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A.J. Santana's fate in jury's hands

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After a trial that lasted more than one week, a group of SLO County jurors is deliberating on whether to convict a former county narcotics investigator of perjury.

The jurors heard closing remarks in the trial of A.J. Santana April 4 in SLO County Superior Court. Santana, a former investigator with the SLO County District Attorney’s Office, could face up to three years in prison if the jurors convict him.

At the heart of the case is whether Santana intentionally included false information on a sworn affidavit while working on loan with the SLO County Sheriff’s narcotics unit in August 2014. The affidavit, which detailed an undercover “controlled” drug buy, was signed by a judge and used in the arrest and prosecution of one man, Tommy Clay Pappas. Pappas’ case was later dismissed after Santana came under suspicion.

Despite facing a number of fellow narcotics officers, who participated in the drug-buy operation and testified that the events differed from those reported in the affidavit, Santana and his defense attorney, Tom Worthington, insisted that any inaccurate information was the result of inexperience and a desire to protect the confidential informants involved in the sting.

In his closing statement, Worthington told the jurors that Santana, a former Marine with a wife and children, had no motive to lie on the affidavit.

“Why would he risk his entire career?” Worthington asked.

But Seth McCutcheon, a prosecutor with the California Department of Justice, argued that Santana willfully falsified information on the affidavit, leaving out or changing information about the drug buy to make it more likely a judge would approve the search warrant for his case. In his closing statement, McCutcheon called Santana’s explanation “simply unreasonable.”

“The only person [Santana] wants you to believe is himself,” he said.

The jurors did not meet April 5, but are expected to return to court April 8 to resume deliberations.

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