A State Bar Court trial began Wednesday for a San Francisco prosecutor on charges of intentionally suppressing favorable defense evidence when he was a prosecutor in a Solano County murder case in 2013 and 2014.
Andrew Ganz, now a San Francisco deputy district attorney, faces six charges of professional misconduct in the administrative trial at the State Bar of California’s San Francisco headquarters.
If he is found to have committed misconduct, the penalty could range from a public or private reproval to probation, suspension of his law license, or disbarment from the practice of law.
The charges stem from a Solano County Superior Court case in which Michael Daniels was accused of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Brastow, in a Vallejo motel in 2012. Ganz was then a Solano County deputy district attorney assigned to the case.
Ganz is charged by State Bar prosecutors with failing to tell the defense about a Jan. 10, 2013, meeting in which county pathologist Susan Hogan told prosecutors she could not classify Brastow’s death as a homicide because there were several possible explanations.
Hogan said Brastow died of asphyxiation but the cause might have been choking on her own vomit. Prosecutors planned to claim at trial that Daniels smothered the victim.
In the following months, Ganz told Deputy Public Defender Meenha Lee in emails that he didn’t know of any new evidence and he didn’t disclose the discussion with Hogan, according to the charges.
Then, at Daniels’s preliminary hearing on Nov. 25, 2013, Ganz failed to correct Hogan when she testified she hadn’t previously met with prosecutors, according to the charges. When Hogan testified the death was “most likely” a homicide and the victim was smothered, Ganz allegedly failed to disclose the pathologist’s previous conclusion.
The first witness at the trial before State Bar Court Judge Patrice McKleroy was Lee.
Lee testified about the emails in which she asked Ganz if there was any new evidence and he responded “that there wasn’t anything new that he knew of.”
She said it “absolutely would have made a difference” in her questioning of Hogan during the preliminary hearing if she had known about the January meeting.
Ganz’s attorney, Alfred Giannini, called the disciplinary charges “false, misleading and incomplete” in a written response in April.
Outside of court, Giannini said Ganz’s position in the Bar trial is that Hogan’s autopsy report, which was given to the defense, contained the information the defense would have needed to pursue an alternative theory of the cause of death.
The State Bar charges allege that “detailed and specific information” from the meeting about why Hogan would not classify the death as a homicide and the fact of the meeting itself “were not included in Dr. Hogan’s autopsy report or any other supplemental report or law enforcement report.”
McKleroy’s future decision can be appealed to a three-judge panel of the State Bar Court Review Department. A decision of suspension or disbarment is automatically reviewed by the California Supreme Court, which must approve those disciplinary actions before they are final.
Five of the State Bar charges concern the January 2013 meeting with Hogan.
Ganz is accused of violating state laws on attorney conduct by intentionally suppressing evidence; making false and misleading statements in the emails to Lee; violating Daniels’s constitutional rights; and failing to disclose exculpatory, or favorable, evidence 30 days before trial.
He is also accused of violating a professional conduct regulation by suppressing evidence.
In the sixth charge, Ganz is alleged to have failed to give the defense documents and reports concerning a prosecution expert witness on DNA evidence 30 days before trial.
Daniels was bound over for trial after the preliminary hearing, but was acquitted in the Superior Court trial in April 2014.
Hogan was terminated from her job in October 2013 following a county investigation into her work in several cases. According to a March 2014 pretrial ruling by Superior Court Judge Daniel Healy, Hogan was told by a sheriff’s sergeant on Oct. 7, 2013, that she was being terminated and that she could choose to resign. She resigned that day.
-Julie Cheever, Bay City News