Chief rebuts Daily News article on Sgt. Yore

Article contained 'signficant gaps' and seemed 'intended to discredit' the department, chief states

Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson issued a rare formal response to a newspaper article Friday afternoon, decrying a Palo Alto Daily News story published Thursday.

The article, "Investigator tied to botched case," highlighted Sgt. Michael Yore's role in the recently settled Galbraith case, a suicide that was wrongly prosecuted as a homicide.

Yore is leading the "financial crimes" investigation of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre, a case that has inflamed the community.

"It appears as though the newspaper intended to discredit the Palo Alto Police Department and impugn the reputation of a highly regarded detective sergeant," Johnson wrote Friday.

She said the article had "significant gaps" and that information was "incomplete and inaccurate."

The chief's statement didn't shake the MediaNews Group-owned Daily News.

"We stand by our story," Executive Editor Mario Dianda said Friday.

Staff Writer Kristina Peterson excerpted quotes from Yore's 2003 and 2005 depositions for the Galbraith case.

Although Palo Altan Josephine Galbraith died in 1995, her former husband Nelson was arrested for murder 16 months later. He was acquitted in 1998 and then initiated a lawsuit that rebounded through the court system (even after his 2002 death) until it was settled Tuesday, with a $400,000 payment and apology from Santa Clara County.

Peterson quoted Yore's responses to questions from the Galbraiths' attorney Michael Goldsmith.

Peterson wrote that although Yore said he was familiar with ligature asphyxiation -- essentially strangulation via rope or other material that is not a hanging -- he also said it could be identified by determining if the body is cold and not breathing.

"'Doesn't everyone who's dead become cold to the touch?' Goldsmith asked," the Daily News article states.

Chief Johnson wrote that Yore's responses were "taken entirely out of context of the 181-page deposition transcript."

The Daily News article includes statements from Children's Theatre supporters criticizing Yore, and his salary and briefly mentions an attorney's allegation that Yore had threatened a suspect during an interrogation.

It also quotes Johnson as defending Yore and the police-department practices.

The Daily News also excerpted from a 2005 deposition of former Deputy District Attorney Linda Condron.

"'I believe that I relied extensively on the investigation conducted by Detective Yore in making my determination to file charges against Nelson Galbraith,' Condron said in the deposition," the article states.

In a 2006 order related to the Galbraith case, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White quotes Condron, who is now a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge: "At the conclusion of Detective Yore's investigation, he recommended to me that criminal charges be instituted against Mr. Galbraith. The recommendations of the investigating officer is always one factor, but not a determinative factor that I use in making a decision of whether to pursue criminal charges."

In her statement, Johnson emphasized that "unattended death" cases are handled by a team of detectives as well as officials from other agencies.

"A criminal case goes to trial only after many agencies and their personnel have reviewed the case," Johnson writes.

The department adhered to "this standard investigative protocol" for the Galbraith case, Johnson said.

She also lauded Yore and the other Palo Alto officers.

"I am very proud of the dedicated members of the Palo Alto Police Department who work tirelessly 24/7 on behalf of the Palo Alto community. Many officers, including Sergeant Michael Yore, have received awards and commendations for their bravery, expertise, hard work and investigative skills, talents that my staff utilizes every day in the line of duty."

"The Palo Alto community is fortunate to have such competent employees working tirelessly on its behalf," Johnson concluded.

The Daily News is not affiliated with the Weekly, which is owned by Palo Alto-based Embarcadero Publishing Company.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 26, 2008 at 4:08 pm

I found it really odd how the article on Palo Alto Daily News was written. A news story about Sgt. Michael Yore's actions 13-years-ago was heavily linked to the children theather investigation that is happening right now. And the l link was in the real first sentence of the article. How strange was that?

A link to the article: Web Link

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Posted by Voice of a Citizen
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2008 at 5:33 pm

There is a lesson for one and all in this story. The lesson in one word integrity.
How many times do we have to see and hear about this and that lie and how regular every day unconnected people are harmed by these liars.

Here is what I mean and I will offer a solution that will stop it dead in its tracks.

We citizens employe people to do our bidding in government. These people must have the highest integrity or we all lose. We lose because our neighbors and friends suffer from these employees failure. Witness this story where a man was accused of something through mistake and dishonesty.

Here is the punch line for this story:
The county's former medical examiner, the late Angelo Ozoa, sparked the colossal flub when he performed a flawed autopsy and later covered up his mistakes, according to court documents.

1) Terminate the government employee with sanction that they are never employed in the public sector in any capacity or as a consultant, expert witness to a public agency nothing.

2) The complete loss of pension, medical and retirement benefits again nothing not one penny from a public agency.

Now you may think this is harsh; and the responses is, yes it is and it needs to be to keep the liars out of government.

