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 user 2004-04-11 at 10:21:00 am Views: 127
  • #5129

    Prosecutors Disqualified in Xerox Fraud Case

    The California Court Of Appeals in Los Angeles recently disqualified prosecutors because they allowed Xerox attorneys and investigators to become overly involved in the investigation and prosecution of a criminal case. The case involved fraud charges stemming from allegedly counterfeited Xerox and Ricoh products. According to the written opinion of Justice Judith M. Ashman-Gerst, “Substantial evidence supports the trial court’s finding that Xerox did more than assist the DA in the preparation of the case against respondents; Xerox controlled traditional law enforcement and DA functions.”

    Beginning in the summer of 1999, Xerox hired private investigators to conduct extensive surveillance on the defendants in the case. The investigators’ surveillance formed the basis of search warrants that were later executed with their assistance. In 2001, various indictments were handed down to 18 defendants, which included office supply companies or individuals working with the companies, on a range of charges including the manufacture, possession and sale of counterfeit Xerox and Ricoh products.

    Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler was troubled by Xerox’ involvement and disqualified the District Attorney’s office from the case. After the District Attorney’s office appealed this decision, the Appellate Court agreed with the Superior Court, concluding that representatives of Xerox became too involved with the case’s investigation and prosecution.

    District Attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said that motions to disqualify her office are common, but are rarely granted. If the District Attorney’s office decides to challenge the Appellate court’s decision, it must either ask the Appellate Court for reconsideration or appeal its decision to the California Supreme Court. “At this point in time I’m not sure whether we’re going to seek a rehearing or seek further review,” Gibbons said.

    Mark Geragos, an attorney representing one of the defendants, commented that the case is “fatally flawed.” Geragos said it quickly became apparent that Xerox was controlling the case. According to Geragos, the District Attorney’s office cannot permit private entities to control its investigations or prosecutions.

    Geragos said he will likely file a motion to dismiss the case on behalf of his client and added he is hopeful the case will be dismissed.

    Disagreeing with Gergaros, Gibbons said, “The case is not going away. The criminal prosecution will continue.”

    The permanent removal of the District Attorney’s office would leave the case in the hands of the office of California Attorney General Bill Lockyer. “It is an awful lot like starting from scratch,” said Attorney General spokesman Nathan Barankin. Barankin said a judge would likely determine what materials from the previous investigation the attorney general will have access to in the continued prosecution of the case.

    Where the case may end up at this point seems up in the air