Bar rejects conspiracy complaints against Videtich, Sanai
A second Oregon State Bar complaint against Sanai, alleging failure to report disciplinary action brought against him in Washington, remains under active investigation. So does the Washington case, in which Sanai is trying to stave off disbarment action recommended by the Washington State Bar — action that would threaten his ability to continue practicing law in Oregon as well.
Attorney John Hingson filed the complaints against Videtich and Sanai after succeeding in getting a DUII charge dismissed on behalf of Newberg resident Timothy Forbes. The first trial resulted in a hung jury, the second in dismissal for failure to meet the accused’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.
Hingson complained that Videtich and Sanai conspired to withhold the personnel records of then-deputy Thomas Hoy during the discovery process. He said that actionviolated due process because the file contained material the defense could have used to cast doubt on Hoy’s credibility.
Forbes has made similar allegations in a federal lawsuit against the county that names District Attorney Brad Berry and Sheriff Jack Crabtree in addition to Viedetich, Sanai and Hoy. He also accused Sanai of lying under oath when the counsel testified he was not aware of anything in the file that would be subject to the rules of discovery.
However, the bar’s assistant disciplinary counsel, Kellie Johnson, did not find those arguments sufficiently supported.
In a written decision, Johnson cleared Videtich because Hingson did not specifically ask him for Hoy’s personnel file, and under state law, “an officer’s personnel records are generally not discoverable.”
Hingson argued that Videtich should have known there would be material in the file helpful to the defense and provided it when asked in the discovery process for any records material to the defense. Johnson disagreed, concluding Videtich “did not have reason to undertake a unilateral review of these records.”
Johnson also rejected Hingson’s argument that Sanai had kept the personnel records in his office specifically to avoid legal discovery requirements. “Rather than subterfuge, it appears reasonable that the county counsel would maintain the personnel records of county employees, including those of the sheriff’s deputies,” he said.
Sanai had reviewed the file and testified to that effect under oath. He went on to tell presiding judge Cal Tichenor he had not seen anything in the file that he thought would be “useful to the defendant.”
After asking to see the file himself and reviewing it in chambers, Tichenor rebuked Sanai, commenting on the record that his characterization of the files had not been accurate.
In his ruling, Johnson said, “Judge Tichenor’s comments … show that the judge was unconvinced and perhaps offended by Mr. Sanai’s professed inability to find/produce exculpatory documents.” But he told Hingson, “You have not provided any evidence that Mr. Sanai made an inaccurate representation that he knew was false and material.”
Johnson said Sanai merely expressed an opinion, based on his review of the file, and Tichenor, based on his own review, “apparently disagreed.”
She noted that Tichenor did not make an official finding of misconduct on Sanai’s part. He went on to say, “A court’s comment on the record – however critical of counsel’s conduct – is not sufficient to prove a violation of the ethics rules.”
Hingson has until Jan. 23 to contest the dismissals.