A.J. Santana let out an audible sigh of relief as a SLO County jury found him not guilty of felony perjury on April 8.
“I had no read on [the jury],” Santana told New Times. “I was just shocked that they returned a verdict in less than an hour after a three-week trial.”
That trial consisted of Santana and his defense attorney, Tom Worthington, facing off against a prosecutor from the California Attorney General’s Office, who tried to convince the jury that Santana willfully provided false information on an affidavit for a narcotics search warrant to a magistrate judge in 2014 while working for the SLO County District Attorney’s Office. During the trial, Santana maintained that any discrepancies in the affidavit were mistakes, citing his inexperience in drug investigations.
During the trial, Santana took the stand in his own defense, even though he reserved the right not to testify at his own trial. Santana said he wasn’t worried about his decision to testify.
“I didn’t have any concerns because I didn’t have anything to hide,” he said. “The truth doesn’t change. In order for the jury and everyone in the courtroom to a get the complete picture, I needed to take the stand.”
Worthington agreed, stating that Santana’s candor during his testimony helped convince the jurors of his innocence.
“He willingly admitted mistakes,” Worthington said. “The jury believed his testimony.”
The DA’s office never disclosed whether Santana resigned or was fired in the wake of the allegations. If he was let go, Santana could take action against the DA’s Office.
With the trial over, Santana’s plans for the future, including whether to stay in law enforcement, are unclear.
“There’s things that have been put on hold,” Santana said when asked about his plans for the future. “We’ve got see things play out before I can comment.”
The SLO County DA’s Office declined to comment on the verdict, stating that it would be “inappropriate” because the state Attorney General’s Office handled the case.