Friday, October 10, 2008
DA Sued in Canceled Plea Deal
By T.J. Wilham
Journal Staff Writer
The attorney for three-time accused killer Clifton Bloomfield claims her client tried to reach a plea agreement with prosecutors that would have put him in prison for life, but District Attorney Kari Brandenburg reneged on the deal for political reasons.
In a motion filed Thursday in District Court, attorney Liane Kerr accused Brandenburg of prosecutorial misconduct so egregious she argued that charges against her client should be dismissed.
Contacted Thursday, Brandenburg declined to comment on the motion. She did say she felt the motion was going to be a moot point and it was likely it wasn't going to be litigated.
She would not explain why.
Bloomfield is charged in the double homicide of an elderly Korean-American couple and the mistaken identity slaying of a newlywed crimes that occurred while he was on probation after reaching a plea deal with the DA for an armed robbery home invasion.
Kerr said her client reached an agreement with Brandenburg's office in which he would plead to the three murders in which he is charged in exchange for Brandenburg's office not pursuing the death penalty.
The motion also claims Bloomfield is dying of lung disease and hepatitis C.
Kerr says in the motion that Brandenburg "has a history of reneging on agreements in this case" and "a pattern of sealing information which is damaging to her campaign."
Brandenburg, a two-term Democratic incumbent, is in a heated race with Republican challenger Lisa Torraco.
"In continuing to entice the defendant into making statements to his detriment, the prosecution, specifically (Brandenburg), placed politics above justice," Kerr said in her motion. She also contends that Brandenburg "pointedly lied" to police and to her. The motive, Kerr alleges, was get information to help her prosecute a "high-profile" case.
Bloomfield was in jail awaiting trial for the mistaken identity killing of newlywed Scott Pierce this year when police charged him in connection with the December 2007 killing of Tak and Pung Yi.
He became a suspect in the Yi killings when forensic scientists got a match on his DNA from the scene of the Yi killings. Bloomfield's DNA was on file in a federal database from a previous conviction.
He was charged last week with the Yi killings, and at the time police said Bloomfield was also suspect in three other killings, bringing the total to six.
Two traveling magazine salesmen Travis Rowley and Michael Lee were charged earlier in the Yi deaths, and police say they still believe they were involved.
Rowley's attorney filed a lawsuit last week against APD and the DA's office claiming they withheld evidence, including DNA.
Kerr's motion has shed some light as to why police believe Bloomfield may have been involved in as many as six killings.
According to the motion:
n After police learned of the DNA match in the Yi case, a detective met with Bloomfield, who indicated he would provide a statement in exchange for ensuring the death penalty was not pursued and that he would be placed in the custody of another state.
n Two weeks later, on Aug. 19, Deputy District Attorney Linda Mott called Kerr and made an offer agreeing to Bloomfield's terms. Kerr accepted.
A meeting was set for the next day in District Judge Albert S. "Pat" Murdoch's courtroom with the judge present so Bloomfield could give a statement. Mott abruptly left.
Detectives said she had to file an emergency document in the Supreme Court but said that because "time was of the essence" they would honor the deal as "agents" of the DA's office. Kerr stayed and Bloomfield gave a statement.
An agreement was signed in which participants agreed that what was said "would not be shared with the media" because the statements were part of plea negotiations and not admissible in court.
However, no formal plea agreement was forthcoming.
n Two days later, on Aug. 21, Kerr told Bloomfield she wanted to remove herself as his attorney because she felt that Brandenburg's office was "playing" them. Bloomfield asked Kerr to stay on and told her that as a sign of good faith to police he would provide information on other unsolved homicides in the metropolitan area.
n The offer was extended to APD detectives, and Bloomfield gave information that would "help them close cases and provide closure to families."
n On Sept. 19, Mott contacted Kerr and asked that Bloomfield give a second statement to clarify things. Bloomfield agreed. Kerr alleges Brandenburg had told detectives gathering the second statement that if Bloomfield gave the "expected" responses, she would enter the plea agreement.
n Days later, Brandenburg, Mott and two other deputy prosecutors called Kerr and wanted Bloomfield to take a lie detector test. Kerr said her client would not take a polygraph unless a written agreement and a court date was set to accept the plea, "given the fact that Ms. Brandenburg continued to change the terms of the original offer."
n Brandenburg told Kerr that regardless of what Bloomfield said on the lie detector test, she was going to set a hearing to accept Bloomfield's plea once she met with the victims' families.
n On Oct. 2, Brandenburg met with the families at APD's Family Advocacy Center. During the meeting, Brandenburg told the families a deal was struck and she would be accepting Bloomfield's plea on Oct. 6. The families told Brandenburg they agreed.
n On Oct. 3, police formally charged Bloomfield in connection with the Yi killings and prosecutors had the warrant sealed.
A hearing to accept Bloomfield's plea has not been set.
Instead, a deputy district attorney sent Kerr an e-mail indicating that pursuant to a judge's order, Bloomfield's statements would be delivered to the attorneys of the other Yi suspects.