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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | WEST COUNTY / OXNARD

Couple Sentenced for False Accusations

April 24, 1998|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT

An Oxnard couple have been ordered to spend 90 days in jail for falsely accusing a city police officer of exposing himself to a group of teens at a pool party last summer, authorities said Thursday.

Barbara "Sunny" Atkinson, an artist and director of an Oxnard volunteer anti-gang program, and her husband, Sean Stanistreet, were jailed Wednesday after a sentencing hearing in which they had faced up to six months in custody, officials said.

The couple, who represented themselves at a jury trial earlier this month, were convicted of falsely accusing Oxnard Police Officer Steve Adams and filing a false police report, said Deputy Dist. Atty. William Haney.

The couple were also placed on three years' probation and barred from participating in organized children's activities during that time, officials said.

"I thought it was a very aggravated case. What I tried to argue was how utterly malicious their efforts were [in attempting] to destroy the detective involved," Haney said.

The case was believed to be the county's first conviction obtained under a 1995 law that makes it a misdemeanor to falsely allege police misconduct, according to Cmdr. Charles Hookstra of the Oxnard Police Department.

"This case was an example of people trying to abuse a good system," Hookstra said.

In August 1997, Atkinson wrote a letter to Oxnard Police Chief Harold Hurtt and accused Adams, coordinator of the Police Activities League, of dropping his shorts and intentionally flashing teens at a party that followed a league awards ceremony.

The couple reiterated their claim in an interview with police and then circulated fliers throughout the county that outlined the allegation, officials said.

As part of their sentences, the couple are barred from distributing any material related to the original allegation, and each was ordered to pay $500 in restitution to the Police Department.

Haney argued at trial that Atkinson might have been seeking revenge against Adams because the officer had dismissed dozens of suggestions she had given him on how to improve the league program. Six teens from the party also testified that Adams did nothing wrong.

"What she originally asked for in her letter [to the chief] was for the detective to be transferred," Haney said.

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