Will Perry Mason Moment Destroy Bribery Case Against Orange County Jail Deputy?

Cass isn't happy with prosecutor's interpretation of circumstantial evidence
During closing arguments in the trial of a deputy accused of turning the Orange County Jail into a two-year pleasure palace for a bribe-tossing killer inmate, innocence or guilt comes down to common sense, according to both the prosecutor and the defense attorney.

Deputy District Attorney Aleta Bryant confidently told a jury on July 2 that David Lloyd Cass betrayed his duties by allowing Stephenson Choi Kim to enjoy regular sex dates in the jail's visitor area and permitting the gangster to smuggle in contraband--marijuana, razor blades, candy, food, tools, porn and a cell phone--in exchange for bribes totaling at least $850, mostly in gift certificates, and the promise of a high-end Asian prostitute.

"How did he get in that seat?" Bryant asked, pointing at Cass at the defense table. "His conduct put him there. . . . They [Kim and Ha Duc Nguyen] had a special friend in Mr. Cass because Mr. Cass was turning off the lights [in an Attorney-Bonds booth] and letting them have sex."

Nguyen, the trial's key witness, testified for nearly six days and claimed Cass permitted as many as 30 sex dates with Kim from 2009 to 2011 in the visitor's area and allowed her to smuggle in contraband. She testified jail security was so lax that she was able to bring the sociopath steak dinners and dishes from Olive Garden, run a highly profitable drug-dealing business for the inmate population, and shoot three porn videos in the visitor's area--where Nguyen says she lost her virginity--using her iPhone. One clip shows a smiling Kim masturbating while fondling Nguyen's breast. To continue to win special privileges from the deputy, the couple gave him gifts that he accepted, according to Bryant.

"[Cass] got justification in his own mind for doing what he was doing," the prosecutor stated. "He was letting the gifts influence him."

For Kim, the Orange County Jail was better than the Hyatt Regency
Such comments visibly annoyed defense attorney Lewis Rosenblum, who launched a multifront attack on the government's case; he described himself as "angry" about the state's claims and his court moves as "dismantling" the prosecution's case. Easily one of the region's most impressive trial lawyers, Rosenblum targeted the credibility of three people: Nguyen, Bryant and Orange County Sheriff's Department investigator James Karr.

Rosenblum on Nguyen: "You probably have not met a more dishonest person in your life. . . . She is not believable. . . . She's going to lie to everyone to get her precious [plea bargain] deal."

On Bryant: "The prosecutor is making up evidence that was not in this courtroom. . . . If you get anywhere in her crosshairs, you are guilty!"

On Karr: "Investigator Karr wants to be the hero. . . . You have [him] giving you misinformation under oath."

According to Rosenblum, Cass was "an idiot" for taking expensive hockey tickets from Nguyen, but the deputy didn't know about the sex, porn or smuggling or that she was the killer's wife because the woman, a "master manipulator," entered the jail as a "legal runner."

As representative of the weakness of Karr's investigation and Bryant's prosecution, the Santa Ana defense attorney who once worked as a high-ranking prosecutor reminded the jury of a glaring embarrassment for the government.

For days during the trial inside Judge Patrick H. Donahue's court, Bryant displayed a blown-up photograph that showed the top of a black, $25 In-N-Out Burger gift certificate recovered from the deputy's property. The prosecution argued the image was solid evidence supporting Nguyen's claim she gave the item to Cass as part of the bribery scheme.

But in a Perry Mason moment, Rosenblum asked Nguyen where she'd purchased the fast-food gift certificate; she named a store on a particular street in central Orange County. He told the witness to read the certificate's serial number, and then he advised the jury he'd done what Karr never bothered to do: He asked In-N-Out officials where and when the certificated had been purchased. Waving a letter from the company, Rosenblum announced the findings: The gift certificate had been purchased 30 miles away from Nguyen's claimed location and in the Los Angeles County city of La Verne.

He asked, Who lives in La Verne?

He answered his own question: the defendant's mother.

"They want to convict my client based on a gift card his mother gave him," thundered Rosenblum, who pointed to Karr sitting in the audience. "There's the hero who did this great investigation. All he had to do was call. But he's too busy. He's willing to convict my client of felonies, and he's too busy to find out the truth."

When the attorney returned his attention to the jury, a crimson-faced Karr and a colleague yapped loudly--conduct usually displayed during a trial by uncouth hoodlums.

A stern Rosenblum turned and walked toward noise.

"Is there something you need to say?" he asked the deputies.

They quickly shook their heads no and remained silent.

Rosenblum wasn't done, pointing and saying, "That's the investigator they want you to believe."

