On Thursday, the trial of Supervisor Ray Nutting featured a registered professional forester being read partial Miranda rights and advised to seek a lawyer.
The morning started off with an out-of-jury conference between Judge Timothy Buckley, defense attorney David Weiner and co-prosecutors Pete Williams of the state Attorney General’s Office and James Clinchard of the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office.
Clinchard believed there had been violations on the part of the defense as an oral agreement of extending a deadline testified to by Registered Professional Forester Mark Stewart, between Nutting, Stewart and Patrick McDaniel, a Cal Fire forester, had not previously been in evidence. Stewart did not mention it in any previous interviews or during the Grand Jury investigation, but it was “very clear the defense is aware” of Stewart’s testimony as they knew what to expect on the stand, Clinchard said. Weiner decided to withhold his comments on the alleged violation.
Stewart was then brought to the stand. He told Weiner that Nutting’s Proposition 40 plan was the only one he had worked on where extensions were requested.
He also said that it was his understanding from Bob Cosley, the chief investigator for the DA’s Office, told him that if he had conspired with Nutting, charges would be filed against the forester, too. He told Cosley that Nutting “didn’t tell me to do anything conspiratorial.”
Cross-examination by Williams had just begun with questions about the oral agreement to extend the deadline when the judge asked to see the attorneys in chambers. Minutes later, they reentered the courtroom but asked the jury to step out.
Buckley said Stewart might be getting into areas of self-incrimination. Williams noted that an invoice stated the contract work was done by April 15, but Stewart testified the day before that he checked the herbicide on May 25. The document, therefore, could be a false one. Buckley said he had not noticed that and partially read Stewart his Miranda rights — specifically that he did not have to answer questions without a lawyer and one would be provided if needed. He asked if Stewart wanted to speak with a lawyer — he did. Though court had only been in session a half-hour, the judge recessed until the afternoon.
Stewart briefly reappeared with attorney Erik Schlueter after the recess. Schlueter said his client would continue testimony on May 6. He said Stewart’s intent was to plead the 5th Amendment, protection from self-incrimination.
The defense then called Nutting’s wife, Jennifer, to the stand. She was first asked by Weiner to account for $26,000 that had been deposited in the couple’s joint bank account. Money came from rent from three renters on their property; selling their son Tyler’s car, a line of credit; a personal check from Dramatics Hair Studio, owned by Jennifer Nutting; a few smaller transactions; and from the Nutting’s safe, where they kept cash on hand. The money from the safe was, she said, from Ray Nutting’s aunt, Martha, who never had children and was close to him.
She said that getting money from friends for bail when her husband was arrested was a “total surprise” and that they had not solicited money from Kitty Miller or Katherine Tyler. No loans had been discussed. Miller, she said, “was being a friend and wanted to help, “giving $50,000 in cash to the couple — just $5,000 short of the total bail needed.
No cross-examination took place.
Nutting is charged with four felony counts relating to the filing of false documents, failing to disclose income and having a financial interest in a county contract for public funds he used to clear forest fuels from his property on the west slope. He has also been charged with seven misdemeanors regarding cash he received for bail money.
The trial will continue Tuesday.