A judge was not persuaded by arguments that a deputy prosecutor tried to intimidate a Pasco councilman when she talked about a potential no-contact order violation.
Judge Cameron Mitchell denied a defense motion to dismiss Chi Flores’ molestation case, setting the stage for a Nov. 15 trial.
Mitchell, in rejecting the claim of prosecutorial misconduct, also said there is no need to remove the assigned deputy prosecutor, Maureen Astley, nor does she need to testify at Flores’ trial.
The judge acknowledged that he was reading the email exchange between attorneys after the fact, so it “may not give the same flavor” as those involved in the correspondence. But nothing in the documents shows intimidation on behalf of the prosecutor, he concluded.
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Flores, 39, is accused of inappropriately touching a young girl on two separate occasions at his home in 2016. He is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with two counts of first-degree child molestation.
Flores was appointed to the Pasco City Council to fill a vacancy. His term ends Dec. 31 after he was defeated in the primary.
Defense lawyer Scott Johnson filed the motion last month, questioning why police never talked to his client’s daughter, who was in the room both times the alleged victim says she was sexually assaulted.
A special interview with a trained child advocate had been scheduled, but Johnson said he was forced to cancel it after Astley “engaged in threats and bullying.”
The interview was supposed to happen immediately after an interview with a member of the victim’s family. Astley told Johnson that the victim would be there too, and wondered why Flores insisted on driving his daughter to the interview when he had been ordered to stay away from the victim and her family.
“It was a somewhat veiled threat, but there is no doubt of what the mindset was of the government with the threat,” Johnson told Judge Mitchell.
Johnson said his client won’t get a fair trial because jurors will give the victim’s testimony more weight than that of Flores’ daughter, because she never had a forensic interview.
He said in lieu of the case not being dismissed, Astley should be ordered to take the stand and explain to jurors why she didn’t set up an interview.
Astley responded that it is “a complete misnomer to say (Flores’ daughter) is an eyewitness. We don’t anticipate that she’s going to give any credible testimony that these things occurred, especially with her father as the defendant.”
She argued that her email to Johnson was not a threat, was not intended to be a threat and that no rational person would interpret it as a threat.
Because Flores asserted his Fifth Amendment right to a lawyer, Pasco police couldn’t directly contact him to ask him to bring his daughter in for an interview.
Astley said after “this dust up” with Johnson last month, she twice offered to reschedule the interview and he didn’t respond. There’s no legal basis to dismiss, she said, adding that she should be present when Flores’ daughter is interviewed because she is the prosecutor on the case.
Johnson replied that it will “unduly prejudice” his client if Astley is present during the girl’s interview because she has demonstrated an inability to be fair. He said that Astley will “be able to pull the strings of the interviewer however she wants” and the defense won’t be able to give any direction.
Astley told the judge she would agree not to ask any questions and would arrange a follow-up interview with Flores’ daughter if needed. She added that she needs to watch the interview in person so she can see how the girl recalls things and whether she appears to be coached.
The defense maintained that Astley doesn’t need to be there, and said they would hire an independent interviewer.
Johnson will give a recorded copy of the interview to Astley, who then will decide if she needs to schedule another meeting.