[Sutter County] Judge sides with Sutter County DA

Grants motion rejecting subpoena for information from unpublished Sutter County grand jury report

A Sutter County judge sided with the District Attorney’s Office on Friday, granting a motion to reject a subpoena for communications related to the unreleased 2017-18 grand jury report.

Defense attorney Jesse Santana served the subpoena for production of evidence on Sutter County Counsel Jean Jordan last fall, requesting “any and all” emails, voicemails, text messages or writing to and from Jordan and District Attorney Amanda Hopper pertaining to the grand jury report, according to Appeal-Democrat archives. 

In Santana’s petition with the Appellate Court last fall, he wrote that he believes the report contains information that would exonerate or provide evidence that would cast doubt on the criminal charges against his client, Danelle Stylos. She is the former Sutter County Development Services director who was arrested in March 2017 on suspicion of perjury, voter fraud, petty theft and filing false information on a concealed carry permit.

The report prepared by the 2017-18 grand jury was withheld from publication, though advanced copies went to some offices. The 17 grand jurors resigned in protest in June, stating they were “prevented from fulfilling our duty as watchdog for Sutter County,” in a letter to Superior Court Judges Brian Aronson and Sarah Heckman.

In August, Ashby denied Santana’s two motions seeking the unpublished report. The state Attorney General’s Office recommended that the Third Appellate District Court of Appeal reject the petition.

In his written motion and in court Friday, Deputy District Attorney Adam McBride argued that the subpoena lacks plausible justification and that the information Santana seeks is “absolutely privileged” with disclosure prohibited by state statute.

“I believe the court should look at this (request) as invasion of privacy of DA Hopper and County Counsel,” McBride told Ashby. “It’s a fishing expedition – he’s trying to cast a wide net in order to get information denied by the court and the court of appeals.”

Santana argued the court’s reasoning, alleging that Stylos’ criminal charges came from Jordan pressuring Hopper.

“It was a witch hunt that (the issues raised by the charges in the case) that should have been handled administratively,” Santana said. “Under the California Constitution, the people, meaning us, the residents of Sutter County, are entitled to this information.”

Ashby interrupted to tell Santana that his allegations against Hopper and Jordan were unsupported as there was no evidence within the subpoena. But, he granted the DA’s motion without prejudice – meaning the subpoena can be refiled, which Santana said he plans to do. 

“I’m confident that what I represented to the court will come out at the preliminary hearing,” Santana told Ashby.

Stylos’ preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 14.

March 1, 2019

Appeal-Democrat

By Rachel Rosenbaum

County: