concerning Pekin and Los Valientes. In all, Pekin made 40 specific document requests.

Sarsfield and Pekin have been going head to head within the court system for more than a year. Sarsfield initiated a criminal grand jury investigation into Pekin last December, which led to Pekin being indicted on five felony charges that a judge later dismissed, and has been chasing Pekin’s former clients Los Valientes for months. Sarsfield promised to unmask the elusive group by mid-July after his office secured a court judgment that allowed his office to go forward with the civil rights lawsuit against the group in June. He has yet to discover who is included in the group, which Pekin says no longer exists.

Erin Musgrave covers public safety for the Free Lance. Reach her at 637-5566, ext. 336 or [email protected]

Previous articleThe Independence Rally is Gaudy, Loud, Irritating and Colorful
Next articleA ‘Hellacious’ High-Speed Chase Through Downtown
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here