FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE/KSEE) – Charges against Fresno City Council’s president, Nelson Esparza, for the alleged extortion of former Fresno City Attorney Doug Sloan were dismissed Monday morning in Fresno County Superior Court.
The case was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor in November after a judge ruled there was enough evidence to go to trial. One reason for that move was that Doug Sloan said on record during the preliminary trial that he had called Esparza a pissant millennial.
That trial didn’t last very long Monday morning. Both sides asked the judge for a dismissal of all charges. After the trial, prosecutors revealed that public announcements of this case every step of the way might have hindered their investigation into Esparza.
Granted a case dismissal and sticking to his innocence, Fresno City Council President Nelson Esparza read a statement he prepared to the courtroom – after Esparza was charged with attempted extortion for allegedly telling Sloan he would have to work solely for the council majority or he would be replaced.
“I did in fact reply to Mr. Sloan that if this happened, and if the new resolution wasn’t followed that I would vote to terminate. I never directed him not to comply with this legal or ethical obligations,” said Esparza.
“With his acknowledgment that maybe there was something there. I think we can move forward with an understanding that he needs to watch his words more carefully,” said Victor Lai.
Lai was the prosecutor in this case and works in the Public Integrity Unit within the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. He feels this case would’ve gone differently if it wasn’t for the public finding out about these allegations before any real charges were put on Esparza.
“It would be most helpful if they did it – submitted to us without announcing it via press conference, or press release or really the world or anything like that.”
Lai did not specify which press conference or press release.
“After the preliminary hearing, this decision was made in the interest of justice,” wrote the Fresno County DA’s office in a statement.
Sloan spoke with the prosecutor before the charges were dismissed, and told him he wants to put this case behind him and focus on his new job as Santa Monica’s City Attorney.