The Burleson family of Encinitas, California needs help to stop San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis from abusing her government position, while once again practicing politics for her friends. Mr. Jeff Burleson has filed a complaint with the California State Bar against attorney Richard Huffman Jr. for professional negligence and misrepresentation. Burleson apparently has sued Huffman for the damages caused by Huffman’s proven negligence. It was proven by the Fourth District Division One Appellate Court extending the time for an appeal because of it.
Mr. Burleson is having a difficult time suing Huffman Jr. or anyone else . If DA Dumanis can keep Mr. Burleson running in circles defending himself from trumped-up criminal charges while operating on a financial shoe-string, it is highly unlikely that he will be able to effectively pursue for the damages caused by Huffman Jr’s incompetence and dishonesty. As frequently happens in this town, no attorney will take a case if it means addressing collusion between court officers, the DA’s office and the Sheriff Department. Mr. Burleson is having represent himself.
Richard Huffman Jr. is the son of Justice Richard Huffman. Huffman Sr. is former chair of the Executive Committee of the California Judicial Council and a practicing justice in the Fourth District Division One Appellate Court. Huffman Jr. is a former San Diego deputy district attorney with a drunk driving charge that was notably handled by questionable means. (See August 2005 San Diego Reader article, “His Eyes Were Red and Glassy“)
According to a July 10, 2013 Reader article “Did you know how much trouble you could get in with a shotgun?”, Dumanis’s office was way out of line in 2011 and 2012 when prosecuting Mr. Burleson for basically, answering his front door late in the evening for an insistent, burley man who would not identify himself. Mr. Burleson was unable to get a call through to the police because of a cell phone malfunction and was carrying an unloaded shotgun at the time.
Sheriff Bill Gore’s employees also appear to have addressed the matter with an unreasonably heavy hand before Dumanis became involved. Upon receiving what sounds like an embellished complaint by the burley man, who was a process server for the Burleson’s homeowner’s association, they surrounded the house and hauled the then unarmed Mr. Burleson off to jail.
According to the Reader, even when facts and witnesses, who were also scared that evening by the obnoxious and intimidating process server, corroborated that Mr. Burleson had good cause to fear for his young family’s safety and never assaulted anyone; Dumanis wanted him to commit criminal perjury and falsely plead guilty to the felony of assault with a deadly weapon. Mr. Burleson, who is a North County real estate agent and father of three young children, refused to commit perjury at the risk of spending fourteen years in jail. A felony plea would have caused his real estate license to be revoked and ended his career.
(Correction to the following: the trial was in December 2011, post-trial in 2012)
He was found guilty in a 2012 jury trial of the lesser charge of a misdemeanor for brandishing a weapon. The erred misdemeanor verdict and judgment appear to have been reached due to flawed jury instructions on subject of self-defense — according to a March 18, 2014 unpublished appellate opinion.
When Mr. Burleson first went to appeal in 2012 based on the error, he was referred to attorney Richard Huffman Jr. for legal counsel. With regard to Huffman Jr.’s negligence and lying to his client, Mr. Burleson, the 2013 Reader article states:
Within a week of his trial, Burleson was planning on an appeal of the brandishing charge, based on self-defense. An attorney friend recommended former deputy district attorney Richard Huffman to conduct the appeal. At their first meeting, says Burleson, Huffman said that he agreed with the nature of the appeal and was confident it would be successful.
The charge to handle the appeal was $3500. Burleson gave Huffman $1000 to begin. This included purchasing the trial transcripts from the court. Burleson would pay the remainder in installments that were to be complete by the time the appellate court received the appeal.
On February 28, 2012, Burleson went to court again, this time for sentencing. He wasn’t worried: he claims that Huffman assured him the appeal would have kicked in by that time and that the judge would delay sentencing. Huffman was in court that day, too. He told Burleson the court had returned the opening brief, which seemed odd. Still, says Burleson, the attorney “didn’t expect any surprises.”
The judge sentenced Burleson to 120 days of work furlough. There was no mention of the appeal. After the hearing, Burleson says that Huffman told him, based on portions of the transcript he’d seen, that the defense attorney had fought like hell for his client and that there wasn’t much basis for an appeal. He should take the furlough and get on with his life.
