A former SLO County District Attorney’s Office investigator charged with perjury will finally have the chance to make his case before a jury.
The trial of August “A.J.” Santana began in SLO County Superior Court March 23, following a day of jury selection. Santana is facing felony perjury charges after prosecutors with the California Attorney General’s office alleged he knowingly falsified a narcotics search warrant, which he then provided to a local magistrate judge in 2014.
While Santana’s trial is just beginning, statements in a preliminary hearing indicated that Santana’s lawyer will likely argue that it was inexperience and possibly incompetence—not intentional untruthfulness—that led to the flawed warrant.
Santana worked several successful cases related to financial crime during his time at the SLO District Attorney’s Office, including the high-profile fraud case against former local financier Al Moriarty. But at the March 21 hearing, Santana’s lawyer, Tom Worthington, indicated that he hoped to offer evidence that his client’s experience and success in investigating financial crime didn’t translate when he was assigned to SLO County’s narcotics task force, investigating drug-related crime alongside members of the SLO Sheriff’s Department.
“It was a whole different ball game,” Worthington told SLO Superior Court Judge Donald Umhofer at the hearing.
Court documents filed by Worthington also indicated that the defense plans to pursue a similar argument during the jury trial.
“The essence of the defense is that [Santana] did not intentionally mislead the magistrate on any material fact, or conceal from the magistrate any fact he knew to be material,” one court document read. “We expect that [Santana] is going to testify at trial.”
Whether they were mistakes or intentional, Santana’s actions caused the SLO County District Attorney’s Office to drop two ongoing narcotics cases.
“He actually has a lot explain,” Umhofer said at the March 21 hearing.
If convicted, Santana could face up to three years in prison.