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Sheriff blamed after Lake County marijuana case tossed

A Lake County judge Wednesday dismissed a marijuana cultivation case after evidence emerged that Sheriff Frank Rivero told the defendant to get off the phone with an attorney, a violation of his Miranda rights.

The issue stems from an Aug. 2, 2012, encounter on a remote property east of Lower Lake where Lake County sheriff's narcotics officers were investigating marijuana gardens, Lake County District Attorney officials said.

At the Cantwell Ranch Road property, Kelseyville resident Frank Frazza, then 23, called a lawyer when investigators arrived, but, during the conversation, he was told by Rivero to get off the phone, according to court documents.

“Sheriff Frank Rivero told the defendant, 'You don't need to be talking to him, you need to be talking to me' or words to that effect,” according to a District Attorney's Office motion filed in the case.

Judge Andrew Blum threw out the case during Wednesday's preliminary hearing after ruling that Rivero's actions violated Frazza's rights and therefore Frazza's statements and the evidence were inadmissible.

Rivero did not respond Wednesday to calls or emails seeking comment.

The dismissal of the case — which prosecutors said involved 7-foot marijuana plants worth $600,000 slated to be sold in Los Angeles — is fallout from another of Rivero's legally questionable actions.

“It is not normal for a deputy to do that; that is very basic police academy stuff,” Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson said. “If someone wants to talk to an attorney, you don't interrupt the conversation.”

Rivero's credibility in court has already been compromised.

After Rivero gave varying statements during a 2008 shooting investigation, Anderson placed Rivero on the “Brady List,” which means his credibility issues must be disclosed during any court case for which Rivero is a material witness.

Rivero also is facing legal scrutiny for his decision to cut the Lakeport Police Department's access to computerized records and criminal histories, previously provided through a contract with the Sheriff's Office.

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