Former Contra Costa sex crimes prosecutor Michael Gressett filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging defamation and politically motivated malicious prosecution in his 2008 arrest and trial on charges that he raped a junior colleague.
Gressett's suit casts a wide net over the people and agencies that played a role in a bizarre case that ended his career, despite a state prosecutor's decision to abandon the charges.
He named the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office; deputy district attorneys Paul Sequeira and Brian Baker; district attorney investigators Gene Greenwald, Darryl Jackson and Paul Mulligan; the Martinez Police Department and Officers Tom Simonetti, Eric Ghisletta and Jon Sylvia; the California Attorney General's Office and deputy prosecutors Joyce Blair and Peter Flores; retired District Attorney Bob Kochly; and unsuccessful 2010 district attorney candidate and Walnut Creek private attorney Dan O'Malley, and his then-law partner, Tom McKenna. Gressett is not suing the alleged victim, a former contract deputy district attorney who was a junior colleague.
These individuals and agencies falsely accused him of "committing a heinous felony." Those individuals and agencies said he had other victims and that he was a sexual deviant. Those statements "were defamatory and damaged Mr. Gressett's reputation," Gressett wrote in the 18-page complaint filed in Superior Court in Martinez. "These statements have been published and republished
Details of the salacious case, its players from the same unit that prosecutes sexual assaults, shocked residents, roiled the legal community and dominated the contentious 2010 district attorney election. It also publicly exposed deeply divided loyalties within the District Attorney's Office, where many staffers are still coping with the fallout.
Gressett seeks unspecified lost wages and benefits, punitive damages, payment for his emotional distress and attorney fees.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of formal damage claims -- all denied -- filed this year with the county, state and city of Martinez. All the parties named in the lawsuit previously declined to comment on the initial claims. However, O'Malley released a statement via email late Wednesday.
"I spent my entire life trying help people and be honest with everyone," he said, "so, I am very disappointed at what I read. The complaint alleges that I and twelve other people, together with the City of Martinez the County of Contra Costa and the State of California conspired to prosecute Gressett for rape growing out of rough sex he admits he had with a female victim. You figure it out!"
The new complaint spells out two decades of strife between Gressett and his bosses that culminated, the prosecutor alleges, in the decision to charge him with the rape of a junior colleague.
Gressett had run against then-District Attorney Gary Yancey in 1994 and 1998. Gressett then challenged the retiring Yancey's replacement choice of Bob Kochly in 2002, accusing the men of corruption and cronyism.
In early 2008, the fight over who would fill Kochly's seat heated up and Gressett publicly endorsed friend and deputy district attorney Mark Peterson over O'Malley, Kochly's choice and an attorney and former judge.
A few months later, the prosecutor became the prosecuted after a colleague accused him of raping her at his Martinez apartment using a gun, ice pick and ice cubes.
Gressett has said the sex was rough but consensual.
An independent arbitrator later ruled the allegations unsubstantiated and ordered the county to rehire Gressett.
State prosecutors later declined to refile charges against Gressett after a Superior Court judge's decision to dismiss the case on grounds that the state had failed to disclose a $450,000 county settlement with the accuser.
In Gressett's complaint, he alleges county prosecutors pursued the rape charges and ignored contradictory evidence because his friend Peterson would be tainted by association and "they believed it would prevent Mr. Peterson from being elected as Contra Costa district attorney ... and would allow them to keep their positions of power in the office, which they knew they would lose if Mr. Peterson was elected."
Among the other people and agencies named in the lawsuit, Gressett alleges:
Read Michael Gressett's full civil complaint at IBABuzz.com/politics.