MARTINEZ -- A Contra Costa County deputy district attorney unsuccessfully prosecuted on charges that he raped a colleague is not giving up his quest for damages for his ruined reputation and career, despite a judge's order dismissing his civil complaint last week.
An attorney for Michael Gressett said Wednesday that the Martinez resident will refile his defamation and malicious prosecution lawsuit against Contra Costa County, retired District Attorney Robert Kochly and the investigators, prosecutors and private attorneys who were involved in his abandoned criminal case.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen tossed Gressett's complaint Friday, citing a lack of proof to support Gressett's claim that evidence of his innocence was ignored as part of a conspiracy to taint the election campaign of then DA-hopeful Mark Peterson, with whom Gressett was politically aligned.
Gressett, 56, has 30 days from Chen's ruling to refile his suit with "meatier," "more specific" allegations, said attorney Gary Gwilliam, who called the dismissal "very standard."
"We aren't concerned about it," Gwilliam said.
Gressett was arrested on his way to work at the District Attorney's Office in September 2008, four months after a junior contract attorney first reported to Kochly that Gressett had raped and terrorized her with an ice pick, handcuffs and a gun at his residence during their lunch break. Gressett asserts the sex was consensual, though admittedly rough.
The scandal divided the office, exposed a seedy culture of inappropriate talk in the workplace and became the most-talked about issue in the 2010 District Attorney's race won by Peterson.
Since then, the office has redefined its sexual harassment and code of conduct policies and ramped up employee training.
Gressett's criminal trial was still pending when an independent arbitrator ruled that causes of action supporting his firing, including the alleged rape, were unsubstantiated and that Gressett be rehired with back pay.
Gressett was immediately placed on paid administrative leave and stayed there after a Superior Court judge in October 2011 dismissed the 13-count felony indictment against him because state prosecutors failed to tell grand jurors about the $450,000 settlement that Contra Costa County paid Gressett's accuser.
The judge noted that he saw enough evidence to bring Gressett to trial on the charges, but the state Attorney General's Office abandoned the case without explanation.
Speaking in his Martinez office Tuesday, Peterson said he and other county officials are still discussing how to handle Gressett's potential return to work once his civil case is resolved. Gressett has not worked since his 2008 arrest but is set to collect a $148,000 base salary, with total compensation valued at $245,813, in the next fiscal year.
Some prosecutors have told this newspaper that they would be uncomfortable working beside him if he came back to work. Meanwhile, the office, hit hard by years of budget cuts, could use more attorneys.
"The possibility of him returning to work does create some personnel and administrative issues," Peterson said. "We would like to have that money so we can do the prosecution work that we need to do but are also mindful not to create further litigation.
"I'm in a legal minefield," he said.
Gressett's attorney said his client needs to decide for himself whether he even wants to return to the office. Gressett wouldn't comment for this story, Gwilliam said.
"I think it's doubtful he'll go back to the DA's Office after all this time. They have rejected him over there," Gwilliam said.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.