Jeff Jardine

Case dismissed 41 years ago gets civil grand juror dismissed from panel this term

Glenn White will tell you he’s had quite a life thus far. The 62-year-old Oakdale resident retired three years ago after 13 years working in Chevron’s IT security sector.

Before that, he worked on offshore oil drilling rigs, including projects in the Santa Barbara Channel and along the Pacific Rim. Then he went back to school to earn a business degree with a minor in economics from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

White loves to shoot, owns several weapons, and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department issued him a concealed carry permit.

To do most or all of the aforementioned, he needed to pass extensive background checks, and did every time – until now.

After moving to Stanislaus County a couple of years ago, White decided he had plenty to learn about the county – and plenty to offer, as well. So he applied to serve on the civil grand jury, which investigates complaints about county and city government agencies, as well as special districts and school districts.

Among the qualifications to serve on the civil grand jury: “Must not have been convicted of malfeasance in office or any felony or other high crime.”

He was accepted and sworn in last summer. Then, in August, he suddenly was unaccepted. The background check performed by civil grand jury staff turned up a felony conviction listed on Livescan, a database that accesses information and fingerprints on file at courts and law enforcement agencies from local to federal levels.

It’s a felony conviction that White adamantly maintains – and has paperwork to support his claim – did not happen. What did happen?

Nineteen years old, no angel and living with a minister’s family in Ventura County in 1975, he was arrested for being in possession of a stolen motorcycle. Hence, a felony charge. But no conviction.

“The preacher’s kid stole it and told them I did it,” White said. “I had no idea it was stolen. He got convicted. The charge against me was dropped.”

When told by a civil grand jury staffer that the Ventura County incident surfaced on his Livescan and jeopardized his seat on the jury, he contacted the Ventura Superior Court and received a document that shows a box checked “No Criminal Records Found.”

“It would have been very simple if they would have just called (Ventura County officials) and they would have found out there was no such conviction,” White said.

Instead, was dismissed from the civil grand jury in a letter signed by presiding Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Marie Sovey Silveira, though his name still appears on the list of 19 jurors along with four alternates for the 2016-17 term. It states, “ ... the court has independently reviewed the facts surrounding the Juror’s qualifications and finds that the Juror’s removal is appropriate.”

Silveira told me it is extremely rare for any juror to be accepted, sworn in and then dismissed because a background check turned up a felony conviction. Convicted felons typically don’t volunteer for grand jury duty.

Prospective jurors are nominated or apply to serve on the jury for one-year terms. They are interviewed by a Superior Court judge – in White’s case, Judge Timothy Salter – and are subjected to the Livescan backgrounder that includes fingerprints and any criminal histories. Juror selections are made the last week of June.

“If something comes up that is adverse, (staff) lets them know and they have a period of time to address it,” Silveira said, speaking only in general terms and not specifically about White’s case.

Which White did. The document he received from Ventura County showing no criminal history is dated July 27. Yet he claims he could not convince staff to accept it as proof, restore him to the jury, nor get an appointment with Silveira to discuss it.

By that point, the sitting jury needed to begin its training and move forward into investigations and facility tours.

“He can apply again next year,” she said.

So how could White pass a background check to work in IT at Chevron – which works closely with the Department of Homeland Security – and also the sheriff’s background check for a concealed carry weapon permit – and not pass muster to be on the civil grand jury?

Sheriff Adam Christianson wonders the same. He said his department uses all of the available resources, including Livescan, Smart Justice and other databases that provide background information.

“I want to make sure the same individual I’m issuing a permit to has no background issues, no felony convictions,” Christianson said.

He said he is absolutely certain White met all the requirements to receive the CCW. And everything White told me about his past, Christianson said, matches up with what he told sheriff’s investigators who interviewed him during the background process.

“While I cannot disclose the specifics of his criminal history, I can tell you that everything was either dismissed or set aside pursuant to 1203.4 of the California Penal Code.” Christianson said. “What he told you is truthful. He is a lawful, legal and law-abiding citizen.”

At that same time, Christianson said, background checks are dependent upon available information. Sometimes that information is wrong, misstated or involves mistaken identity. Technology is still reliant on humans, and they make mistakes.

“One time, I denied a gun permit based upon information that (the person) had been arrested,” Christianson said. “The applicant wrote me a letter saying, ‘That wasn’t me. I’ve never been arrested.’ He was right. We had to go back and fix it in the database.”

As for White, he is ready to serve and wants to be reinstated. The felony charge was removed from everything but a Livescan document, a clerical error that resurfaced 41 years after the fact.

That case, indeed, was dismissed. White, it seems, should not have been.