Michael D. Chaney, Esq. 
   

Trials & Noteworthy Cases (a sampling)

People v Otis & Carr: - Compton Superior Court: A grand theft and forgery case. My motion to dismiss all counts against my client was granted at the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, and the case against my client was dismissed.
LA Times: Carr...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. 

People v. Megaw - San Bernardino (Rancho Cucamonga) Superior Court: A felony child molestation case in which an elementary school teacher was falsely accused of improper touching as to six current and two past students. The touchings allegedly happened while classes were in session. The case was tried to a jury over 5 weeks. The jury hung, largely in favor of acquittal, and the case was set for retrial. During jury selection, defense investigation revealed serious credibility problems with one of the main prosecution witnesses. The DA, to his credit, recognized the damage about to be done to his case, and after negotiations, a settlement ensued whereby the client plead no contest to misdemeanor battery (non-sexual touching), and all the felony allegations were dismissed. Per the deal that was made, no jail time was imposed, and of course, the client was not required to register as a sex offender.
Per the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin: << 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." >>  (To be clear, this client did not plead guilty. His plea was entered under a rule that conveys this information: "I'm only pleading now in order to take advantage of a plea bargain and put an end to this madness, not because I did anything wrong; I didn't.")

People v. Eisenberg & Lightman -  Criminal Courts Building: The so-called Amerimed case, billed by the LA District Attorney's Office as the largest worker's compensation fraud prosecution in the history of California. Police agencies throughout the state executed over 150 search warrants, seized over 1 million documents, and charged eleven people with insurance fraud, grand theft, and tax fraud, over 40 counts in all. My client* was the co-lead defendant.After six years of pre-trial motions and trial preparation, five defendants went to jury trial, which took nine weeks. The jury deliberated for two weeks and returned not guilty verdicts on nearly all the counts. The counts on which the jury split were later dismissed by the DA. 

LA TimesFirms Raided in Massive Workers' Comp Probe : Investigation: Federal, state and local authorities serve search warrants at 150 California sites, including 12 in Orange County. http://articles.latimes.com/1993-07-01/business/fi-8962_1_orange-county

In the Matter of Laff & Widawski - Downtown LA Courthouse: This was a major fraud prosecution initiated by search warrants executed at the offices of two lawyers. Before my client was even charged, there was extensive and vigorous litigation over whether or not the DA and cops could even look at what they'd seized under the warrant. Technical points were argued, the DA's office lost, and the question at issue ended up being decided by the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled for my client, and the defense generally, in a unanimous opinion that is among the leading precedents in the area of the rights of privilege holders (medical patients, legal clients, etc.) when their files are seized by police. 
Ultimately, the DA's office chose not to file charges against anyone. This case is a good example of what a knowledgable, motivated, aggressive lawyer can do for his client. 

People v. Dr. P. - Criminal Courts Building: This was the so-called "Primedex Case," in which the LA County Grand Jury indicted three individuals. Per the LA Times: "Prosecutors charge that the defendants defrauded insurance companies and employers by, among other things, charging for medical services that were never provided, providing illegal kickbacks to doctors and chiropractors, and submitting ghostwritten medical reports. Each of the three defendants is charged with securities fraud and conspiracy." http://articles.latimes.com/1996-06-01/business/fi-10699_1_criminal-charges 
My client later was charged with tax fraud as well. After extensive defense investigation and meetings with the DA, the DA was persuaded to dismiss the tax fraud case. Six years after the case began, I worked out a deal for my client to plead no contest to a misdemeanor. He received no time in jail and kept his license.


