Letter from California: ‘Death to meth’ prosecutor battles own crystal demons
Everyone loves a good story about a hero. You know the one about the good guy who works diligently, falls on hard times, gets into trouble with the law because of stupid mistakes, but then finds his way out of the darkness and begins to help others that made the same mistakes he did.
It’s a great story and for one Northern California man, he was living the dream as the town’s quasi-hero until he allegedly succumbed to wrongdoing.
In 2003, a hardworking defense attorney, Jon Alexander, experienced difficulties in trying to keep his law practice going. In order to keep up with the pace and work long hours, he turned to and became addicted to methamphetamine. It cost him his home in Orange County, most of his possessions, and nearly his life.
Alexander began living out of his car or in shelters and eventually slept under the crawl space on a filthy mattress at a friend’s house in Laguna Beach. He kept his Italian suits for court appearances wrapped in garbage bags. At one point, he even contemplated suicide.
He was eventually disciplined by the State Bar of California for misconduct associated with his meth use.
It was then that Alexander decided not to allow drugs to ruin his life.
After receiving help for his addiction, he returned with a fervor to fight the meth industry and to save others from their meth addiction.
He became a hero to many in the fight against the destructive effects of meth. In 2010, Alexander mounted a strong campaign called, “Death to Meth,” and used this platform to run as an underdog in a race for the top position as District Attorney for Del Norte County, which is located in the far northwest of California.
It seemed that everyone cheered him on in this small town of 29,000. Alexander found support from sheriff’s deputies, judges, citizens, and even former drug dealers and their families.
It was a victory for a man who had once seemingly lost everything to drugs. He had risen from the ashes to become a prosecutor and put his life back together. He was now in a position to make a substantial difference in his life and in ridding the county of the drug that had robbed him of his dignity and almost his life.
“With meth, it’s personal to me. I’ve been there. I know meth is a horrendously powerful drug. I’ve been to hell and back,” said Alexander after winning the election to become the District Attorney.
Alexander fought hard for three years in his battle to destroy the death grip that meth can have over its users. The sheriff’s department held “Meth Elimination” raids that Alexander took part in and then prosecuted many drug dealers.
If the story had ended there, we could have celebrated the triumph of good over evil. Sometimes, however, our demons often have a way of finding us. What almost destroyed Alexander originally was connected to his subsequent fall from grace.
Alexander found himself facing the State Bar of California once again. This time, the State Bar recommended that Alexander be disbarred. His disciplinary action was forwarded to the California Supreme Court where seven counts were lodged against him.
The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors ordered Alexander suspended without pay pending the outcome. He was escorted out of his office by the very same sheriff’s deputies that he had once served alongside him in his declared war on meth.
Many are asking what could have happened to make Alexander stumble.
It appears that a meth case may have led to his incrimination yet again.
One of the counts alleges that Alexander met with a 24-year-old female defendant in his office. She apparently told Alexander that the meth seized in a recent bust was her meth and not that of her boyfriend, who had also been arrested and charged as a codefendant.
The State Bar found that the female had been questioned without her attorney being present, which is an ethical violation.
It gets worse.
Once Alexander learned that the female and not her boyfriend owned the meth, he failed to inform anyone that the codefendant boyfriend had been cleared of wrongdoing by his girlfriend’s admission of guilt.
“Jon Alexander, reportedly the state’s first sitting prosecutor to face removal from the office, abused his prosecutorial power by communicating with Michelle Taylor, charged at the time, with methamphetamine possession,” said State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz. “After Alexander learned from Taylor that she, not her codefendant Van Parks, owned the illegal drugs, Alexander failed to disclose the exculpatory evidence to the defendant’s lawyer.”
Judge Armendariz also found Alexander subsequently lied about speaking with the defendant when he was questioned about it.
Alexander also supposedly claimed that the defendant’s attorney had given him permission to speak to the defendant alone about seeking drug treatment.
The only problem is that the defendant was apparently wearing a wire during the meeting which was recording their entire conversation. The records are allegedly void of any conversation regarding drug treatment.
Alexander, not wanting to admit defeat, once again rallied the troops behind him including those in the legal and law enforcement fields, many of whom feel that Alexander has done nothing criminally wrong.
“My opponents are subjecting me to additional scrutiny and criticism because of my former drug addiction,” Alexander argued defiantly.
The State Bar Judge, however disagreed with Alexander’s assessment and felt that there was no excuse for an experienced prosecutor to make such mistakes.
Alexander was also accused of accepting a loan from a defense attorney just weeks prior to the dismissal of a criminal case in which the defense attorney was the attorney of record. The same defense attorney had also represented Alexander before the State Bar.
It now appears that Alexander’s days as a hero may be over with even his staunch supporters admitting defeat. Alexander was recently formally disbarred by the California Supreme Court and his name has been stricken from the role of attorneys.