Judge Issues New Sanctions Against Federal Prosecutors in Little Rock

by Gwen Moritz  on Thursday, May. 31, 2012 3:29 pm  

U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer

After maintaining his innocence for almost three years, Garret Sorensen suddenly pleaded guilty on May 2, and charges against his wife and her sister were dropped.

Pleading guilty to a felony made it hard for Sorensen to continue with his countersuit accusing the LaFrances of defamation. So last week, LaFrance Holdings and the Sorensens filed a joint motion to dismiss the civil case entirely.

"Restitution will be ordered, so it would be redundant" to continue the civil case, said Rick Donovan, the Rose Law Firm attorney who replaced Solomon in representing the LaFrances. "We'll be relying on whatever Judge Wilson imposes on Sorensen."

Hours later, without taking action on the motion to dismiss, Griffen dropped the hammer on the federal prosecutors, who had enjoyed the long weekend under the impression they were off the hook.

Neither LaFrance Holdings nor the federal prosecutors tried to use available court rules to protect the LaFrances from inappropriate discovery requests. Instead, Griffen scolded, "By improperly removing this action to Federal Court the United States Attorney obtained by willfully calculated and underhanded conduct what this Court expressly denied - interruption and suspension of discovery. The government knew what it was doing, purposely did it, and should not now be treated as if its conduct never happened or is somehow excusable. The improper purpose to thwart discovery is obvious. The Government's conduct was blatantly disobedient. Therefore, sanctions are warranted."

Even though no one had asked Griffen to impose sanctions on the prosecutors, he ordered the federal government to pay "all reasonable attorney's fees" associated with moving the case to federal court and back.

Little Rock defense attorneys Pat James, who represented Garret and Katherine Sorensen, and Chuck Banks, who represented Shannon Walters, were ordered to submit statements of their fees within 10 days.

"I intend to comply with court orders," James said. Banks hadn't yet read the order when reached by a reporter Wednesday evening.

U.S. Attorney Thyer said it was premature for him to say exactly how he would respond to Griffen's order.

"We will be responding appropriately in an appropriate court and in an appropriate manner," he said.


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