On March 12, 2012, Burleson began spending his nights, for a charge of $42 each, at Correctional Alternatives Incorporated, a private company in Logan Heights that has a contract with the County of San Diego. He was allowed to leave each day for his job as a salesman of “practice management” software for attorneys. The software is largely intended to help them keep track of deadlines.
“How ironic,” Burleson says, “given what I soon discovered.” A little more than a month after entering custody, he called the court about his case. An official told him that not only was there no appeal on file, but that no one had ever ordered transcripts.
Due to overcrowding, Burleson was released from Correctional Alternatives 40 days early. Finishing the furlough finally gave him time for his family again. After some rest, he figured, he could still pursue the appeal. But he soon realized that his right to appeal had expired.
“So I decided to go after Huffman instead,” Burleson says. Last summer, he requested a copy of his file from Huffman. To date, it has not been forthcoming, although at one point an attorney for the defendant explained that Huffman was “assembling” it.
Acting on his own, Burleson has filed a complaint of “professional negligence” and “breach of contract” against Huffman, asking for $100,000 in costs and lost income. “It’s almost like you’ve got to be a self-absorbed, cocky, abrasive, and at times obnoxious son-of-bitch to survive. And I admit I’m all of that when I have to be.”
So what did DA Dumanis do which helps Huffman Jr. skirt having to defend himself for the damages caused to Mr. Burleson and his family?
On the very same day that she was re-elected as San Diego District Attorney in June of 2014, she decided to re-try the case.
According to the family’s website, http://www.gofundme.com/theburlesonfamily, in their heartfelt plea for help to stop the oppressive harassment by Dumanis:
THE BURLESON FAMILY NEEDS YOUR HELP…to fight back against San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and her SELF-SERVING REIGN OF TERROR AND MERCILESS PERSECUTION.
My name is Shelly Burleson and this is my family: my husband Jeff and three children Aaron (3), Ashley (5), and Chandler (7). They mean the entire world to me and fill my heart with a joy I never thought was possible. Everyday, I thank God for His blessings.
In 2011, shortly after Aaron was born, my husband Jeff was falsely accused, wrongfully arrested and dramatically overcharged with a VIOLENT FELONY (assault with a deadly weapon) AFTER he asserted his 2nd Amendment right to defend my children and I when a stranger pounded on our door for 20 minutes after dark. We feared for our safety that night; my husband met the stranger at our front door while holding his shotgun down and across his chest. He was simply being cautious in an effort to defend our home and our family after the Chelsea King and Amber DuBois slayings. This evil man later called the sheriff and falsely reported my husband ‘burst out’ of our home and chased him down the sidewalk with a shotgun.
That simply did NOT happen.
Shortly after my husband’s arrest, Bonnie Dumanis, the San Diego District Attorney, added a strike and firearms enhancements to the charge of Assault With A Deadly Weapon. Why? Because she was running for Mayor of San Diego at the time and wanted to increase her “94% Felony Conviction Rate”. If convicted, my husband faced up to 14.5 years in State Prison. We believe in our Rights and are Proud to be Americans; he was not going to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit, so the case went to trial 9 months later. The verdict was ‘NOT GUILTY’ of assault with a deadly weapon but ‘GUILTY’ on the charge of misdemeanor ‘brandishing a firearm’ due to several mistakes made in the courtroom by the prosecutor and the judge.
In 2011, out of more than over 16,000 charged in San Diego, there were ONLY 33 people found ‘NOT GUILTY’ by jury verdict. Thanks to my testimony and the testimony of one of the other five witnesses we found, each of whom corroborated my husband’s account that the man was frightening and belligerent, the jury found Jeff ’NOT GUILTY’ of the felony charge.
Since our original attorney didn’t file appeals, we hired a different attorney to appeal the misdemeanor conviction.
That attorney, Richard Huffman II (who we later discovered had been fired as a deputy DA by Bonnie Dumanis because of several DUI’s) NEVER filed the appeal, THEN tried to convince my husband he should “just take the 120 day custody sentence and move on with his life”. Huffman abandoned my husband in custody and left me alone with 3 young children (ages 4, 3, and 1) for three months.
