Lassen County District Attorney's Office Violates Marsy's Law
Lassen County Times, September 2012
Marsy’s Law a constitutional amendment that details a criminal victim’s bill of rights approved by the voters in 2008 was violated by Lassen county District Attorney Robert Burns. His actions or lack of, was a total disregard for the laws that govern victim's rights. As the District Attorney for Lassen County, Robert Burns actions in this matter were properly identified as unacceptable for any District Attorney, even if the District Attorney thinks he is a legend. Below is the rest of the story .
Victims' rights group pulls Burns' endorsement
Sam Williams, Lassen County Times, November 6, 2012
In an Oct. 30 letter, a victims’ rights group announced it no longer supports Lassen County District Attorney Robert Burns in the Lassen County Superior Court judge’s race.
Burns faces Susanville attorney Tony Mallery in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election.
(Note: ELECTION RESULTS SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE ----TONY MALLERY 56.52%-- ---BOB BURNS 43.48%)
Harriet Salarno, chair of Crime Victims United, a victim’s rights group headquartered in Auburn, Calif., said Burns violated the law in his handling of a case in which a 4-year-old Litchfield girl was allegedly raped by a teenaged family friend. Salarno said her organization worked so hard to pass Marsy’s Law - a constitutional amendment that details a criminal victim’s bill of rights approved by the voters in 2008 - that it cannot tolerate district attorneys who do not follow the law. Solarno wrote, " ... it has been brought to our attention that the victim's rights were completely ignored and the family was denied to be part of the process, which is their constitutional right. We believe actions speak much louder than words and regret our endorsement of Mr. Burns.
"We are deeply disappointed that he would deny these victims their rights and again cause them to be victimized by the criminal justice process. Crime Victims United will stand strongly by this family and do all we can to ensure their rights are enforced."
|DA's Office - Old court house
"I was disappointed to learn this week of the withdrawal of an endorsement by a crime victim's organization in my campaign for superior court judge," Burns wrote in a statement to the newspaper. "I was more disappointed to learn of the reason why"
Burns acknowledged one of his deputy district attorneys resolved "a sensitive juvenile sexual assault case without having first consulted the victim's family This is a plain violation of Marsy's law. When I learned this, and in a meeting shortly thereafter with the family of the victim, I tried to express my sincerest of apologies. This departure from modern prosecution practice and department policy is not acceptable and is contrary to my 20 years of fighting for victims and keeping them part of the process."
Burns wrote despite his apology, the family contacted Crime Victims United "with a little help from Mallery supporters," and the group "reached its conclusion unilaterally and without obtaining the full story by contacting me directly. Had they called, they would have learned the victim was not 'raped' and the rights of the family of the victim were not 'completely ignored.' Despicable as it is, the investigation detailed one act of sexual assault, without penetration, by a perpetrator without any criminal history whatsoever."
Burns wrote the father of the victim was stationed away from home, and "representatives (from the DA's office) worked to facilitate his temporary leave to come home to deal with these intense family 'issues. Moreover, the victim's family was present at the interview of their child by law enforcement and DA representatives. The family of the victim met privately with the deputy district attorney assigned to the case, were provided with that deputy's private office phone number and were invited to make contact if they felt they needed to."
According to Burns' letter, the perpetrator pleaded guilty 20 days later and sometime during that 20 days, the victim's family left town for approximately three weeks.
"Later, when asked why the family did not also try to communicate with us, the father stated he did not want to 'bother' the deputy district attorney assigned the case," Burns wrote. "The perpetrator was convicted of the conduct he/she engaged in. In early October, the victim's family attended the sentencing hearing of the perpetrator and expressed their sentiments about sentencing. However, the court limited their attendance when some evidence was received that led the court to the conclusion that the confidentiality of juvenile proceedings might not be observed if they attended.
"Regrettably, the crime victims' organization chose to focus on the one case my deputy mishandled rather than the countless number of victims we have assisted through the criminal justice system over the 14 years I have served as district attorney," Burns wrote. "Nevertheless, it is my office. It is my responsibility. If the organization chose to withdraw its endorsement based on this one case, then perhaps their endorsement was not what I thought it was ... In conclusion, I remain committed to Marsy's Law and the protection of victims of crime as your district attorney and in the election of a new superior court judge."
But Burns wrote he was most disheartened because the organization's letter contains the victim's family name and the victim's age, "and the subsequent posting of that letter, unedited, on social media sites, can't help but to specifically identify the victim, who has had no say in the matter."
The family comments
The victim's mother has launched a petition drive on social media sites to help with the enforcement of Marsy's Law and express her dissatisfaction with the way the case was handled. She wrote she expected the perpetrator to be charged as an adult, not as a juvenile.
"Apparently, because he did not use a weapon, restrain her, or threaten harm, the offense was not considered severe enough to be charged as an adult under California law," the victim's mother wrote. " ... you do not have, to threaten violence or use a weapon to intimidate and instill fear into a 4-year-old ... Young children do not have a defense against such emotional and psychological threats, especially from people that they trust. I also feel that the language of ‘a child under 14' used in the charging of a suspect nullifies the severity of a crime committed against a 4-yearold child."
The victim's mother said due to the confidentiality of a juvenile case, she could not comment on what sentence she thought the perpetrator received, but it "would be considered light by almost anyone's standards. The most frightening fact to me is the fact that he will not be required to register as a sex offender. He committed his crime against a 4-year-old baby girl who trusted him and saw him as her friend. His acts were malicious and evil and should have been addressed with far more severity"
The victim's mother also wrote she believed the perpetrator would re-offend and this is not the first time he has "harmed a child." The victim's mother said her goals were are-evaluation of the requirements for juveniles to be tried as adults; public sex offender registration for juveniles older than 14; more rights for victims and victims' families in juvenile cases, even if a gag order needs to be put in place for the sake of confidentiality; a reevaluation of the 'credible witness' requirements in child sexual abuse cases; and the stating of the precise age of the victim when charging child sexual abuse crimes.