A former California Highway Patrol officer has filed a claim against Stanislaus County and the city of Modesto seeking damages for what he calls the malicious prosecution by the District Attorney's Office in the death Korey Kauffman.
Eduardo Quintanar Jr., then a CHP officer working in the Modesto area, was arrested in August 2015 along with prominent criminal defense attorney Frank Carson and several others accused of conspiring in Kauffman's death.
Quintanar's attorney, Randall Strauss, says Judge Barbara Zuniga on Oct. 24 ruled the prosecution did not present any evidence to indicate the former CHP officer committed any crimes and dropped the charges against him.
“This has been a nightmare for Officer Quintanar," Strauss said in a news release. "He lost his job, his reputation and dignity as a direct result of the malicious acts of the defendants.”
Quintanar's claims were filed Friday. If rejected, the claims would be a precursor for a civil lawsuit.
"We are reviewing the claim for sufficiency and timeliness, and at this time we have no comment about the claim," said County Counsel John Doering.
The civil claims list as defendants District Attorney Birgit Fladager and several members of a countywide task force that investigated Kauffman's disappearance and death. Fladager on Monday did not respond to a request for comment.
Among the listed defendants in the claim is Chief Deputy District Attorney Marlisa Ferreira, who is prosecuting Carson and brothers Baljit Athwal and Daljit Atwal.
A trial is underway for Carson and his co-defendants. The defense attorney is accused of recruiting a group of people to send a violent message to burglars, which resulted in Kauffman’s death after he was caught trying to steal irrigation pipes from Carson.
In a record-setting 18-month preliminary hearing that preceded the trial, Robert Lee Woody testified that Athwal and Atwal were fighting with Kauffman on Carson’s property moments before Atwal shot Kauffman to death.
Prosecutors charged Quintanar with conspiracy to obstruct justice and being an accessory. A few months after his arrest, the CHP said he no longer worked for the agency. Quintanar, free on bail, waited for more than two years after his arrest before Judge Zuniga decided there was not enough evidence for him to stand trial.
Strauss works for the Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer law firm, based in Oakland. It's the same firm representing Carson's wife and her daughter, who have filed a federal lawsuit against the county, Modesto, Turlock and Ceres.
Georgia DeFilippo and Christina DeFilippo, who also were initially accused in the alleged conspiracy in Kauffman's death, have since been cleared of any wrongdoing.
In Quintanar's case, his attorneys argue that the prosecution concocted a "preposterous theory" that Quintanar was involved in the alleged murder conspiracy because he joked about checking under cars for surveillance trackers.
In a July 2012 recorded phone conversation, Quintanar gave Atwal advice about how to avoid having a tracking device put on his car, according to authorities.
Like the DeFilippo lawsuit, Quintanar's attorneys say the defamation and false arrest of their client was done by authorities to destroy Carson's life and career. They say authorities had no regard for others who were harmed in the process, including Quintanar.
The former CHP officer is seeking an unspecified total amount of damages. The claims indicate that Quintanar lost $20,000 in bail money, $10,000 in attorney's fees and $120,000 in annual income.
"As a direct result of the witch hunt against him, Mr. Quintanar has gone from being a respected public servant in law enforcement to a pariah in his community, separated forever from the career he loved," said Gary Gwilliam. "Justice must be served, and the defendants, all members of law enforcement, must be made to answer for their actions."