Almost a year ago now, private investigator Steve Vender landed in some hot water when the San Francisco DA’s office accused him of intimidating a witness in a murder case.
From the look of things at a Hall of Justice courtroom Friday, where a judge heard Vender’s motion to dismiss the case, the Bay Area criminal defense community has rallied around Vender.
He’s being represented by Berkeley defense firm Arguedas, Cassman & Headley, and partner Cristina Arguedas was in court herself today. Other well-known defense attorneys who stopped in to support Vender were Stuart Hanlon, Betsy Wolkin, Michael Gaines and Floyd Andrews.
“A lot of us have used him over the years and we think the world of him,” Andrews said outside court after the hearing.
The dust-up concerned Vender’s work for criminal defense attorney Eric Safire on the defense of Philip Pitney, an alleged Eddy Rock gang member who was on trial for attempted murder in the shooting of Ladarius Greer (a jury ultimately convicted him). Greer disappeared on the eve of trial, and prosecutors allege it was because Vender left him a voicemail telling him he would be arrested if he showed up in court. “It’s October and it’s a good time to visit the Fresno Riviera…and stay well,” Vender said in the recording. A grand jury indicted him on one count of violating California Penal Code 136.1 (dissuading a witness).
Vender has denied wrongdoing, saying last year that he and Greer had a rapport and that Greer had even called him at one point seeking advice about getting subpoenaed. He ridiculed the idea that he scared off Greer: “As you’re aware, Fresno is a land-locked city in the Central Valley,” he said at the time. “It’s a ridiculous notion to think that Steve Vender can pick up the phone and tell violent gang members with a criminal history to disappear to a place that doesn’t exist.”
Massullo denied Vender’s motion. The case is set for a January trial.