|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.
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