Lake County Sheriff Frank Rivero on Monday defended his actions during a marijuana cultivation investigation that led a judge to dismiss the case.
Rivero claimed that the Lake County District Attorney's Office failed to fully investigate the encounter between Rivero and a suspect, forcing the judge to throw the case out last week.
"It's a big smoke screen," Rivero said Monday. "I don't know what to tell you, they don't want to prosecute the cases, they're trying to embarrass me."
The moments in question involve an interaction between Rivero and a Kelseyville man Aug. 2, 2012, at a pot farm on a remote property east of Lower Lake.
Judge Andrew Blum found that Rivero had violated the man's Miranda rights by telling him to get off the phone with his attorney and instead talk to Rivero.
Rivero said Monday that although he doesn't recall the precise words he said during the conversation, he believes he didn't tell the man to get off the phone with his attorney but instead told the man that he wouldn't speak with his attorney.
"I recall (the defendant) saying something like, 'I want you to talk to my attorney,'" Rivero said.
Rivero said he refused and then told the man to get off the phone. Law enforcement do not typically speak with a defense attorney during an investigation and they often tell people to get off the phone during the initial moments securing a scene, he said.
The case reveals a deepening chasm between Rivero and District Attorney. Don Anderson, the county's top lawmen who have long been at odds.
Rivero said that prosecutors didn't try hard enough to get his version of events, nor did they interview a detective sergeant who was present during the encounter.
"All of this could have been avoided," Rivero said of the case dismissal. "But it wasn't because they didn't want to."
The exchange between Rivero and suspect Frank Frazza, then 23, became a concern for prosecutors when Rivero later recounted the conversation during a meeting with county leaders on enforcing a medical marijuana ordinance.
Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson said that Rivero was bragging about his tough stance toward illegal marijuana cultivation and that he told Frazza to get of the phone, saying, "You don't need to be talking to him, you need to be talking to me."
"He's ordering the defendant to talk to him and not his attorney, that's the crux of the Miranda violation," Anderson said, reached by phone Monday.
Prosecutors were obligated to investigate Rivero's action and disclose their findings to the defense, Anderson said.
The deputy district attorney in charge of the case, Art Grothe, asked the defense, without revealing what Rivero had said, if Frazza had a conversation with Rivero. Frazza's account matched that of Rivero's at the meeting, Anderson said.
Grothe also requested, in an Aug. 30 email to a sheriff's captain, that Rivero submit a report on his interaction with Frazza.
After submitting the formal "request for further investigation," Grothe explained in a subsequent Sept. 14 email to the captain that the details "will have a major impact on what statements are admissible and whether the suspect was attempting to invoke his right to counsel."
Rivero refused to write a report, saying that the matter didn't merit one.