Criminal Defense Lawyer Continues to Speak Out on Questionable Robbery Conviction in Spokane

I have never met the guy, but you have to hand it to defense attorney David Partovi for the tenacious defense of his client Tyler Gassman.  Partovi went down swinging in Gassman’s defense last year on a questionable robbery conviction, and is continuing the fight.  Partovi has lodged a bar complaint against the Spokane prosecutor, agreed to interviews with the press, filed appeals, and has even taken the unusual step of commenting on the newspaper articles in the online comment section.  He even got the Spokane prosecutor personally fined for $8,000.  (Ouch!  Giuliano Mignini anyone?)  According to news reports, Partovi even wept at sentencing for Gassman.  As a result, the amount of people taking notice of this case is beginning to grow.  The most recent person to take notice is Jacob H. Fries, the managing editor of The Inlander.  Fries is no stranger to writing crime stories, having covered such matters for the New York Times and The Boston Globe.  Now the Spokane native is covering injustices in Spokane.  See his recent piece on Gassman’s case hereThe Inlander apparently is doing a series on unjust convictions in Eastern Washington, and lists a contact number on their site for people to submit ideas.

Here is what all the fuss is about.  The Spokane prosecutors had a rock solid case against a robbery suspect, and let him go with a slap on the wrist in exchange for pointing fingers at seemingly anyone he chose, including Tyler Gassman. You really have to wonder about this business of “buying” the testimony of criminals with promises of leniency.  If it is a crime to bribe a witness with cash in exchange for his testimony, how is it any better when a prosecutor “bribes” the witness by offering him or her freedom?  In 2002 the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled: “If justice is perverted when a criminal defendant seeks to buy testimony from a witness, it is no less perverted when the government does so.”  Such squeal deals seemed like they would be prohibited.  However, the court overturned itself 9 days later, and prosecuting attorneys continue to troll the local jails looking to make bargains for testimony with inmates desperate for their freedom.  And that is essentially what David Partovi faced when Matt Dunham agreed to point his finger at Tyler Gassman and other Spokane locals.  Serving as Tyler Gassman’s criminal defense lawyer, Partovi sought to impeach the credibility of Dunham at trial.  Dunham’s cellmate told the defense lawyer that Dunham was making it all up to save himself, but the cellmate refused to testify.  (A criminal defense lawyer, unlike a prosecutor, can’t agree to give witnesses immunity).   After Tyler Gassman was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for allegedly robbing drug dealers, the cellmate (Anthony Kongchunji) finally agreed to come forward.  Sounds like good grounds for a new trial right?  Spokane Superior Court Judge Michael Price didn’t think so.  He ruled that the defense lawyer erred by not hauling Kongchunji up to be made to forcibly testify.  Huh?  Doesn’t someone pretty much always have the right to take the fifth if they think they are going to incriminate themselves?   Apparently a police detective subtly (or not so subtly) implied that the cellmate could be facing perjury charges if he testified for the defense.  That could give any witness cold feet.

Right now, the case is on appeal.  We will wait and see.   Let’s ask Spokane prosecutor candidates what they think about this case?  Attorney David Stevens has announced his candidacy, as well as attorney Frank Malone.  Someone please ambush them at candidate’s night and let us know what they say.  Somehow, I have a feeling David Partovi will be in the front row with his hand up.

Shouldn’t prosecutor’s offices have some sort of written policy on offering leniency in plea negotiations in exchange for testimony?  What do you think?

(Photo does not depict any actual participants in this case.)

2 Responses to “Criminal Defense Lawyer Continues to Speak Out on Questionable Robbery Conviction in Spokane”

  • Thanks for taking notice, Mr. Graham, we’re not done fighting these convictions. I decided to comment in order to be clear that it was not me who filed a bar complaint against the prosecutor although they should have been held accountable. Instead, they filed one against me under the unspecified “other” section of Rule of Professional conduct 8.3 for offering to NOT sue the government for the civil rights violation of knowingly and maliciously lying under oath in their probable cause affidavit to keep Gassman in jail in exchange for dismissals of the criminal cases based entirely on the uncorroborated testimony of jail house snitch, Matt Dunham. Instead of accepting my “Release-Dismiss Agreement” they filed a bar complaint which was dismissed as unfounded by the Bar Association. What a chicken s#!* way to practice law.

  • Steve Graham:

    Yeah, I agree Dave. That was pretty low, and thanks for the clarification. Good look as this case goes to the state supreme court. thanks for coming by.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
Law Office of Steve Graham
1312 North Monroe Street, #140
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 252-9167
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