Updated at 4 p.m. Dec. 28, 2017
A court hearing about a potential gag order in the Mickey Kasparian civil case took an unexpected turn Wednesday when a lawyer for three female accusers alleged the San Diego labor leader is under criminal investigation.
Manuel Corrales Jr., an attorney for the former UFCW Local 135 workers, surprised Judge Ronald Styn in San Diego Superior Court and Kasparian’s lawyer, Michael Four.
Citing the new case of Melody Godinez, who alleged in a recent deposition she was groped by Kasparian, Corrales said: “All of this has prompted an investigation by the District Attorney’s Office, and the police want to interview her.”
The DA’s Office didn’t respond to email requests for comment, but San Diego police spokesman Lt. Scott Wahl said: “We have checked high and low, but nothing has been reported.”
Corrales offered no details of the probe, but an attorney colleague explained why Corrales made the DA remark.
In a Facebook post, Dan Gilleon said Corrales was required to make note of the DA’s involvement because the gag order Kasparian’s attorney was seeking “was so broad that it would have prevented us from continuing to speak with the DA.”
In fact, Gilleon said: “Corrales did what I asked him to do, which was reveal just enough such that the court would not grant Kasparian’s overreaching gag order. If I were not in Montana, I would have been there and explained it myself.”
Kasparian, who also wasn’t present at the downtown hearing, adamantly denied he was under criminal investigation.
“Nothing is going on with that [DA’s] office,” he said in a phone interview. “If something is going on, I’m gonna know about it because my attorney’s going to know about it.”
Kasparian suggested Corrales “threw that out there, so that now it becomes a story in the paper…. That’s a low blow.”
Attorney Four failed Wednesday to get a sweeping “protective” order against plaintiffs Sandy Naranjo, Isabel Vasquez and Anabel Arauz and their lawyers.
But Judge Styn accepted a Corrales offer not to share any new deposition transcripts with the media — the main bone of contention.
Four opened the 25-minute hearing by saying: “We have numerous depositions scheduled over the next several weeks. … Without an order, there’s nothing preventing [opposing lawyers] from continuing dissemination…. We don’t know what else is coming. So time is of the essence.”
He said a social media post Tuesday afternoon from supporters of the three accusers said: “Before the judge issues anything, we’ve got to get this information out,” referring to depositions in the case.
On Tuesday, Times of San Diego obtained three depositions — two transcripts involving witnesses in the Vasquez sex-under-pressure case and one involving Arauz, a fired union organizer for Local 135, in her workplace retaliation suit.
Styn set a Feb. 2 hearing to decide on a permanent gag order in the case.
He told both lawyers: “Plaintiffs and their counsel are not to disseminate the content of any discovery or to discuss the content of any of the discovery with the media or disseminate … to anyone except to law enforcement or any branch of law enforcement in response to a specific request.”
Styn stressed that he wasn’t suggesting law enforcement was making a request.
He pointed at Corrales and said: “You just brought that up. I’m not saying there’s probable cause for that to be happening. I don’t have any information … All I’m trying to do is to not interfere with any investigation, assuming there is one, and I don’t know that.”
Naranjo, 31, whose wrongful termination and gender bias suit a year ago was the first filed against Kasparian, sat in the courtroom with her husband, Andrew McKercher, on vacation from his job with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 569.
After the hearing, Naranjo said she considered the judge’s action “a victory because Mickey’s attempt was to shut us up, and … I’m glad that Judge Styn did not put that tape over our mouth.”
She said Kasparian “keeps talking about due process” but “the transcripts [are] part of the process. And Mickey doesn’t want that out there? He doesn’t want it out there because he knows he’s guilty.”
Kasparian has denied all accusations, including those in a recent suit by Godinez, a deputy county clerk who alleges the local UFCW president tried to arrange a sex foursome with her and two other women.
The Dec. 15 release of Godinez’s deposition detailing “vile and despicable” conduct by Kasparian apparently triggered the Kasparian team’s Dec. 22 request for a gag order.
(Kasparian insists he’s never been alone with Godinez.)
