No one gets to cross-examine Stephan Passalacqua. He isn’t talking.
And that’s sure familiar.
A pattern developed during my years as night city editor. Passalacqua routinely called me late in the evening, long after the courthouse reporter had given up and gone home, writing that the district attorney hadn’t respond to interview requests on whatever story we were pursuing. Passalacqua always had some prepared talking points, which he read, then repeated regardless of the follow-up question. He’d chuckle, assure me he wasn’t saying going to say anything more and hang up.
Passalacqua essentially did the same thing with the case of Miguel Sanchez, the 83-year-old Cloverdale man who was struck by a hit-and-run driver and died four days later – two days after prosecutors cut a deal to close the case, and just a few days before his term ended. Passalacqua ducked interview requests from reporters pursuing the story for a week before submitting a Close to Home column on Wednesday that tried to pin the blame on a political foe.
Since we can’t cross examine the former district attorney, let’s read between the lines of his Close to Home column. Passalacqua says a firewall of assistants and chief deputies separated him from cases involving his brother, the defense attorney in the Sanchez case. OK, so who specifically was responsible for making those decisions? He didn’t say.
Instead, he implied that it was Bud McMahon, even attributing The Press Democrat. He called McMahon’s judgment “inexcusable” and suggested “disciplinary action.” But all that’s been reported is that McMahon made a phone call to the Cloverdale police after the case was closed. So far, no one is willing to say who handled the case or who made the decision to settle before police finished their investigation, before the Sanchez family was consulted and without determining the extent of Sanchez’s injuries.
For the uninitiated, McMahon supported Jill Ravitch in each of the past two elections. McMahon was assigned to the juvenile courts under Passalacqua; now he’s interim chief deputy district attorney. If he handled the Sanchez case, maybe he shouldn’t be chief deputy. But if Passalacqua went to court with such flimsy evidence, the case would never get to trial.
– Jim Sweeney