Officer accused of lying to a judge
November 12, 2014
By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN
A member of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Narcotics Task Force is under investigation for allegedly lying in a search warrant affidavit in order to gain access to a San Miguel man’s home and vehicle.
The raid resulted in the reported discovery of about a fourth of an ounce of methamphetamine and the arrest of a 42-year-old man for possession of a controlled substance for sale and driving with a suspended license. All those charges have been dropped subsequent to the perjury allegations, according to court documents.
AJ Santana, an investigator for the district attorney’s office who had spent the last year working as a member of the narcotics task force, had an office at the sheriff’s department.
On Aug. 27, Santana filed an affidavit with San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Rita Federman seeking a warrant to search the home of Tommy Clay Pappas and his red Acura Legend for evidence of drug dealing. Santana was successful in his request to have the affidavit sealed by the court in order to protect an ongoing investigation, according to the warrant.
On Sept. 3, several members of the NTF were watching the San Miquel home where Pappas had stayed on and off for about a month when he drove away in the Acura, according to the sheriff’s department incident report.
Deputy Al Barger followed the suspect for several miles before pulling him over. During the stop, Pappas appeared to swallow something large, Barger reported.
Other officers, including Santana, served a warrant on the home where they reportedly found a small amount of meth.
Pappas was transported back to the San Miquel home to be interviewed by Santana. In his report, Santana said that while Pappas denied swallowing anything, Pappas did give Santana permission to have a doctor pump his stomach.
Members of the narcotics team then transported Pappas to Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, where a doctor put a scope down his throat and reportedly saw a baggie. The doctor then pumped Pappas’ stomach which produced a Ziploc baggie containing 3.8 grams of methamphetamine, according to the incident report.
However, while Pappas said he did agree to an x-ray Santana said was needed to look for a possible bullet, Pappas denies giving permission to the officers to scope or pump his stomach. Santana, who was not shot during the arrest, said he did not know why the officer said he might have been.
On Sept. 22, during Pappas’ pre-preliminary hearing, San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Ginger Garrett ruled to keep Pappas remanded in jail with his bail set a $25,000. Pappas pled not guilty to a felony charge of possessing narcotics for sale and three misdemeanor charges of driving with a suspended license.
After it was discovered Santana allegedly lied to a judge, the sheriff’s department notified the district attorney’s office of the perjury allegation.
On Oct. 15, the district attorney’s office made a motion to drop all charges against Pappas because of a lack of evidence.
Two days later, then-District Attorney Gerald Shea and his elected successor Dan Dow placed Santana on paid administrative leave, district attorney officials said.
On Nov. 8, Pappas was released from the San Luis Obispo County Jail. The next day he was admitted into a sober living facility in Lompoc which he had applied to stay in several months prior to his arrest, Pappas said.
Asked about the incident and its aftermath, Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerret C. Gran told CalCoastNews, “Dow has a plan, and the first order is the investigation.”
Should an investigation support allegations of perjury, it is likely that the case with be sent to the California Attorney General’s Office for further investigation, with criminal prosecution a possibility.
“We have three separate standards to look at — administrative, criminal and Brady,” Gran said.
Police officers who have been proven dishonest are sometimes referred to as “Brady cops.” Because of the Brady v. Maryland U.S. Supreme Court ruling, prosecutors are required to notify defendants and their attorneys whenever a law enforcement official involved in their case has a sustained record for knowingly lying in an official capacity.
In about two weeks, the district attorney’s investigation into allegations of perjury is slated to conclude. Dow will then decide, if necessary, on actions to take against Santana, a senior investigator with his department who was on loan to the NTF.
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