FREE SPEECH -- "A federal jury's finding that Solano County
District Attorney David Paulson and his chief investigator maliciously
violated the civil rights of a Fairfield bail bondsman is disturbing,
to say the least," says the opening of a scalding editorial in the Vacaville Reporter.  "Mr. Paulson's response to the jury's decision on
Wednesday —that the trial was 'an enlightening experience' and that 'everybody learned something from it'— is ludicrous."

Mr. Paulson is the second-longest-tenured
district attorney in the history of Solano County, having been
appointed in 1993 and elected four times. He joined the office in 1978.
He's a past president of the California District Attorneys Association.
He chairs the advisory board for the master of law degree in
prosecutorial science program at a local university.

What
in the world did he not know beforehand about either the legal system
or the First Amendment? And was his newfound knowledge worth the
tuition that taxpayers have paid by helping to foot his legal bills?

The
U.S. Eastern District Court jury this week sided with the plaintiff,
bail bondsman Joel "Tom" Toler of Vacaville, who accused Mr. Paulson
and investigator Al Garza of using their office to retaliate against
him after he placed ads in local newspapers urging candidates to step
up and challenge Mr. Paulson for the District Attorney's seat.

Mr.
Toler took out the ads in April 2005 because he was angry with the way
the D.A.'s office was handling his complaint against a man who
threatened his children. He also was upset that Mr. Paulson, an elected official, would not meet with him personally.

Weeks
after the ads appeared, Mr. Toler was accused of making threats and
slapped with a restraining order to stay away from the district
attorney and his staff, and to keep 100 yards away from the county
Government Center. That radius included Mr. Toler's office on Jefferson
Street, effectively shutting down his business.

Precisely
why the federal jury sided with Mr. Toler has not been made public, but
jurors might well have been as incredulous as the general public at Mr.
Paulson's claims on the witness stand that he did not know about or
read the ads until two months after they appeared.

Either he was not being entirely truthful, or Mr. Paulson was not paying attention. Either is inexcusable for a public official.

The
jury awarded Mr. Toler $72,000 to compensate him for his attorney fees,
and $18,000 in punitive damages. The $72,000 -- plus the cost of
defending Mr. Paulson -- will be paid by the county's insurance policy,
minus a deductible of either $10,000 or $25,000, according to County
Counsel Dennis Bunting, who was unsure on Thursday which deductible was
in effect when the case began.

A decision about who will pay the punitive damages has not been made.