Prosecutor Accused of Pursuing “Favors” From Defendants

Posted on November 13, 2011


California (Greg Moran-Sign on San Diego) – A former fraud prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office pursued romantic relationships with as many as a half-dozen women after he prosecuted them, according to a legal claim against San Diego County. Experts said the case raises unusual questions about ethical and professional conduct.

The claim was filed Nov. 4 by Tamara McAnally, 41, of Vista, who had pleaded guilty along with her husband to felony fraud charges in 2004. She contends that Ernie Marugg Jr. used his position as a deputy district attorney to pursue relationships with female defendants for nearly a decade.

One of the women, Kim Alvarez, had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor fraud charge in 2003. She later began dating Marugg and married him in 2010. They each filed for divorce this year, and she said in her divorce declaration that Marugg told her he had long-term affairs with several defendants.

In a Nov. 2 interview, Marugg denied he had inappropriate relationships with women he prosecuted.

McAnally’s claim names the county, District Attorney’s Office, Marugg and his supervisors. It is the first step in filing a lawsuit and comes after she persuaded a judge this year to wipe out her fraud conviction and grant her a finding that she was factually innocent.

She argued that Marugg’s romantic interest may have hindered his impartiality during the fraud case against her. Prosecutors have a duty under the law to act impartially.

Superior Court Judge David Danielsen concluded there were “substantial irregularities” in the case and said Marugg “obtained her conviction as the result of his failure to discharge ethical obligations.”

Because Marugg’s alleged relationships occurred after the cases he prosecuted were over, a former prosecutor with the State Bar said Marugg did not violate any rules of professional conduct governing lawyers.

But that does not mean such conduct is acceptable, said Jan Stiglitz, a professor at California Western School of Law.

“It just looks bad,” he said. “If you are a prosecutor, you just don’t want any member of the public to have a question whether there was any action on your part that was colored or motivated by your personal interest.”

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Posted in: Corruption