Civil rights plaintiff told to “stop making trouble for himself” by Riverside County District Attorney’s Office is now being held indefinitely, without bail, in the Southwest Detention Center

by Melody A. Kramer

Dr. Dortch, a longtime resident and business owner in Murrieta, California is currently being held in the Southwest Detention Center without bail, in a suspended criminal case, because of political views he voiced to the Riverside County Superior Court. The underlying criminal case in which this order was issued has been unconstitutionally maintained, in violation of Dr. Dortch’s right to a speedy trial, since June 9, 2015, and was initiated in retaliation for a civil rights lawsuit Dr. Dortch filed against local law enforcement and prosecutors in May 2013.

Per court records, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Paul Svitenko left a voicemail message for Dr. Dortch’s attorney in the context of plea negotiations, stating that Dr. Dortch should dismiss his civil lawsuit against the Murrieta Police Department because “Murrieta is a nice town” and said he should “stop making trouble for himself.”

The order to hold Dr. Dortch without bail was issued September 3, 2015 by Riverside Superior Court Judge Judith Clark citing a document filed in pro per by Dr. Dortch after he had dismissed his defense counsel on April 10, 2015, a document citing political beliefs regarding the authority of the judicial system. This was also after the Court, without his consent and over Dr. Dortch’s objection, appointed public defender Richard Briones-Colman to “defend” him. Briones-Colman threatened Dr. Dortch, via email, that if he did not cooperate with him, he would file a motion with the court questioning his (Dr. Dortch’s) mental competence. Briones-Colman carried out this threat, and on August 27, 2015 argued that Dr. Dortch should be evaluated for mental competence to preserve any subsequent criminal conviction from being overturned on appeal (a remarkably pro-prosecution argument under the circumstances). Judge Clark thus suspended the criminal case at the same time she ordered Dr. Dortch held without bail.

Judge Clark had issued an arrest warrant on August 27, 2015 after Dr. Dortch, who has been on bail while he has fought criminal charges against him since November 2013, left the courtroom before she told him he was free to go. Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Fugitive Warrant Enforcement Team later executed a forceful takedown arrest of Dr. Dortch outside of his business, claiming that Dr. Dortch resisted arrest, even though video capturing the arrest shows Dr. Dortch being compliant.

Melody A. Kramer, Dr. Dortch’s attorney of record in the pending civil rights case in federal court, made repeated efforts after his arrest to contact Dr. Dortch and speak with him. She was repeatedly rebuffed and then outright banned from communicating with Dr. Dortch in any fashion, over and over again on September 3, 2015, at both the Southwest Justice Center and the Southwest Detention Center. In front of numerous witnesses, Ms. Kramer was advised by Riverside County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jeremy Harding that she could not speak with Dr. Dortch during any breaks or waiting time around court proceedings “because of the nature of this case.” Finally, hours later, Ms. Kramer was allowed to come into the courtroom and speak with Dr. Dortch and then enter her appearance on behalf of Dr. Dortch.

This latest action is part of a string of retaliation against the Dortch family after they filed a civil rights case in May 2013 against the Murrieta Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Office, Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, and others relating to a day-long raid on the Dortch home in April 2013 and related actions. As reflected in court records, in June 2013, a Murrieta police sergeant sent an email to Riverside County employees claiming that Dr. Dortch held certain political beliefs that made him a danger to the community. Dr. Dortch was arrested without a warrant several months later by one of the officers named in the pending civil rights lawsuit. Subsequent developments in the case have disclosed falsified police reports, destruction of evidence, and official documents showing that certain actions were taken “because” of a pending civil lawsuit. The Riverside County DA’s office is withholding exculpatory evidence in Dr. Dortch’s case and all efforts thus far to obtain the information by been stymied by the Riverside County Superior Court.

This matter is set for hearing again on September 8, 2015 where Dr. Dortch's counsel will argue that Dr. Dortch's case must be dismissed and he must be released from custody immediately.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Melody A. Kramer, Legal Greenhouse | Attorney Advertising

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