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Valley Focus | OXNARD

Trial to Begin in School Taping Case

January 07, 1998|FRED ALVAREZ

After weeks of legal wrangling, the trial of Oxnard school district employee Pedro R. Placencia, who is accused of secretly tape-recording a trustee's telephone calls, is scheduled to get underway this morning.

Placencia, the former head of the Oxnard elementary district's migrant education program, faces six felony counts that could bring a prison term of more than three years.

Ventura County Municipal Judge Roland Purnell set the trial for today after denying motions by Placencia's lawyer, Victor Salas, to dismiss the case or reduce the counts to misdemeanors.

The Ventura County Grand Jury indicted Placencia in October on six felony counts of illegally tape-recording the phone calls of Jim Suter, a school district trustee. Placencia is suspected of using a radio scanner last summer to record the calls. He allegedly left two 90-minute cassette tapes containing 18 of the recorded phone calls on the doorstep of another trustee, Mary Barreto.

Prosecutors believe Placencia was trying to gather intelligence on Suter's efforts to gain support for a controversial decision to name the district's newest campus after a former superintendent.

The trial is expected to last three or four days. Before it gets underway, Purnell is expected to rule on a motion by prosecutors to strike certain portions of the tape-recorded conversations.

Salas said he will oppose that motion.

Prosecutors are attempting to strike "everything that is juicy," Salas said. "Everything that has to do with what Suter thinks of certain board members and certain members of the press."

However, Deputy Dist. Atty. Mark Aevis said the portions of tapes covered by his motion are irrelevant to the case and do not need to be heard in court.

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