Justia White Collar Crime Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Supreme Court
Stark v. Superior Court of Sutter County
This case involved serious allegations against Robert E. Stark, the auditor-controller of Sutter County where the Sutter County District Attorney's Office claimed that Stark violated statutes, county rules, and Sutter County Board of Supervisors (Board) resolutions detailing the requirements of his office. At issue were four provisions of Penal Code section 424, all of which proscribe general intent offenses. Three of those provisions criminalize acting without authority or failing to act as required by law or legal duty. The court held that those offenses additionally required that defendant knew, or was criminally negligent in failing to know, the legal requirements that governed the act or omission. The court also held that a claim of misinstruction on the mens rea of a crime could be challenged under Penal Code section 995, subdivision (a)(1)(B) where it raised the possibility that, as instructed, the grand jury could have indicted on less than reasonable or probable cause. The court further held that based on the record, the court need not decide the question of whether willful misconduct under Government Code section 3060 required a knowing and purposeful refusal to follow the law. Stark did not disagree with the instruction on mental state given by the district attorney and accompanying PowerPoint slides invalidated the instruction on mental state, requiring that the accusation be set aside. The court addressed these claims as to the district attorney's argument and PowerPoint slides and concluded that it was without merit. The court finally held that, in a motion to set aside an indictment or accusation, a defendant claiming that the district attorney suffered from a conflict of interest during the grand jury proceeding must establish that his right to due process was violated. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court was affirmed.