Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda goes on trial today in the second politically-motivated prosecution out of a total of two prosecutions by the secretive "Public Integrity Unit" formed by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and the recently low-profile Patrick O'Toole.
Prosecutor Patrick O'Toole was unable to find any crime committed by Castaneda, so he charged him with lying during the investigation about whether or not he intended to buy a condo.
In April 2007, the Public Integrity Unit began prosecuting political opponents of Cheryl Cox. Patrick O'Toole, who had previously been appointed as US Attorney for San Diego by Attorney General John Ashcroft, headed the unit.
O'Toole prosecuted a staffer for mayor Steven Padilla who had taken two hours off work in an effort to get a photograph of Cheryl Cox with her disgraced family friend David Malcolm at a twilight yacht party fundraiser for Cox. The staffer was charged with five felony counts of perjury for telling a grand jury that he filled out his leave slip from work before rather than after he took off from his job at the City of Chula Vista. He pled guilty to lesser charges as part of a plea deal.
The now-dormant unit ended its active phase with a second and final prosecution, that of Steve Castaneda, who had run against Cheryl Cox for mayor.
Castaneda was prosecuted for allegedly lying about whether he planned to buy a condo, even though he never bought the condo in question.
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, "Castaneda was a tenant at the complex and was accused of seeking favors, such as free rent, from Sunbow owner Ash Israni, according to the 1,200-page grand jury transcript. The investigation found that Castaneda paid his rent and didn't ask for special treatment. O'Toole told the grand jury the perjury charges are warranted because Castaneda should be held accountable for 'lying about the facts'; even if no crime was uncovered...Castaneda has been vocal about O'Toole's investigations, saying they are politically motivated. He contended that Dumanis conspired with Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox, his political rival in the 2006 mayoral primary."
"DA unit works as quietly as it began"
"Trial and Re-election bid could coincide"