Michael D. Chaney, Esq. 


This was a two month jury trial (the reference to "month long" in the article is incorrect) in which I was co-counsel with former Trial Lawyer of the Year Leonard Levine. Our client was falsely accused of some of the most horrible acts imaginable and he was pounded for over two years with the full force of the DA's office and Sheriff's Department. Fortunately, we had a trial judge who applied the law dispassionately and even-handedly and a very intelligent and patient jury that paid careful attention to the testimony of some 65 witnesses. 

Monrovia Man Acquitted on All Counts in School Sexual Abuse Trial

A jury found Wade Joseph Bughman not guilty of nine sexual abuse counts, ending a month-long trial for the former Beardslee Elementary School teacher.

A jury acquitted a Monrovia man of nine counts of sexual abuse Friday after he was accused of rape and molestation by five former Duarte elementary school students.

Wade Joseph Bughman whispered "thank you" to his two attorneys after Superior Court Judge Dorothy Shubin read the not guilty verdicts on each of the nine charged counts of sexual abuse at 11 a.m. Friday.

"I am so thankful and relieved, after two-and-a-half years, to hear 'not guilty' next to crimes I did not commit," Bughman said in an interview outside the courtroom.

Leonard Levine, one of Bughman's two attorneys, said that he was "thrilled" with the verdict.

"We believe an innocent man has been exonerated," Levine said.

Levine maintained in court that the five girls who accused Bughman of crimes including forcible rape and sexual penetration with a foreign object were lying. He said after the verdict that his client passed several polygraph tests that were inadmissible in court.

"If he didn't do it, either they lied about it or someone else did it," Levine said.

Bughman was arrested in June of 2010 after a student accused him of sexual misconduct in a school survey.

The jury began deliberations on Nov. 29 and reached a verdict Friday morning after an alternate juror took the place of an ill juror on Thursday. The trial began on Oct. 16.

Bughman was also found not guilty of four lesser counts of battery related to the alleged abuse.

A family member of one of the alleged victims was visibly upset outside the courtroom and was led away before Bughman exited. Family members of the alleged victims, seated on the right side of the courtroom gallery, cried quietly as each verdict was read. Bughman's friends and family, seated on the left side, also visibly wept.

Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta said that she was "shocked" by the verdict.

"Frankly I am shocked," Archuleta said. "We had an abundance of evidence. We had [evidence of] 15 years of sexual abuse with girls who didn't even know each other."

"It frightens me that he can potentially be back in a classroom with children knowing what we know," she added.

Bughman said he was unsure if he would return to teaching.

"I don't know what the future holds for me but now that I'm free I look forward to figuring that out," he said.


This case was tried to a jury in Santa Cruz Superior Court three years ago by former Trial Lawyer of the Year Leonard Levine and me. At the time, we made objections to serious errors we believed the trial judge was making, which the trial judge ignored. Our client was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 68 years, 8 months in prison. On appeal, Ephraim Margolin, the legendary scholar and founder of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and the brilliant Gary Dubcoff, drafted the briefs, and Leonard Levine argued the matter to the justices of the Sixth District Court of Appeal. That Court voted unanimously to reverse all the most serious convictions. In so doing, nearly all the arguments we'd made to the trial court were ruled to have been correct, and the rulings of the trial judge were held to have been improper. We very much look forward to retrying this case and winning it.

Appeals court overturns Soquel man's 2009 conviction on sex abuse charges

By Jessica M. Pasko / Santa Cruz Sentinel Posted:   12/24/2012 04:31:40 PM PST
SAN JOSE -- An appeals court has overturned the conviction of a Soquel man accused of molesting his stepdaughter.

Anthony Achilles Poletti, 40, has been in state prison for more than two years after being convicted of 15 charges, including multiple counts of lewd acts with a child, aggravated sexual assault and forcible rape. He was sentenced in May 2010 to 68 years and eight months in state prison.

Last week, the 6th District Court of Appeal reversed the Santa Cruz County Superior Court's decision, in a written opinion filed Dec. 19. The appeals court calls for the lower court to retry Poletti on 11 of the charges against him and to acquit him on one of the forcible rape charges.

The appeals court ruled Poletti didn't get a fair trial for a number of reasons, including juror misconduct. The victim testified about an incident that occurred during winter break, which she testified began right before Christmas and continued into January. A juror. a retired teacher, later told other jurors that winter break is in February, as opposed to Christmas break in December. That led the jurors to conclude the victim was simply mistaken about the dates, the appeals court said.

"The information filled an evidentiary void in that it allowed the jury to conclude the victim was mistaken about the timing of an incident (February instead of January) when the evidence only allowed a conclusion that the victim was truthful or mendacious about the occurrence of the incident (in January,) the justices wrote.

Poletti's attorney, Michael Chaney, said the state attorney general's office has 30 days to petition the state Supreme Court for a new hearing on that matter. If the request is denied, the case will then go back to the Santa Cruz County court for either a new trial or a dismissal.

