Accused Drug Dealer Walks After Deputy's Threats to Him Revealed

Posted on Jan 07, 2010

Barnett works for the public defender’s office, but he isn’t just another PD. His father, John, is among the elite of California’s criminal-defense bar. Cops—the people who know firsthand the importance of superb legal representation—often turn to John Barnett when they’re accused of wrongdoing. The gorgeous house in Laguna Beach atop a hill with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean is one testament to how well the elder Barnett knows his trade.

The Simmons case proves the Barnett pedigree lives on. Alvarez called Catalano as her first witness, and the deputy gave confident answers about the arrest. To Barnett’s questions, however, the investigator repeatedly responded with phrases such as “I can’t say for sure,” “I don’t remember exactly,” “I don’t know,” “I might have,” “I can’t remember” and “I can’t say for sure either way,” according to the court transcript.

Barnett got Catalano to claim his report was accurate, that he was the lead investigator, and that only he questioned Simmons at the scene while Rodriguez stood nearby. But most important—and over Alvarez’s strenuous objections—the public defender got the investigator to say, “I never threatened [Simmons] at any point.” One of Simmons’ front teeth had somehow been knocked out during the arrest.