Voice of a Citizen

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2008 at 6:36 pm

Voice of a Citizen: I would think that the Government Employee's Union would have something to say about your so called solutions. Won't ever happen.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 27, 2008 at 7:39 am

To voice of a citizen- you have never lied? No one in your family has ever lied? How about you start the termination process with your friends and family.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Albert Hopkins
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2008 at 9:42 am

Palo Alto has a long history of breeding corrupt cops:

Web Link

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Friend of Hopkins family
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2008 at 10:17 am

Unless we do indeed have someone with the same name contributing to this Forum, I would like to point out that the Albert Hopkins we know in Palo Alto died from a heart attack while playing basketball and could not possibly be getting involved in this.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2008 at 10:30 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Mayfield Child
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 28, 2008 at 8:43 pm

This article went almost all around this fair City..from the Police Dept., landing and bouncing around to the Fire Dept.

Would just like to add that my father was a firefighter in Palo Alto and was one of the most honest persons that I had ever met in my life. He had values. Lots. Straight and narrow. No faultering. I did hear him verbalize ~ only a few times on petty things upper officers would do, but nothing that would have ever endanger citizens or cause undo disgrace to the dept. That was the late 40's, 1950's.
What has happened to the kids who were raised with values from this generation? Where did they all go???????????????????? Not all "tuned in, turned on and dropped out" for awhile..only to return with demented outlooks and values.................

By the way, I heard that it was because of the winds in So. Cal that the airplanes were not dispersed out...........old news now.

I also have heard the phrase, "too many Chiefs and not enough Indians."

I also agree that better screening should be done for those in the Police and Fire Public Service sector. Not just the "who knows who" one~ who gets the job with the fat pocket book because he knows "joe smoe" or whomever. Do the background checking a little better. The City has enough money for a simple investment curriculum to cover a small probe. Even if we have to have M. Yore do it.

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Posted by Janet
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 29, 2008 at 7:05 am

Lynn should be apologizing to the Galbraith family and the community, not scolding the media who are simply doing their jobs. Shoddy work by her detective and the former medical examiner lead to an innocent man in his 80s being arrested and jailed in the death of his wife. That's not an opinion, that's what two courts have ruled. Mr. Galbraith died with this cloud over his head, never knowing that one day after his death he would be exonerated. The county, after dragging its feet for years, has written a letter apologizing to his family and they've paid them $400,000, which probably won't cover his legal fees. Lynn and the Palo Alto City Council needs to apologize too. It's called taking responsibility. Blaming the Daily is a diversionary tactic. She should be ashamed!

P.S. -- This isn't the first case the PAPD has blown while Lynn has been chief. I remember a well-liked preschool teacher who was wrongfully accused of molestation by Lynn and her officers. His life was turned upside down and his reputation was destroyed. He spent three weeks in jail until the D.A. ran some tests and determined he was innocent. I support law enforcement in general, but when serious mistakes are made, the chief should be held to account.

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Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2008 at 7:37 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by dave
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 29, 2008 at 5:49 pm

When comments are exerpted from a document, the comments may cast a different light on the subject from that of the entire document. This happens quite often in newspaper articles that must fit into a given space.

Whether to write a well-balanced news article or one that leans heavily on partial truths and implications is an easy choice. A newspaper must have readers; so report in a way that is more sensational or inflammatory and stir up controversy.

Before rushing to judgment on Chief Johnson's response, I would hope that you read the trial testimony. Having done so you could have a more reasoned background from which to comment.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Taylor
a resident of Ventura
on May 15, 2008 at 3:49 am

Becky Trout wrote:
> Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson issued a rare formal response to a newspaper article

There's a good reason that a formal response from a police chief to a newspaper article is rare in our society: it looks too much like an intimidating threat to press freedom. This instance is particularly disturbing because the response did not counter with any concrete examples to back up the allegations against the article. The message is simply: "This article appears to be out to get the Palo Alto Police Department". And we all know how dangerous police can be when they feel threatened, or "fear for their life"...

When PAPD falsely arrested a teacher for sexual assault of a preschooler, it confidently asserted: "The problem with pedophiles is that they don't stop at just one". The same can be said for PAPD false arrests. Along with the teacher, there was the Gunn graduate coerced into "confessing" a crime he didn't commit. And now this case of a husband falsely arrested for murdering his wife when she committed suicide. PAPD - and the city - continue to refuse to take responsibility for any of these injustices. Yet there's even more to this legacy of denial - check out "Policing Press Freedom in Palo Alto" at Web Link

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Unclean Harold
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 30, 2008 at 1:13 pm

If a citizen handcuffed young females and then molested them under color of law, clubbed a citizen for merely sitting in his car or threatened to call a gang member to shoot you in order to force a confession can you imagine the consequences?

I guess in Palo Alto if you are innocent it is just that much more of a challenge!

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