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Lake County sheriff defends actions in drug case

  • Lake County Sheriff Frank Rivero walks along Main Street in Lakeport, California on June 29, 2012. Rivero has been a lightning rod for controversy since he was elected in 2010. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/MCT)

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.

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