Rosenblum: Courtroom commander
"Why didn't they tell you about the problems in their investigation?" he asked. "There are only two possibilities: They didn't know, or they didn't want you to know. That's why I am so angry. If I heard half the story, I'd convict [Cass], too. They didn't tell you everything."

Bryant, a veteran prosecutor, assured the jury that Nguyen is credible, that phone and jail records support her version, and that Karr didn't rush to arrest Cass, but rather methodically pursued all relevant leads in a 40-plus-stage investigation, a point she illustrated on a poster.

"What on Earth" would cause the deputy to befriend a scumbag such as Kim other than bribes? she asked. "Does he ever try to give the gifts back? No."

Rosenblum will conclude his closing argument when court resumes on Monday, followed by Bryant's final address to the jury.

For an even more interesting OC Jail sex story, go HERE.

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Email: rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @RScottMoxley.

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paullucas714 topcommenter

I would offer Cass a deal to name 3 and go free. get three more dirty cops in the defendants char. And 94 girl you are displaying the same ignorance that the jury in the Kelly Thomas trial displayed. shame n you!

JBinOC topcommenter

I'm sure the late Mama Cass dined at In N Out Burger a lot, but Dada Cass' presumed affinity for the beloved beef sandwiches just might get him acquitted!!

949girl topcommenter

At first I wanted the deputy to be punished but now I'm kind of hoping the deputy is found not guilty.  I guess you could say I have a twisted sense of logic.  The details of Kim and Nguyen are interesting I will say.  But she was able to come to Attorney Bonds in a professional manner so who is the deputy to question her. I will give Kim a lot of credit, not only is he a very smart guy he is very manipulative and he seems to know how to cast spells on people.  At least Cass didn't have an adversarial relationship with the inmates. What was the real crime here?  Kim received a lot of perks and the only thing that really "hurt" the jail system was the smuggling or attempted smuggling of drugs.  But drugs make it in regardless and is it really so wrong to have inmates on downers (heroin or marijuana) those aren't fighting drugs.   If anything they'll be zonked out.   I know no one will agree with me but after reading all of the testimony summaries I don't really see a crime in the big picture grand scheme of things.  This is small potatoes in terms of what is really f'd up with the jail system...maybe focus the attention on the informant program and let it trickle down from the top.  Cass should definitely be fired but letting a manipulative gangster have sex with his crazy "girlfriend" and him eating some fast food isn't really worth a trial and prison time, fire him.  That works for me.

rscottmoxley topcommenter

@paullucas714 Cass could probably ID many problematic deputies, but the DA's office and sheriff's department are determined to limit the issues solely to his conduct. Indeed, evidence in the trial slams other deputies by name for alleged corruption--including issuing a green light to shank Mexican inmates without fear of OCSD reprimand. But not one move was made to investigate the other jailers. All the internal attention went to Cass. Makes you wonder…


@949girl Hmmmmmmmmm I like the logic ...... gift certificate in lieu of that speeding ticket officer ? - I happen to have an extra in the glove compartment - sign me up!

slippery slope as they say in group.

949girl topcommenter

@rscottmoxley @paullucas714 Shame on me?  Excuse me Paul, you're the ignorant one for lumping Cass to the Kelly Thomas case. I'm forming my conclusion based on what I read on the OC Weekly, not from what I hear sitting on a jury.  I am a very partial person and at first I thought Cass should have been in a lot of trouble, then I thought about what he really did and that's why I say he was small potatoes in the grand scheme of the jail system corruption.  I would take my job on a jury very seriously.  This is a blog not a courtroom so I don't know any of the facts other than Kim got laid, got some perks, shot some porn and ate some steaks.  There is a definite hierarchy in jail and inmates and deputies do have complicated complex relationships that most of us will never experience.  At least Cass wasn't a douche to the inmates or abused his power in a brutal sense.   Yes, I think he should be fired and it will hurt his chances of ever working in law enforcement.  To bring this to a jury trial seems a little ridiculous when deputies like Kevin Taylor have never faced a jury and that Jason Chapluk still works for OCSD.  I don't think Cass was part of the stereotypical good old boy Sheriff's department. I think Moxley makes a good point in a roundabout way in his comment "Indeed, evidence in the trial slams other deputies by name for alleged corruption--including issuing a green light to shank Mexican inmates without fear of OCSD reprimand. But not one move was made to investigate the other jailers. All the internal attention went to Cass. Makes you wonder…"  I'm kind of picking up on Cass being the fallguy for a bigger picture.   And by the way, I think your marijuana legal issues you've mentioned in previous posts clouds your judgment that ALL law enforcement is bad.  Like any job, relationship, partnership perks are given and received.  No one is perfect.  There is way more behind this trial than any of us regular people know.  So no, I don't want Cass going to prison.  If that makes me ignorant oh well. 

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