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Attorneys now on board to help unravel long-standing conflict between Lower Valley cops

A tug-of-war between the city of Mabton and the Granger Police Department over an officer placed on a county-wide watch list has revealed that 20 law enforcement officials have been placed on the same list, which is maintained by Yakima County Prosecutor Jim Hagarty.

Called a Brady List, it contains the names of law enforcement officers who have sustained allegations of being dishonest in their official duties. The information may be shared with defense attorneys if an officer on the list is testifying at trial.

In the case of the two Lower Valley cities, Granger Police Chief Robert Perales had one of his former officers - Sergeant Casimiro Cedillo - included on the list for alleged dishonesty.

Perales placed Cedillo on the Brady List via an e-mail to Hagarty's office in February of this year, more than five months after Cedillo went to work for the Mabton Police Department.

That's according to documentation provided to the Daily Sun News by Mabton and Granger following public record requests.

Perales alleged that Cedillo was dishonest in his handling of a fraud case at a gas station convenience store on May 11, 2010. In that case, Cedillo told the Daily Sun News he did not forward charges on the fraud because Perales interfered with the case.

"I concluded it was a civil case because Perales kept tampering with it," Cedillo said. "In the end when he realized that I was not going to forward charges I think it upset him to where he turned around and made an allegation against me."

When contacted by the Daily Sun News, Perales said he stands by the decision to submit Cedillo's name to the prosecutor's office.

"The facts are the facts and that's just the way it is," Perales said.

In a letter to Perales in March of this year, the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission weighed in on the Cedillo situation. It noted "there is insufficient information to determine probable cause."

Perales contends the commission's letter doesn't indicate Cedillo is innocent of wrongdoing, just that the evidence was "not sufficient enough to remove his (police) certification."

History of conflict

This isn't the first issue between the two men, as in 2007 Perales dismissed Cedillo from the Granger Police Department after he was involved in a traffic accident while on duty. In a dismissal letter from December 2007, Perales claims Cedillo "did not use sufficient due care, caution and diligence" and that he was "driving too fast for conditions, which resulted in the collision."

In the dismissal letter, Perales also referenced two previous internal investigations against Cedillo.

Cedillo appealed his dismissal, noting road conditions were icy on the night of his accident and that his patrol vehicle was not outfitted with studs or chains.

In his appeal, Cedillo also claimed Perales and the Granger Police Department had earlier on the day of the accident tried to influence him to join an effort to unionize the department.

The history gets more complicated from there, as in January 2008 Mayor Ramona Fonseca suspended Perales and reinstated Cedillo.

Perales then went to work as Mabton's police chief, which ultimately let him go when it eliminated the position from the city budget.

In 2009 Perales was reinstated as Granger's police chief when an arbitrator found in his favor.

In June of this year Perales received a $32,500 settlement from Granger for employment retaliation because of Fonseca's attempts to fire Perales.

According to Perales' attorney, Bill Pickett, the retaliation was because his client exposed a Granger police officer who at the time had "engaged in sexual misconduct with a city council person that included harassment."

The officer was forced to resign, Pickett said, but was reinstated by Fonseca in early 2008 when Perales was suspended. The officer is no longer with the Granger Police Department.

Lawyers to the fore

Granger, Mabton, Cedillo and, as noted above, Perales all have or are in the process of retaining lawyers.

Mabton is considering legal action against Yakima County and the city of Granger in a bid to remove Cedillo from the Brady List.

This summer Mabton first appealed to Yakima County commissioners, who declined to take action because they felt the issue was between the prosecutor's office and Mabton.

"We tried to get this resolved quickly. We've done our part and are left with no alternative than to pursue legal action," said Mabton Mayor Angel Reyna. "In our estimation it's pretty clear there's no basis for the officer to be on there (the Brady List)."

Not only does Mabton stand behind Cedillo, so, too, does the city of Granger, which has sought to have Cedillo's name removed from the Brady List.

Fonseca declined comment on this story because of pending litigation, but Granger's attorney, Jamie Carmody, contends the city didn't submit Cedillo's name for the list - Perales did.

"We've asked the county to take him off," Carmody said. "A Brady listing requires a final and binding determination of dishonesty and that wasn't the case here."

Carmody contends that Perales submitted Cedillo's name without the mayor's approval.

Cedillo said he is considering legal action against Granger, Perales and Yakima County over his inclusion on the Brady List.

"I'm in consultation with a Seattle firm that is familiar with Brady," Cedillo said. "My claim is that I have been wrongly listed."

Cedillo claims that neither he nor the city of Granger knew of the listing until seven months after it took place.

"How could I have been given due process when I didn't even know I was on the Brady List?" Cedillo asked.

Perales' attorney, Pickett, says his client's duty was to report Cedillo to the county prosecutor. "Cedillo tried to sweep it under the rug, which forced him (Perales) to notify the prosecutor's office."

Picket added, "There's a lot of pressure being exerted on him (Perales to remove Cedillo from the list) that's not permissible. He's not entertaining that and I hope he doesn't. The city of Granger may not like the findings, but they are what they are."

Granger's attorney, Carmody, is holding out slim hope that Cedillo's Brady listing can be resolved without legal action.

"I don't know why the county doesn't back up and take a look at the facts and remove him from the list," Carmody said. "I keep hoping that practicality will bubble to the surface."

If it doesn't, Cedillo is prepared to do battle.

"This whole Brady thing is going to be a nasty dog fight," he said.

Brady List rewind

Having an officer on the Brady List can be a serious matter, Mabton contends.

The impact, say city officials, is that prosecutors are required to notify defendants and their attorneys whenever a law enforcement official involved in their case is on the Brady List.

Failure to notify can result in reversal of criminal convictions, according to a legal opinion provided to Mabton by the Seattle-based Summit Law Group.

The opinion, written by Michael C. Bolasina of Summit Law Group, was obtained by the Daily Sun News following an information request made to the city of Mabton.

While acknowledging the 1963 Supreme Court ruling in Brady vs. Maryland that established a precedent for the list, as well as this state's expansion of the list over the past five years, Bolasina's opinion questions the process for how Hagarty and Yakima County develop the Brady List here.

Bolasina notes all it took to add Cedillo's name was an e-mail from Perales to the prosecutor's office without other documentation.

When an officer is added to the list, it doesn't necessarily mean the officer can't successfully testify at trial.

That's according to Stephanie Weigand with the Yakima County Prosecutor's office.

She says the proper name for the Brady List is "possible impeachment list." She said prosecutors compile the list after reviewing officer information submitted by municipalities.

"Just because someone is on the list doesn't mean information about what the officer did gets admitted at trial. The information is very rarely, if ever admitted at trial," says Weigand. "It (identifying an officer on the list) is just something that needs to be disclosed for the defense to know about it."

That's backed up by Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder, who has two employees on the Brady List. Information on the nature of their alleged dishonesty was not available as of press time.

He says if the alleged act that put an officer on the Brady List is not connected with the trial then it is not admitted into evidence.

Radder said he has an officer on the Brady List who has successfully testified at several trials.

In a nutshell, Radder said disclosing to the defense up front that an officer in a case is on the list is a "fail safe" so the information isn't found later and used in an appeal.

Radder said, "Criminal defense attorneys need to be made aware of the veracity of a witness."

As for removing an officer from the Brady List, Weigand said it comes down to the city or municipality that put the officer on the list.

"The request for removal has to come from the agency itself," she says. "That only happens when there's information from the agency that they made a mistake."

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