In another court exchange Wednesday morning, Corrales doubled down on his DA probe contention.
FOUR to STYN: Your temporary order should prohibit the plaintiffs themselves — and counsel — from disclosing anything.
STYN: What about the DA?
FOUR: That should be prohibited too, given the personal nature of what we’re talking about. The district attorney’s part of the court system, so they could potentially subpoena documents…. But I don’t think they should be talking to the district attorney. We’re talking about important personal sensitive information that should not be disclosed.
CORRALES: Yes, the DA’s interested.
Earlier, Corrales said the temporary order doesn’t bar the news media from “looking and finding things that have been filed.”
Styn replied: “I’m not enjoining the media. Only you, Mr. Corrales, and Mr. [Dan] Gilleon and your clients.”
The most recently released depositions — acquired from a source who wishes to be anonymous — included one Oct. 27 with Rosangel Miner, a fired UFCW Local 135 worker whose husband headed-butted Kasparian in 2010 at Viejas Casino.
That was a year or two after Rose Miner said the married Kasparian met her privately for dinner at the Mission Valley El Torito restaurant and asked if she would have an affair with him.
Miner’s husband, Matthew, was in prison at the time.
But when Matthew Miner later met Kasparian at a Viejas lounge, Kasparian allegedly told him: “It’s a good thing you came home when you did” — a reference that Rose Miner said was about her boss “making [sexual] advances towards me.”
Miner also swore under oath that, while at work, Kasparian entered her office, closed the door and said: “Let’s continue our rendezvous.”
“I will never forget those exact words because they shook me,” Miner says in the deposition.
Miner also described how she turned to Local 125 Comptroller Brian Kelly, whose Nov. 6 deposition included a discussion of how Kelly and his wife met with Miner at their home to hear her Kasparian-at-dinner story.
Kelly, who still works for the United Food and Commercial Workers union in Mission Valley, says only that Miner described an “awkward meeting” with Kasparian.
But he confirmed that he had given Miner a copy of the El Torito dinner receipt. (Miner contends that the receipt for reimbursement was falsified, naming two people who weren’t there.)
“I gave her a copy of the receipt because of what she had told me about the event,” Kelly says in his deposition. “And what was written on the receipt did not add up. They were not the same.”
A third deposition — conducted Dec. 13 in the Arauz case — questioned current UFCW Local 135 staffer Sarah Saez, the former District 9 City Council candidate.
Saez was grilled by Corrales on her contacts with Nate Fairman, Arauz’s boss at her new job at IBEW Local 465 — the implication being that Saez tried to get Arauz fired.
Calling Fairman a former friend, Saez said in the deposition that Arauz, before she was fired by Kasparian, “created a hostile work environment where she was pressuring all of us … on her Facebook page that … people at the office weren’t speaking out about the lawsuits.”
Saez said Arauz’s boyfriend also was abusive on social media.
“I was in the hospital for … gallbladder surgery, and he tweeted that I was in the hospital, which is private information,” Saez says in the deposition. “I found that pretty offensive.”
Saez said she “was offended as a friend” that Fairman would hire Arauz, knowing about her supposed threatening social media behavior.
Corrales asked Saez: “Did you want him to let her go?”
She replied: “No, I wanted him not to hire her in the first place.”
Saez also lists several times when she trained with Naranjo, who allegedly told Saez she would falsify time or route sheets.
“We had lunch together and Sandy told me that she was going to lie about where she was,” said Saez, who still works at Local 135. “Sandy said she was going to lie and say that she was at the labor council.”
Kasparian has said that Naranjo was properly fired for falsifying her time card.
In two depositions, the most fireworks were generated by clashes of counsel.
Kasparian lawyers Blake Jones and Michael Four objected to what they called badgering of Saez by Corrales.
“In my 20 years of practice, I have not seen an attorney engage in such bullying, reprehensible, physically intimidating behavior,” Jones said, also complaining about his own treatment.
“For the record, I want to show that counsel has gotten out of his seat,” Jones said of Corrales. “He has come over across the table and he has gotten in my face.”
“Wow,” said Saez.