People v. Thomas - Criminal Courts Building: A child abduction case, a national news story at the time, and one of the most bizarre cases I've seen in 30 years. The case was handled pro bono. In civil court, a judge had awarded primary custody of my client's young natural child to her former next door neighbor/babysitter and his partner. As you might imagine, Ms. Thomas, a loving single mother, nearly lost her mind over this Kafkaesque decision. She was broke and desperate and ultimately fed up with being barred by a court from seeing her young child when she had done nothing wrong in the first instance. She and her child fled LA, violating the civil court custody order, and soon became the focus of a nationwide news story and manhunt. Ms. Thomas and her child were caught and extradited back to LA where, to add insult to injury, she was charged with felony child abduction. The DA assigned to the case was a good listener with a good heart;
we worked out a "no jail time," misdemeanor settlement, and the felony charge was dismissed.  As the  LA Times reported:
Plea Entered in Custody Case by Mom: Courts: Catherine F. Thomas 

pleads no contest to charge of taking her 

child from the legal father. She faces probation and possible restitution order - "Michael Chaney...one of Catherine Thomas' attorneys*, said the district attorney's office 'offered us a deal that is as good as it gets. The alternative would have been to reopen old wounds.'"  
http://articles.latimes.com/1993-11-23/local/me-60083_1_catherine-thomas

People v. Morales - First degree murder case. This case was tried to a jury* in the Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana. The victim had been shot numerous times and left on the roadside near a residential development. The client had been a suspect, but police had insufficient evidence to arrest him. Shortly after police questioned him, the client left the country and lived abroad. About ten years later, the police resurrected this cold case by turning a witness who previously had claimed to know nothing. This witness stated that he'd helped the client torch his car a couple hours after the murder. The prosecution's theory was that the client had given the victim a ride to the location where the victim was shot. Numerous witnesses placed the defendant and victim together just before the murder. After a multi-week trial with dozens of witnesses, some from Colombia and Ireland, sufficient doubt was cast on the prosecution's case that the jury hung, unable to reach a unanimous verdict. 

People v. Marion J. & William E. - Malibu Superior Court: Possession and possession for sale of narcotics. Motion to suppress all evidence granted based on an illegal warrantless vehicle search. Case dismissed.

People v. Marion J.: - San Fernando Superior Court: Possession of cocaine. My motion to suppress all evidence was made at the preliminary hearing and granted based on the illegal detention and warrantless search of my client. Case dismissed.

People v. Simba P. - Criminal Courts Building: Possession for sale of marijuana. Motion to suppress made at preliminary hearing granted based on the illegal warrantless entry and search of my client's apartment. Case dismissed. Interestingly, at least one of the cops involved in this case later was implicated in the Rampart scandal, and the judge who found the police conduct to be illegal later heard the preliminary hearing in the OJ Simpson murder case. Just before that hearing, I commented to the LA Times: << In a recent Hollywood drug sales case, Kennedy-Powell encountered a similar issue. She dismissed charges against a defendant whose lawyer successfully argued that Los Angeles police officers should have obtained a search warrant before entering his apartment and finding three ounces of marijuana inside. Although the police had no arrest or search warrant, the defendant, represented in Kennedy-Powell's court by Beverly Hills defense attorney Michael Chaney, did sign a consent form and a confession before the search was made. "I think she's wonderful," Chaney said Thursday. "She's everything a judge is supposed to be--evenhanded, knowledgeable and restrained." >

People v. Linda E. - Orange County Superior Court (Westminster): Client, a grandmother, was charged with grand theft and fraud in connection with over 1,700 complex real estate transactions resulting in an alleged loss of in excess of $350,000. The case was dismissed during the second day of the preliminary hearing after the judge sustained my objection to introduction of a portion of the DA's evidence. A year later the DA re-filed the same case, but after another year of meetings and negotiations, he was finally persuaded that my client had committed no crime and that he had no business having charged her in the first place. Case dismissed.

People v. Mr. A. - Lancaster Superior Court: Felony arson case. After grilling the alleged victim/eyewitness at preliminary hearing, a misdemeanor, "no time" settlement, was negotiated with the DA.

