Law.com

California Ticket-Fixing Judge Guilty on All Counts

Shannon Lafferty
The Recorder
05-03-2004


Superior Court Judge William Danser of California's Santa Clara County was found guilty on all counts Friday in his obstruction of justice trial.

The judge was found guilty on one count of felony conspiracy to obstruct justice, plus eight misdemeanor counts of obstruction, attempted obstruction and conflict of interest.

"This is really a flagrant case, but not completely isolated, and that's disturbing," said juror Don Crede, a San Jose, Calif., software engineer.

Retired Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge William Kelsay, who presided over the trial, set a May 24 hearing to schedule sentencing. Danser faces up to three years in prison.

Danser was indicted in September along with former Los Gatos, Calif., Police Det. Randall Bishop. The judge was accused of improperly dismissing 20 traffic tickets for professional athletes and acquaintances, and of transferring two DUI cases to himself so he could hand out lenient sentences.

Deputy District Attorney David Pandori had painted Danser as a power-hungry man who broke the law so he could help his buddies.

"Judge Danser was so enamored with his own power and his need to impress friends, he'd just take cases from traffic court and from other judges really under false pretenses," Pandori had said.

Pandori called 90 witnesses, including several other superior court judges and commissioners.

Danser's defense attorney, Kenneth Robinson of San Jose, had argued that Danser was just the dupe in a cop's scheme to get traffic tickets fixed. Robinson said the judge received nothing in return for his handling of the cases, and that his client was simply being made a scapegoat by a prosecutor's office that didn't like the way he conducted business.

Testifying in his own defense, Danser acknowledged he had never spoken with the officers who issued the tickets or heard argument in court before dismissing them. He said he had dismissed the tickets in the interest of justice, relying on Bishop. He said he considered Bishop an honest cop and claimed not to know that Bishop moonlighted as a security officer for the San Jose Sharks hockey team.

"The way I interpreted it was whatever I believed to be fair under the circumstances was in the interest of justice," Danser testified.

"I don't need to call any witnesses," Robinson had said before the trial. "I will win with the prosecution's."

The defense called just one witness aside from Danser. Deputy DA John Schon had testified that in his experience, Danser always gave no-jail sentences to first-time DUI defendants, even though most judges sentence them to six days of weekend work.


Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Truth in Justice