Senior Associate Paul Coble Secures Victory for Stanislaus County District Attorney before County Appeals Board


In a disciplinary case handled recently by Senior Associate Paul Coble for the Stanislaus County District Attorney, the termination of an investigative lieutenant was upheld by the County Appeals Board. (The hearing was made public at the request of the employee).

The lieutenant learned that his long time criminal informant was under investigation by a local drug task force. After probing the task force for information about the case, and after being told by his superiors to have no further contact with the informant, the lieutenant telephoned the informant the day before the informant’s home was searched. The search netted no contraband or evidence; the house was clean. And although the informant claimed to have been tipped off by the lieutenant, there was insufficient evidence to support such a charge.

However, there was phone record evidence supporting the informant’s claim that the lieutenant had telephoned him the day before the search. The lieutenant was charged with, and terminated for, multiple instances of being untruthful, including under oath, when he stated that he could not remember making that call.

The case against the lieutenant relied heavily upon circumstantial evidence, i.e., surrounding facts and circumstances which made it implausible that a law enforcement officer of the lieutenant’s experience would have forgotten making this case. Ultimately, after hearing all of this evidence, the Appeals Board found that the charges were all supported by preponderant evidence; that the lieutenant had indeed lied when he said he could not remember making the call.

This case stands for a couple of propositions. First, circumstantial evidence – evidence the existence of which creates an inference of another fact — is often very strong and compelling.

Second, it shows that it is possible to establish that someone is lying when they seek the refuge of “I don’t remember.”