IF ONLY HUFFMAN had filed the appeal and performed the job we paid him to do, my husband would have been free on bail pending the hearing on the appeal.
That’s right. My husband NEVER should have had to serve ANY TIME AT ALL.
By God’s grace, the 4th District Court of Appeal allowed us to file a motion to appeal even though the time limit had expired, and in March of this year, they FINALLY agreed with my husband’s argument of self defense and REVERSED the guilty verdict. Justice was delayed, but justice was served.
NOT GUILTY on both counts! We were elated! After nearly three years and $300,000 – he had been vindicated at last.
Our excitement was short lived; in June of 2014, on Election Day, DA Bonnie Dumanis decided to re-try the case. There are no words to describe the frustration and exhaustion we feel after this harrowing experience, to have it start ALL OVER AGAIN. We have NO CHOICE BUT TO CONTINUE TO FIGHT!
We have been fighting for over three years. This has cost my family more than $300,000 in bail, attorney’s fees, lost wages and assorted other expenses; money we didn’t have in the first place. It has caused us unimaginable pain and suffering and now our funds are exhausted.
Jeff lost his job in early 2013. When the statute of limitations approached for filing a lawsuit against Huffman and his partners, he couldnt find an attorney to take his legal malpractice case, after all, who wants to represent a ‘guilty’ client anyway?
Jeff had no choice, he wrote the lawsuit himself, and in the ensuing months found he simply could no longer function at his job; he’d become obsessed with winning his case. He was diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety stemming from the overall incident. In April of this year, his disability compensation expired. That was ok, because he was vindicated with the Fourth District Court of Appeal decision. He was exhilirated, and found an exciting new job in May. As you can imagine, he lost it due to the stress and anxiety he suffered upon learning the DA was resuming their merciless campaign against us. He does not qualify for unemployment due to a ‘technicality’ in the CA EDD regulations.
The San Diego District Attorney PREY’S on the the poor and ignorant and has ruined thousands of lives by giving falsely accused criminal defendants NO CHOICE but to plead or face terrifyingly long sentences.
Our case was no exception; we sacrificed enormously to prove my husband’s innocence – it took a relentless commitment and stole THREE YEARS OF OUR LIVES. Now the DA is ‘upping the ante’ by deciding to try him AGAIN on the same set of facts AFTER a higher court ALREADY RULED Jeff had an ‘affirmative right to self-defense’.
At this time, we humbly ask for funds for basic living expenses BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY for attorney’s fees and costs (including expert witnesses, investigators, etc.) while we continue to fight her malicious and merciless persecution and try to get back on our feet.
My husband and I know that the most frightening thing about our situation is that if it can happen to us, it really could happen to anyone.
Would you consider showing your support by making a contribution? Its truly humbling and heart warming knowing our story matters in the hearts and minds of so many others across the country.
Perhaps you’d like to help but find yourself just as financially stressed as we are, we certainly understand. Would you forward this on to your friends and family?
My family and I humbly thank you for your consideration. God Bless.
Had Mr. Burleson listened to proven liar Huffman Jr.’s advice to not appeal and to “take the furlough and get on with his life”; it would have all been wrapped up neatly.
Dumanis would have one more criminal conviction under her belt. No one would question why employees of Sheriff Bill Gore, who is also a second generation “public servant” of the San Diego system, used such force when arresting unarmed Burleson. No one would be questioning why the jury instructions were flawed. And no one would be questioning why Huffman Jr. lied to his client while accepting payment for services not rendered.
Ask yourself this:
Whose interests are being served by San Diego County District Attorney Dumanis continuing to harass this family while benefitting the children of her cronies and mentors — who’ve been caught screwing up again and ruining people’s lives? Its certainly not the taxpayers’ who fund Ms. Dumanis’ chosen endeavors.
I am highly of the opinion that DA Dumanis needs to be made to stop abusing the San Diego legal system as a political playground for her inept and compromised friends. Its not a game. People’s lives are at stake.
VIDEO, San Diego County Board of Supervisors meeting, January 2014.
Mrs. Sharon Noonan Kramer