OPEN GOVERNMENT/FREE SPEECH -- Barring an unexpected
resolution otherwise, a former Butte County grand juror will stand
trial in August on charges that she illegally disclosed confidential
information about alleged police misconduct after her tour of service was over, reports the Contra Costa Times.
Georgie Szendrey is accused of providing information to the media
last year regarding an investigation she had conducted as a member of
the 2006-07 Grand Jury into an excessive force complaint against two
Paradise police officers.
The ex-grand juror has pleaded not guilty to a single
misdemeanor charge which could carry up to a year in jail upon
According to the criminal complaint, which was filed, which was filed in
early February, the alleged disclosures were made well after her term
on the Grand Jury had ended, during a 28-day period between Feb. 7 and
March 6, 2008.
The latter date coincides with a joint article by the
Chico Enterprise-Record and Paradise Post concerning the Grand Jury police
probe, after it was revealed in open court. Szendrey was quoted in the
article as acknowledging that during her investigation, she determined
that two Paradise police officers, Timothy Cooper and Robert Pickering,
failed to inform an underage drunken driver, Justin Baltierra, that he
was under arrest before violently tackling him to the pavement as a
neighbor videotaped the incident.
Szendrey's unpublished grand jury findings in the Baltierra
case were later used by the attorney for a resisting arrest suspect,
Max Schumacher, to persuade a judge to release the names from the
officer's personnel file of three individuals who had filed previous
complaints against Pickering. Schumacher was subsequently acquitted at
trial on all charges.
A third ridge resident, Harold Funk, was later acquitted by a
separate jury of unrelated resisting arrest charges after the grand
jury information in the Baltierra case was also used to unseal
Pickering's file in an identical pre-trial motion.