The lower court's decision was "clearly wrong," and Poletti was "wrongfully convicted," Chaney said.

Chaney, along with co-counsel Leonard Levine, said while the appeals court decision is vindicating, it doesn't make up for the fact that his client has been in prison for more than two years.

"Leonard Levine and I, and Mr. Poletti and his family and many supporters, all very much look forward to presenting the proof of Mr. Poletti's innocence upon retrial," Chaney said.

Rusconi Vindicated: 
Father of Two Cleared of Rape Allegations

Rusconi’s attorney, Michael Chaney, told NBC Los Angeles news reporters Monday that the allegations against his client are “categorically false...The man is innocent,” Chaney said. “There was no child pornography, no lewd act of any kind. I’m extremely confident the sheriff’s department and district attorney’s investigations will bear that out."


"These are photos as innocent as any photos of kids growing up you'd find in any parent's scrapbook," Chaney told NBC LA's Kim Baldonado.  Chaney said Rusconi wanted to have photos of his children in all aspects of their lives, including bathing.

"Rusconi's attorney, Michael Chaney, says his client is sickened by the allegations. In an interview with Los Angeles news station KTLA, Chaney said, "Paul did not possess child pornography, there was no lewd act committed. The very thought of such things nauseates him," Chaney went on to say, "I have every confidence that the DA's office and the Sheriff's Department will review all the evidence and reach the same conclusion."


Malibu Artist Denies Molesting 20-month-old Twin Daughters

Read Story    

6:08 a.m. PDTJune 23, 2011

Compton High's Russell Otis is fired - LA Times

Carr, meanwhile, "was planning to retire within a year, anyway, and he didn't want to spend that year dealing with this," his attorney, Michael Chaney, said. "He resigned in disgust. This Nike thing is bogus. [Law enforcement] reached a conclusion first, and then grasped at straws to make it happen, but now the straws are falling apart."

Carr, 60, who this month resigned from his job, said he was relieved that the case against him was dismissed. Prosecutors had accused him of forgery and grand theft, maintaining that he helped produce a fraudulent authorization letter from Dominguez's principal that Otis used to cash the Nike check.

Carr's attorney, Michael Chaney, said he believed prosecutors brought the case in order to get the former athletic director to testify against Otis. Carr elected to fight the charges because neither he nor Otis did anything wrong, Chaney said.

"They made an offer and he was not prepared to lie, for anything," Chaney said.

Prosecutors to retry Upland teacher in sexual abuse case

MEGAW.gifRANCHO CUCAMONGA -- A former Upland teacher accused of molesting students will be retried on criminal charges, a prosecutor announced this morning.

A mistrial was declared in James Andrew Megaw's case last month after a jury deadlocked.

Six children testified during Megaw's trial that the former teacher at Valencia Elementary School either touched them sexually or made lewd sexual comments.

Megaw, 43, of Rancho Cucamonga, returned to court Friday for the first time since his mistrial.

Following a 20-minute conference in Judge Michael A. Sachs' chambers between Sachs and attorneys in the case, the group emerged and Sachs said he expected the case to be tried in August or September.

"We'll pick up where we left off," Sachs said.

Deputy District Attorney Jason Anderson said after the hearing that family members of Megaw's accusers "expressed a desire to go forward" with a retrial.

One of Megaw's attorneys, Michael D. Chaney, was critical of the prosecution's decision to retry the case. "The prosecutor decided he wants to put those kids through it again," Chaney said.

He cited the jury's preference for not-guilty verdicts in three of the four counts faced by Megaw. In two of the counts, jurors were split 10-2 in favor of acquittal. In the other count, the jury split favoring acquittal was 9-3.

Jurors were split 8-4 in favor of a guilty verdict in the remaining count.

"Average people in the community had serious problems believing the kids," Chaney said. He said he expects a second trial to be a "replay" of the first.

"The first trial made it very clear that the evidence against him is very weak," Chaney said. "So he's not thrilled at having to go through another trial where the same kind of fake, manufactured charges" are heard.

"Nobody should go through this twice," he added. "It's a tragedy."

Chaney said Megaw is not open to a plea bargain.

"Mr. Megaw is innocent -- period, end of story," he said. "Mr. Megaw is not going to plead guilty to anything because he did nothing improper. Zero."

Prosecutors charged Megaw in December 2008 after several children in his class of second- and third-graders told police he abused them.

Some of the students who accuse Megaw of sexual touching said in their trial testimony that Megaw touched them when they went to his desk seeking help on classwork. Others said Megaw touched them at their desks during class.

During Megaw's trial, his attorneys questioned the children's truthfulness.

Though the abuse allegedly occurred in open class, none of the other students in class or teachers at the school said they witnessed it.

Megaw, who's been free on bail since his arraignment, is set to return to court July 16 for a pre-trial hearing.

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