As Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander fights to keep his law license and his job in a trial before the State Bar of California court in San Francisco, the bar has launched a new investigation into allegations that he abused his power.
Alexander, a recovering methamphetamine addict elected on a "death to meth" platform in 2010, could be disbarred after the current trial, which involves charges that he failed to disclose financial conflicts of interest, violated a defendant's constitutional rights and engaged in "acts involving moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption."
Now, according to a State Bar document, he is being investigated for allegedly improper actions surrounding the arrest of a private detective regarding a child abduction case.
The Bee detailed events that led to most of the current charges denied by Alexander in a story published in February.
A ruling on his case is expected within about 90 days of the trial's completion. Laura Ernde, a bar spokeswoman, said no one at the agency could recall a trial in which a DA's right to practice and ability to hold office were similarly jeopardized.
The Bee obtained a letter written by Susan I. Kagan, the bar's assistant chief trial counsel, stating that she has assigned an investigator to examine Alexander's role in the February arrest of Barry Brown, a private investigator in Del Norte.
Ernde called her agency's investigations confidential and declined to comment. Brown said in an interview that a bar investigator contacted him Oct. 24 and said the investigation would be completed if Alexander retained his law license after the current trial.
Brown was arrested in February in connection with allegations about the abduction of his two young grandchildren by Brown's daughter, the children's mother, during a custody dispute. She was separately arrested.
Brown said he had no involvement in taking or holding the children and no knowledge of their whereabouts. He provided The Bee with letters from himself and his daughter that he said were delivered to Alexander prior to the arrests. The letters cited his daughter's intent to keep the children only temporarily pending an independent review of evidence that the children might be harmed if returned to their father.
State law sometimes permits such actions if taken in concern for the children's safety and reported to the local DA. Brown's daughter, Jennifer Brown, said she faxed a legal notification to the DA about a week prior to the arrests.
The Bee obtained a probable cause statement, written to obtain an arrest warrant, from Del Norte Superior Court. Alexander initialed the statement, which was drafted by a local sheriff's detective. It justifies the arrest, in part, on Brown being unreachable by phone and makes no reference to any written notifications to Alexander by the Browns.
Brown said his cellphone records prove that he was in frequent contact with the DA and the detective prior to his arrest, but received no messages.
"It is sad that we had to threaten (the Browns) with legitimate crimes to get them to divulge the children," Alexander said in a statement issued by Kurt W. Melchior, his attorney. "Both of their arrests came only after their refusal to deliver the children to the Sheriff's Office as promised by them."
Authorities did not charge either of the Browns, but did not remove the felony arrests from court records, which Barry Brown said harmed his reputation and livelihood.
In his bar complaint, Brown called Alexander's involvement in his arrest "an extreme abuse of power" and "retribution" in response to Brown having alerted reporters about alleged improprieties by the DA.
Brown wrote that Alexander also was personally conflicted in the arrests due to the DA's brief social relationship with Jennifer Brown, who rebuffed his repeated, unwanted sexual overtures. On one occasion, Brown wrote, Alexander arrived intoxicated at Brown's daughter's residence late one night, seeking sexual relations.
Alexander did not respond to questions about Brown's claims.
In justification of the arrests, Alexander released, through Melchior, a narrative report written by a sheriff's detective. It discusses possible child sexual abuse and refers to a polygraph exam of the alleged perpetrator, the children's father.
The release of that sensitive report raises additional questions about Alexander's conduct, experts said.
Stanford University law professor Robert Weisberg said the report appears to be sealed by a court order.
If so, Alexander "could be held in contempt for releasing this," Weisberg said.
Robert Wilson, an attorney who formerly headed Sacramento Child Advocates, said that "releasing a document that is confidential and in violation of a court order could also result in a State Bar disciplinary investigation."
The DA has been suspended or otherwise disciplined several times by the bar for legal or ethical lapses. He is on probation until May 2013 for earlier transgressions.