People v. Mr. K. - Torrance Superior Court: Felony DUI with extensive, serious injuries to the other driver. My client allegedly ran a red light while speeding in a remote area of the South Bay and "T-boned" another vehicle. His blood-alcohol level was triple the legal limit. Both cars were totaled and the driver of the other car, who also had an extremely high blood-alcohol level, was hospitalized with severe injuries. (This is the kind of case where, if convicted, substantial state prison time is a given). The police had brought in an accident reconstruction expert who concluded there was no doubt that my client had been at fault. My client, on the other hand, told me that he had had the green light, and that the other car had run the red. I brought in my accident reconstruction expert. He viewed the scene and the police expert's report and concluded that my client had had the green light and that the police expert was wrong. He then went out to the scene with the police expert and walked him through the reasons why he had been mistaken, the evidence he had overlooked, and where he had misread evidence and made bad assumptions. The police expert then changed his opinion and wrote a new report stating that my client had not been at fault, and that his earlier opinion to the contrary was wrong. After lengthy negotiations with the DA, my client entered a no contest plea to simple misdemeanor DUI and was given the standard minimum terms and conditions, thus avoiding a felony conviction and a life-ruining state prison commitment.

In Re John D. - Eastlake Juvenile Court (LA): Murder case. My client, a minor, was charged with murder. It was alleged that he drove a car in connection with a drive-by shooting. No one disputed he was the driver, but there was doubt about whether he had any idea the passenger was armed and proposed to shoot at people until after the shots were fired. After extensive negotiations, including presentation of evidence of good character and no gang ties, the DA agreed to forego sending the case to adult court--where'd the client would have been looking at 25 to life--in exchange for a plea that put the client in a juvenile facility for 1/4 of the time.

People v.  Ms. A. - Beverly Hills Superior Court: This was a misdemeanor theft case (shoplifting) in which we waived jury in favor of a court trial. The judge found the defendant not guilty.

People v. Mattes - Criminal Courts Building: A civilian and six medical doctors were searched under search warrants and later arrested and prosecuted for paying for the referral of patients, illegal kickbacks, and insurance fraud. My pre-trial motion to exclude certain evidence from consideration by the jury was granted by the trial judge. On the eve of jury selection, the DA realized his case had been gutted, and a defense motion to dismiss was granted and my client, a medical doctor, and the other defendants, were cut loose.

People v. Mr. B. - Santa Cruz Superior Court: Client and other Frat brothers were filmed by MTV allegedly killing and eating a rare koi fish as part of a fraternity initiation process. After protracted negotiations, client was permitted to perform community service and avoid a criminal record.

People v. Michael M. - LA Airport Courthouse: Client was charged with theft and drug offenses, escaping from police custody, and assault on a cop. After my extended background investigation and negotiations with the DA and judge, client was permitted to enter a one year live-in drug program and to avoid a state prison commitment. (Client completed the program, got sober, and turned his life around).

People v. Michael M. - Santa Ana Superior Court: Orange County police got a "cold case" DNA match on a cigarette butt found many years before at the scene of a residential burglary. The prosecution wanted state prison, the judge wanted at least 9 months in county jail, but on the eve of trial, and after presentation of the results of client's stay in the live-in treatment program (see above) and other mitigating information, the DA finally agreed to a "no time" deal. (Note: Persistence and preparation usually pay off.)

People v. Spencer M. - Compton Superior Court: Ex-felon with a gun charge. Client had a prior manslaughter conviction, was caught with a loaded handgun, and was looking at a mandatory state prison sentence. After extensive negotiations, the DA agreed to a misdemeanor deal with no time in jail.

People v. Mr. C. - Criminal Courts Building: Possession for sale of narcotics case in which the dope was found during the execution of a search warrant. I moved to quash the search warrant on the ground that the location described on the face of the warrant was different than the place the sheriffs actually searched. The judge stated, "I've never in my career granted a search and seizure motion. Until today." Motion granted, drugs suppressed, case dismissed.

People v. Mr. D. - Criminal Courts Building: Felony prosecution for possession of cocaine. Client was in an after hours joint downtown when the cops raided the place and arrested him for cocaine found under his table. The arresting officer claimed my client had thrown it down. I caught the cop in inconsistencies during cross-examination at preliminary hearing and moved to dismiss the case based on no showing the my client had knowledge or ever possessed the coke, and because the cop wasn't credible. The judge agreed and dismissed the case.

