A Ventura County deputy district attorney was removed from a kidnaping trial that began Wednesday after it was revealed that he had developed a relationship with the defendant's ex-wife.
Terence M. Kilbride, a deputy district attorney since 1975 and a Ventura Unified School District trustee since 1980, was dismissed from the case two weeks ago when his superiors learned that his admiring letters to the woman were in the hands of the defendant's attorney.
"Any time that a personal relationship could affect or appear to affect the judgment of a prosecutor, it is standard practice that the case be handled by somebody else," said Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Vincent J. O'Neill Jr., adding that his office is conducting an internal investigation into the matter.
According to O'Neill, Kilbride developed a relationship with Cindy Cozzolino in early 1987, after he won a conviction against her former husband, Larry Badgwell, for kidnaping a Port Hueneme man who allegedly owed him $20,000 for a cocaine deal.
Badgwell's conviction was overturned by the state Court of Appeal in January, 1988, and the new trial began this week.
However, letters from Kilbride to Cozzolino included in the court file indicate that his relationship with the Orange County woman continued until at least August, 1988.
Kilbride, who declined to discuss specifics of the incident, said that he allowed himself to remain on the case after the relationship had developed because "it wasn't an appropriate time" to stop seeing Cozzolino.
But Badgwell's attorney, Charles L. Cassy, said Badgwell had reestablished a friendly relationship with Cozzolino since the appellate court overturned the conviction.
"It is apparent . . . that the district attorney in this as well as the district attorney's office would be unable to proceed in an unbiased and neutral prosecutorial capacity," Cassy contended in court documents.
Superior Court Judge Frederick Jones, however, agreed to let the prosecutor's office handle the second trial of Badgwell, as long as Kilbride was off the case.