A Santa Ana private investigator who claims he has been harassed by Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates for political reasons was found not guilty Friday of misdemeanor charges connected with his attempts to serve a subpoena on a sheriff's informant.
Preston Guillory, 38, who has battled with Gates for 10 years over the sheriff's refusal to issue him a permit to carry a concealed weapon, sobbed profusely in the hallway afterward.
His wife, Tony, said it was the first time that he had been treated fairly in court.
Guillory has two federal lawsuits pending against Gates. One seeks to force Gates to issue him a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The other is a civil rights lawsuit stemming from his arrest over the subpoena.
Guillory also is a private investigator for Municipal Judge Bobby D. Youngblood, who is running for sheriff against Gates. At a press conference, Youngblood had said that Guillory's arrest was an example of Gates using his office to go after political enemies.
Guillory tried three times in October, 1984, to serve a subpoena on sheriff's informant Richard Wilder in Anaheim. Six months later, Guillory was arrested by Anaheim police on suspicion of impersonating a police officer and carrying a concealed weapon while trying to find Wilder. He faced six charges of carrying a concealed weapon and showing a badge for false purposes.
Guillory admitted that he was armed when he approached Wilder's landlord but denied that the gun was concealed. He also denied that he impersonated a police officer, a charge that eventually was dismissed.
Testimony showed that Undersheriff Raul Ramos hand-delivered the sheriff's file on the incident to Anaheim Police Chief Jimmie Kennedy. Guillory argued that Ramos would not have gone to that trouble in a routine investigation, and that his case got special attention because Gates was out to get him.
Wanted to See Chief
But Ramos testified that he took the file to Kennedy because it was his first experience in turning over a case to Anaheim, and that he had to see Kennedy on other matters.
Municipal Judge Robert Hutson last month denied Guillory's request to dismiss the case on the ground that his arrest was an attempt to silence him in his fight with Gates. But Hutson on Friday said he had "reasonable doubt" that prosecutors had proven their case against Guillory.
If Guillory had been convicted, he would have lost his private investigator's license, and his lawsuit against Gates on the weapons issue would have been moot.
As they have in the past, Gates and others in the Sheriff's Department refused on Friday to comment on Guillory's arrest. But on the weapons case, Gates earlier had contended that Guillory had failed to prove that his work required him to carry a concealed weapon.