OAKLAND -- An Alameda County prosecutor placed on administrative leave in May after she admitted illegally recording a privileged conversation between a murder defendant and a defense-hired expert has been given her job back.
Deputy district attorney Danielle London, a 10-year-veteran of the office, is now working in the district attorney's charging office where she reviews criminal cases and decides what, if any, charges should be filed against people arrested by law enforcement.
District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, who said in May that "any actions that impinge on a defendant's rights will never be tolerated by this office," declined to comment on her decision to reinstate London.
But O'Malley's decision appears to have been made on the heels of a decision by the state Department of Justice not to pursue criminal charges against the deputy district attorney.
London's case was transferred to state Attorney General Kamala Harris's agency in May for investigation.
"We did conclude our investigation, we are not pursuing it any further," said Lynda Gledhill, spokeswoman for the department. "We obviously did not file charges."
London, however, still faces discipline from the State Bar of California. Gledhill said the state bar's investigation is continuing.
State bar officials declined to comment, citing confidentiality, and London's disciplinary record remains clean.
London revealed her illegal recording during pre-trial motions of a murder case involving Marrisa Manning, 24, who was accused of stabbing her husband to death. Jo Ann Kingston, the defense attorney in the case, planned to argue that the murder was self-defense prompted, in part, by years of physical abuse.
The interview London illegally ordered to be recorded was between Manning and an expert Kingston hired who was preparing a report to show that Manning suffered from "intimate partner syndrome," which is new terminology for "battered wife" syndrome.
London revealed the recording as part of discovery in the case, prompting Kingston to immediately ask for dismissal of the charges. That motion was pending when the District Attorney's Office assigned a new prosecutor who had no knowledge of the contents of the recording.
Soon after, Manning was offered and accepted a plea deal, pleading no contest to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for a seven-year prison term. Manning had faced as much as 16 years to life in prison if a jury had found her guilty of second-degree murder.
Kingston said Thursday that she is not upset that London got her job back.
"I truly think she didn't think she did something wrong because if she did do something wrong, she would have never given anything to me," Kingston said. "It's for that reason, I think you have to review this in a different light."
Kingston said she believes London has learned a painful and valuable lesson and shouldn't be punished further. After speaking with other defense attorneys and high-ranking prosecutors, Kingston said she is convinced London made a critical mistake but not one that is an indication of a troubling pattern in the district attorney's office.
"Do we take a defining moment and say I will take this and destroy you? No." Kingston said. "I have no doubt that Danielle London has taken responsibility for this. This was a defining moment for her. She has been lambasted."
Kingston, however, is concerned about the Alameda County Sheriff's Department's policies on recording inmates and hoped that those procedures would have been investigated as well.
"I do not have any level of comfort now that if I send someone (to the jail) to interview somebody, that it will not be recorded," she said.
Cookie Ridolfi, professor of law at Santa Clara University, said it was "stunning" that London got her job back so quickly.
Ridolfi heads the university's Northern California Innocence Project and has worked on a report that identifies cases of prosecutorial misconduct. In that research, she said, the project has found that most prosecutors who engage in misconduct are never punished for their actions.
"What consequence was that for her, and in what way was anything that happened in this case a lesson to other prosecutors not to take risks like that or make mistakes like that?" she said. "Even my law students would have known this is something you cannot do."
Meanwhile, Public Defender Diane Bellas, who called London's actions criminal and put her office on "red alert," said Thursday that public defenders continue to be cautious.
"Attorneys in the public defender's office continue to exercise vigilance in protecting our clients' jail-house rights, especially the right of confidentiality," Bellas said.