The judge who dismissed attempted extortion and improper solicitation charges against environmental activist Stevan Goldin yesterday faulted the construction of a case built by a police detective and validated by a court clerk — not a grand jury.
In a two-page written decision, District Court Judge Joseph Jennings explained that the case against Goldin was full of holes, failed to deliver what it promised in evidence, and contained exculpatory material.
It is unusual for a white collar felony case such as the failed prosecution of Goldin, which charged a well-known and active opponent of real estate development, without a presentation to and vote by a county grand jury, according to criminal defense lawyers. Conviction on all charges could have put Goldin in prison for five years with a $5,000 fine.
It was not clear yesterday precisely who made the decision to proceed with the prosecution.
Neither Steven Mizzoni, the police detective who investigated and built the case against Goldin, or city Police Chief John Beaudette returned phone calls, and police prosecutor John Jenkins could not be reached.
Goldin's lawyer, Bradford Keane, said it was "premature" to discuss the unusual path in the development of the case, "but it begs the question why a police officer would undertake a months-long investigation on behalf of big business developers to silence someone who felt the developments were injurious to the community."
Keane added that "it is very odd that this prosecution arose based upon what I would consider the judgment calls of a police officer, who has a skewed, if not a defective understanding, of constitutional law."
He said Goldin was "weighing his options" for filing a civil suit.
Stephen O'Connell, spokesman for Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, declined to answer written questions sent to his office by the Times about the case — including how often white collar felony cases are brought outside the grand jury system, whether Blodgett was asked and declined to bring Mizzoni's investigation to a grand jury, and whether the district attorney intends to appeal the judge's dismissal of the case.