People v Arnold Y. - Client and others were charged with a home invasion robbery, assault with a deadly weapon involving great bodily injury, grand theft, and other charges. About 4 years after the arrest, and after extended negotiations, client was permitted to avoid an extended state prison commitment by serving a short sentence in county jail. 

People v. Dennis T. - Glendale Superior Court: DUI with a refusal allegation, and resisting arrest. At jury trial, on my motion, the judge dismissed the resisting arrest count. The jury hung substantially in favor of acquittal on the DUI charge, and the judge dismissed it.

People v. Robert L. - Van Nuys Superior Court: Sale of cocaine to a police officer. Jury was waived and after trial in front of the judge, the judge was persuaded that the defendant had been entrapped by the cop and he was found not guilty.

People v. Steven A. - Van Nuys, West LA, & Kern County Courts: Even though this former high profile rock musician has written a book about his numerous drug and alcohol and impaired driving-related arrests, prudence requires that I keep it brief as to the three separate cases I handled for him. Notwithstanding his prior convictions and concurrent open cases, I negotiated deals that kept him out of the LA and Kern County Jails on condition that he complete a stay at a local jail at which he could be a trustee (leave his cell, go outside, order pizzas, watch DVDs, etc.). 

People v. Mr. X. - Santa Monica Superior Court: This client was charged with commercial burglary, and was suspected of having committed over forty other similar burglaries, as well as dozens of "smash & grab" burglaries from automobiles. Before additional cases were filed against him, I negotiated a deal with the LAPD and the DA's office whereby the client was allowed to plead to one count of burglary and receive a three year state prison sentence. In exchange for describing to police all his unsolved crimes (so that the LAPD then could treat them as solved), it was agreed that my client could not be charged with any of them.

People v. Mr. Y. - Beverly Hills Court: Lewd conduct. Client was accused of masturbating in a public restroom in front of an undercover cop. At jury trial, on cross-examination, the cop stuck with an absurd story that he watched the defendant masturbate for 2 full minutes before arresting him. Why so long? "I wanted to be sure." The jury came back hung in favor of acquittal and the judge granted my motion to dismiss the case.

Investigation of Mr. Z. - This corporate employee was caught stealing and selling corporate assets that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to the victim. I acted quickly, and before the FBI became involved, a deal was negotiated with the head of corporate security permitting the return of the value of the stolen assets, over time, in exchange for a promise not to take further action against the client. No arrest,  prosecution avoided.**

People v. Ms. B. - Pasadena Courthouse: Client was found drunk and asleep behind the wheel of her parked car, lights on, engine running and was charged with DUI. The case was dismissed after I convinced the prosecutor that my client had not driven the vehicle.

People v. Josie K. - Airport Courthouse. Felony hit and run. My client ran over a pedestrian in the parking structure of a shopping mall and fled. The victim sustained great bodily injury. After protracted negotiations, my client accepted a deal that allowed her to avoid jail and prison time and to continue to pursue, and ultimately obtain, a professional license.

Investigation of Dr. S. - Criminal Courts Building. Insurance Fraud. Thousands of pages of documents were seized under search warrants from the offices of my client, a chiropractor, and and an attorney. Issues of privilege and other issues were litigated before charges were filed. Concurrent with that litigation, discussions and negotiations were held. Ultimately, the DA was persuaded there was insufficient evidence, and no charges were brought against my client.

People v Steven W. - Riverside Superior Court. Client was charged with domestic violence. I investigated the case thoroughly, came up with additional evidence, and persuaded the prosecutor to dismiss the charge.

People v. Mr. T. - Criminal Courts Building. Client was charged with extortion, a felony. He was tape recorded telling the trustee of a trust on which he was a beneficiary that he'd have gang bangers kill her if she didn't transfer money to him. The first DA wanted to put him in state prison. In the trial court, a more experienced DA listened carefully and reviewed the evidence of mitigation I'd assembled, and agreed to a "no time" deal.


* Case tried with co-counsel.
** I've had dozens of cases over the years, both misdemeanors and felonies, in which quick action resulted in avoiding what otherwise would have been a nightmare of pain and uncertainty for the clients.

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