Newell: Sheriff made ‘right decision’ in bar fight case
August 29, 2008
GRASS VALLEY ” The Sierra County sheriff’s decision to ask the state Department of Justice to investigate the details of a weekend fight is a prudent move, local law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Sierra County Sheriff John Evans on Tuesday said he would ask the state to conduct the investigation, in part to remove any perception that the sheriff’s office might be giving preferential treatment to the parties involved in the case, should any of them be county employees.
As The Union first reported on Monday, law enforcement is investigating a report of the weekend fight that broke out at a Downieville bar allegedly involving the county’s district attorney, Larry Allen.
“It’s absolutely the right decision” to forward the case to the justice department, said Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell. “We would do the same thing in my office” should a similar situation arise.
It’s important to avoid any appearance of impropriety, and sending the case elsewhere removes that perception, Newell said.
If his office were in a similar situation, Sheriff Keith Royal said, his department would do an initial investigation, but he would recuse the department from the investigation as well.
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“To avoid the perception that someone was given preferential treatment, we would give the case to the Attorney General so it would not have the misgivings of being treated differently than any other case,” Royal said, observing that the Attorney General’s office is a neutral party.
A Department of Justice spokeswoman said that, since the case is of a criminal nature, she could not comment.
Evans has not said who was involved in the fight at the St. Charles Place bar in downtown Downieville early Sunday morning, but Allen told The Union he was at the bar at the time of the altercation.
The incident occurred during a weekend celebrating members of the local E Clampus Vitus chapter, a group that Allen belongs to. The fraternal group, well known in the Sierra foothills, is dedicated to the study and preservation of California history, including the Mother Lode region.
Allen was reached on his cell phone Wednesday. When asked to explain his alleged involvement, he replied, “Not at this time.”
Julie Wussow, who was at the bar that evening, said that Allen accosted her and her boyfriend, resulting in Wussow receiving a broken foot.