Judge rules Rutledge’s Miranda rights not violated in interview
Editor’s note: In respect for their confidentiality, The Sun will refer to the women in this case only by their first names.
Nevada County Superior Court Judge Ersel L. Edwards decided Wednesday, Feb. 16, that former jailer Bobby Alvin “B.A.” Rutledge’s Miranda rights were not violated during the course of a 1997 Nevada County Sheriff’s Office administrative hearing. The judge announced his decision as Rutledge’s trial resumed following a five-day hiatus for jurors.
Edwards heard the last arguments in a defense motion to suppress statements Rutledge made to Sheriff’s Department investigators in at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, some two hours after the 12 jurors and two alternates were dismissed for the weekend.
Nevada County Sheriff’s Lt. Larry Lewis and Detective Sgt. Ron Smith testified about how a planned Sept. 5, 1997, administrative hearing at the Sheriff’s Office in Nevada City that Rutledge was ordered to attend became entwined with a criminal investigation. Rutledge is charged with 29 counts of sexual misconduct.
“The parallel criminal and administrative hearing bothers me,” Edwards told District Attorney Michael Ferguson and defense attorney Stephen Munkelt at the end of the hearing last week.
Edwards also admonished both attorneys for raising the Miranda issue during Rutledge’s trial.
The heart of the question was whether Rutledge should have been read his Miranda rights – which include protection from self-incrimination and the right to have a lawyer represent him – before he consented to questioning by Smith on Sept. 5, 1997.
The interview was held nearly a month after allegations first surfaced that Rutledge had conducted illegal strip searches of female inmates while he was a jailer at the Truckee substation.
Rutledge, 30, was ordered by Sgt. Lewis to attend an administrative hearing that day and arrived before his union representative, whom he had asked to attend, according to Lewis. Rutledge was ushered into an interrogation room, where Smith questioned him for 62 minutes. The interview was captured on tape and shown in court Thursday. It shows Rutledge steadfastly proclaiming his innocence.
Smith admitted on the stand that he lied to Rutledge in telling him the interview was not being taped, saying “I didn’t anticipate that question” from Rutledge.
“That’s because, if he knew, he might not talk, correct?” Munkelt asked.
“I suppose you could say that, yes,” Smith answered.
Edwards interjected several times during the afternoon testimony, asking Lewis and Smith to explain their actions.
Edwards asked Lewis about his phone call to Rutledge to arrange the Sept. 5 interview. “Did you tell Rutledge that Smith would be there?”
“No,” Lewis said.
Despite the shortened session Thursday, Feb. 11, jurors heard from the last of the 13 women who have accused Rutledge of sexual misconduct.
The last witness, Diane, had been ordered to the jail for booking following a July 1, 1997, court hearing.
While standing outside the jail with a male friend, Diane said Rutledge explained to them that he would take her photo, fingerprint her, and have to conduct a search.
“Once inside the jail’s booking area, “(Rutledge) asked if I was wearing a bra, and that I had to unhook my bra, and raise it and my shirt over my head,” Diane told jurors.
“And what did you do?” Ferguson asked.
“I did as I was told,” she said.
Diane said Rutledge then told her to unzip her jeans and pull them down so he could pat her down. He then patted her legs and thighs and slid his hand under her underwear, she said.
Rutledge next had Diane pull her underwear away from her body so that he could look into it, then told her to get dressed, and proceeded with the rest of the booking, she told jurors.
Diane’s testimony Thursday differed from statements she had made to investigators in an October 1997 interview, Munkelt said. “You never told (Sgt. Smith) about the defendant touching you?” he asked.
“I was beating around the bush in the interview,” Diane said. “I couldn’t believe how stupid I sounded.”
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