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From the Larry Jack Schwarz Files: He Prosecuted Sex Crimes- Now He’s Accused of Them

MARTINEZ, California — State authorities charged a Contra Costa County sex crimes prosecutor with 12 felony counts Friday, claiming he raped and sodomized a fellow deputy district attorney at his Martinez home in early May, tying and binding her and using a handgun and an ice pick.

Michael Gressett, [pictured] a 21-year veteran of the county district attorney’s office, pleaded not guilty Friday morning and then proclaimed his innocence outside the same courthouse where he tried cases before his Oct. 2 arrest. His lawyer says the sex, if rough, was consensual.

“I can say it’s been very difficult after all these years of prosecuting the bad guys,” Gressett said. “The truth will come out … I stand in the shadows of fear in a false accusation. I know the accuser knows they are not true.”

Gressett remains free on $1 million bail and is scheduled to return to court Jan. 27. His accuser is identified in court papers only as “Jane Doe.” Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Charles Treat ordered them to stay away from each other.

The charges include four counts of sodomy by force, three counts of forced sexual penetration, two counts of forcible rape, and single counts of oral copulation by force and false imprisonment. In the last charge, state prosecutors claim Gressett threatened a crime “which would result in death and great bodily injury to Jane Doe, with the specific intent that the statement be taken as a threat.”

That threat, the charge states,
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“was so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate and specific as to convey to Jane Doe a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution.”

Deputy Attorney General Peter Flores said the charges stem from “multiple acts on the same day.” Police say they took place May 8 at Gressett’s home on Village Place in Martinez and that they were notified of the allegations through the district attorney’s office on Sept. 26. The judge has sealed information from a search of the home.

If convicted, Gressett, 51, could face a nearly 23-year prison sentence, although with the enhancements he could also face life, Flores said. Among them, Gressett is accused of using a handgun in 10 of the counts against him. He is accused of using the ice pick in three counts, including forcible rape and forced oral copulation. According to the charges, Gressett used both a handgun and an ice pick when he falsely imprisoned Jane Doe “by force, menace, fraud and deceit …”

The attorney general’s office took over the case because of the potential conflict and led an investigation that also includes Martinez police and investigators with the district attorney’s office, said Flores. He declined to describe the nature of the relationship between Gressett and his accuser, what evidence the investigation turned up or whether the woman continues to work as a deputy district attorney.

Flores also would not clarify why it took nearly five months for the accusations to reach police. Martinez police said the district attorney’s office knew of them far earlier. Long delays in reporting rape to police are common, particularly with acquaintance rape, research and victim advocates say.

Gressett’s attorney, Michael Cardoza, insisted that his client and Jane Doe were in a romantic relationship and called it “a he-said, she-said” kind of case. He denied that Gressett ever threatened the woman’s life and said her actions later, including going back to work and not reporting it to police, made it implausible.

“This is as creative a fantasy as one can get, what this woman has conjured up,” he said.

Cardoza lamented the delay, saying evidence that could prove Gressett’s account, such as the contents of text messages, has long since disappeared.

“He didn’t do anything to force sex upon that woman — anything at all,” said Cardoza. “Unfortunately, it’s going to air and hurt a lot of people. A lot that went on in that office, politically, is going to be aired.” Cardoza said the investigation, with participation from the district attorney’s office, “smacks of politics at a very deep level.”

Asked whether Gressett denies using a handgun and an ice pick, Cardoza said, “Absolutely. Not in the way she is saying.”

Gressett ran unsuccessfully for district attorney in 1994, 1998 and in the 2002 race won by District Attorney Robert Kochly. He was placed on administrative leave after his arrest. Kochly did not respond to a call from the Times Friday.

Flores, the deputy attorney general, said the joint investigation followed a long-standing county protocol.

“The attorney general’s office is involved so there isn’t politics,” he said.

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