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Mark Gutglueck: Go to the courthouse sometime

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going to courthouse

Go to the courthouse sometime, especially in the morning Monday through Thursday. It is like a huge mill. People are being run through the place like clockwork. Nearly all of them are overwhelmed by the system and plead guilty. How many of them were or are, as Mr. Kirk claims he was and was able to show at trial, not guilty? Truly not guilty? How many of these people are having their lives ruined by the proceedings at the courthouse? What do we owe them? Do we owe each of them $16.4 million for the horror we have subjected them to?

By Mark Gutglueck | Inland Politics

I was at every day of the criminal trial, from January 4, 2017 until they let Mr. Erwin go in September. I was there on days when some of the defense attorneys and some of the prosecutors weren’t there. I was there on days when some of the defendants weren’t there. I was there on two days in the summer when Mr. Kirk wasn’t there. I heard and took notes on the testimony of every witness. The only persons there more than I was was Judge Michael Smith and one of the bailiffs. I’m not an authority, mind you. But I was there.

For me, this all becomes problematic when someone starts throwing numbers like $40 million around. Let us assume that what Mr. Kirk alleges is true: That he was not engaged in any illegal activity and that he was unfairly prosecuted. I think the county’s defense attorneys will seek to contradict that. Nevertheless, let’s assume they are wrong and Mr. Kirk and his lawyer are right.

Let us even assume that he can somehow establish to the satisfaction of a jury that he did nothing ethically iffy or wrong or in any way questionable in setting up a PAC in the immediate aftermath of the $102 million settlement and that there was nothing questionable, or illegal or foolish about taking the $100,000 that he did from the Colonies Partners so soon after the Colonies Partners banked that $102 million, even though Mr. Kirk, on April 21, 2009 in an interview-turned-into-interrogation with district attorney’s office investigators Hollis Randles and Maury Weiss himself said, and I quote, “I understand it doesn’t look good.”

Again, let us assume that it can be established that the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office/California Attorney General’s Office went beyond the pale and put Mr. Kirk undeservedly through the wringer and that he lost his job with the county and put him to the expense of hiring an attorney to clear his good name and keep himself from getting convicted and they put him through the bother of going to trial. How much money is that worth?

I want to do some calculation. Maybe someone is better at figures than I am, though I doubt it. I would apply this math: Mr. Kirk was 36 when he was indicted. That means he had perhaps as much as 14 years left in his career as a public official or maybe as much as 24 more years as a public official. He was not necessarily entitled to work as a public official for 24 more years: nevertheless, he might have done so. He was making roughly $120,000 as chief of staff, with $60,000 in benefits, putting him at $180,000 per year, roughly, in total compensation. I think he was bumped up to $130,000 a year when he left the chief of staff position and went to work as the director of government relations the year before his indictment, which was the position he held when he was indicted and then suspended without pay in May 2011.

That put him at $190,000 per year. So, let’s round that up to $200,000 per year. Okay, so far so good, I think, though some may say I’m off a bit here. But, as they say, close enough for government work. So, let us bump that $200,000 up to $225,000 to equate to what Mr. Kirk might have averaged per year for the 24 years going forward from 2011. Now let’s multiply by 24 [24 years X $225,000 per year = $5.4 million]. Lest anyone accuse me of poor math or underestimating Mr. Kirk’s earning potential, let’s double that to be fair to Mr. Kirk. Call it $10.8 million. And hell, to be doubly sure, let’s double it again: $21.6 million. And let’s say Mr. Kirk spent $1 million on his criminal defense and he will need to venture another $1 million on his civil suit. That totals $23.6 million.
Somehow, on my ledger, $23.6 million does not equate to $40 million. I think that Mr. Kirk is asking for $16.4 million too much, again, assuming he can establish his case.
There is another consideration here: Go to the courthouse sometime, especially in the morning Monday through Thursday. It is like a huge mill. People are being run through the place like clockwork. Nearly all of them are overwhelmed by the system and plead guilty. How many of them were or are, as Mr. Kirk claims he was and was able to show at trial, not guilty? Truly not guilty? How many of these people are having their lives ruined by the proceedings at the courthouse? What do we owe them? Do we owe each of them $16.4 million for the horror we have subjected them to? Let us even say we only owe them each, on average, half of what we owe Mr. Kirk. Let’s cut that in half, to $5.4 million for each innocent we have railroaded. I asked Grover Merritt, the 2014 candidate for district attorney, what his estimate was on the innocent rate among those who just fold at arraignment.

He said he figured one out of 8 people being charged were actually innocent. Grover would know: He’s been one of the guys railroading people in this county since the 1980s. I’ll take his word for it. In San Bernardino County yearly, over ten thousand are convicted for minor to major crimes, most without ever going to trial. If 12.5 percent of those convicted of major crimes in this county are in fact innocent, there is not enough money in the public treasury to make those who have been victimized by our prosecutorial/judicial process whole again. To undo the damage to these innocents, as Mr. Kirk would have us to for him in his case, would absolutely bankrupt out county government.
If Mr. Kirk and his attorney, Mr. Scalisi, are truly interested in reforming a dysfunctional court system that unfairly prosecuted him, I think what they should do is put their energy toward representing all of the innocent people now being charged with crimes in San Bernardino County and putting the court through its paces just like they did in Mr. Kirk’s case. That would be a true blow for justice.

By *Mark Gutglueck on August 7th, 2018.


This was an essay-comment to a story that appeared in Inland Politics  from a SB Sun article. Gutglueck discusses a 40 million dollar suit malicious prosecution filed against the county in federal court — and the court systems alleged injustices he has personally witnessed. His knowledge of courts is well documented in his comment. Gutglueck is the published, editor of the SB Sentinel.  Gutglueck has two essay-comment to the Inland Politics link. The text has not been altered in any fashion. The title ‘Go to the court house sometime’ was added to the post. bh

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