Eighteen residents of tiny Del Norte County crammed into a State Bar Court waiting room Thursday morning, waiting their turn to be called to testify to the character of their district attorney, who’s been accused by the bar of corruption.
The crew of small-town politicians, farmers and community activists traveled the 355 miles from Crescent City, which one local reporter called “the Wild West,” to tell State Bar Judge Lucy Armendariz that DA Jon Alexander is a good man who doesn’t deserve to be disbarred for personal financial dealings with local law enforcement and members of the Del Norte bar.
Alexander, a former meth addict, has done worlds of good for the poor and embattled county, witnesses said, in helping free it from the clutches of pervasive meth abuse.
“We have a lot of people that are not productive in society and don’t function well. When I heard Jon Alexander’s story, and I saw him rising through the ranks in our community, I think he’s a bit of a godsend,” said Blake Alexandre, a local dairy farmer who testified fourth.
But State Bar prosecutor Donald Steedman appeared to try to poke holes in Alexandre’s familiarity with the DA on a topic close to the farmer’s heart — cheese.
“Do you know Mr. Alexander’s favorite kind of cheese?” Steedman asked Alexandre, who is not related to the DA.
Alexandre guffawed from the witness stand. “I don’t have any idea,” he said.
Another member of the folksy group seemed anxious to counter Steedman’s attempts to paint Alexander’s loans among members of the legal community as signs of corruption, but prosecutors didn’t appear to be aware of her readiness. Despite the fact that local activist Martha McClure had already told Armendariz that she’d read closely through the bar’s charges against Alexander and the corresponding rules of professional conduct, prosecutor Linda Yen asked McClure what she’d done to prepare for the hearing.
McClure took the opportunity to go point by point through the prosecutor’s charges and the rules of professional conduct, disputing at every turn that Alexander’s behavior rose to the level of misconduct. The testimony went on for several minutes, uninterrupted.
According to Alexander and his lawyers, led by Kurt Melchior of Nossaman, the bar has unfairly taken the side of Alexander’s political rival in a fight for power that dates back many years.
Alexander is scheduled to take the stand on Monday to testify that he was not trying to thwart the outcome of criminal cases when he made a $14,000 loan to a local probation officer or took a $7,000 loan from a local defense attorney for hair transplant surgery. In the meantime, 18 more character witnesses are scheduled to take the stand on Friday.
Alexander could face disbarment if the charges are upheld. He’s filed suit against the bar alleging defamation in San Francisco Superior Court and is seeking unspecified damages.