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Yolo County Correctional Officer Reinstated by Arbitrator

Posted on Friday, February 01, 2002 at 12:00PM
Posted by Paul Q. Goyette

The arbitrator’s decision to reinstate Chamberlain should mark the end of a two-year battle that illustrates how vulnerable law enforcement employees can be to false accusations. In April 2000, Chamberlain was placed on administrative leave following allegations that he had been involved in a sexual relationship with inmate Leslie Tyrer while Tyrer was in custody at the Yolo County Jail. The department initiated both criminal and internal affairs investigations. Tyrer alleged she and Chamberlain had sexual contact on several occasions in various locations throughout the Yolo County Jail facility. There were no witnesses to any of these contacts. Tyrer’s complaint against Chamberlain came immediately following Chamberlain’s taking disciplinary action against another female inmate who was a friend of Tyrer.

The Criminal Prosecution: The department submitted its criminal investigation to the District Attorney’s office, who immediately filed felony and misdemeanor counts against Chamberlain for violations of Penal Code Section 289.6 (a) (g) (sexual contact with an inmate) and Penal Code Section 136.1 (b) (1) (dissuading or intimidating a witness).

In approximately June 1999, a preliminary hearing was conducted in the Yolo County Superior Court. At the preliminary hearing, substantial evidence came out through the DA’s witnesses that Tyrer was an extremely unbelievable witness. For example, she told investigators that while she was in custody and making a court appearance, Chamberlain came to see her in court. She stated that Chamberlain caused such a disturbance in the courtroom that bailiffs had to forcibly remove him. Tyrer then went on to say that the presiding judge cleared the courtroom so that he could speak to her alone. She said the judge offered her a deal whereby all the criminal charges against her would be dropped in exchange for her complete cooperation in the prosecution of Chamberlain. When the department’s investigators followed up on Tyrer’s story, they found it to be a complete fabrication. Tyrer was found to have made similar, equally untruthful statements during the course of the investigation.

At the close of evidence, the judge dismissed the case for insufficiency of evidence. At this point, Chamberlain thought he was in the clear. Little did he know that he would have to wait for more than two more years to be cleared of all allegations of misconduct.

The Greeting Cards: Following the dismissal of criminal charges, the department continued its investigation. In doing so, the department conducted a search of Tyrer’s living area in the jail. There, several months after Tyrer first made allegations against Chamberlain, the department found three greeting cards that contained romantic and affectionate language. Each card was signed, “Love G. Chamb”. The department submitted these greeting cards, along with known writings from Chamberlain to handwriting expert James Blanco. Blanco concluded that the signatures on the cards were from Chamberlain. The department’s investigators and Blanco apparently ignored the fact that Tyrer was charged with a number of felonies, including fraud and forgery. With Blanco’s opinion in hand, the department moved to terminate Chamberlain. In addition, the department resubmitted its case to the Yolo County District Attorney’s office. Unbelievably, the DA re-filed criminal charges against Chamberlain. Chamberlain would be forced to endure another criminal proceeding. Following the preliminary hearing, all criminal charges against Chamberlain were again dismissed.

The Administrative Hearing: Now that Chamberlain had successfully defeated two criminal cases, he had to face the arbitration hearing in an effort to regain his job. Arbitrator Henderson presided over five hearing days, including one at Valley State Prison on Women in Chowchilla, California. The department’s primary witness, Tyrer, was now serving a lengthy prison term in Chowchilla. Over the course of the hearing, the department presented several witnesses against Chamberlain. Tyrer testified, persisting that she had a sexual relationship with Chamberlain. Tyrer was forced to admit that she had lied on several prior occasions to the department’s investigators and to a Superior Court judge. The only explanation Tyrer could offer for her untruthfulness was that “she was simply trying to help Gary.” The department presented the testimony of several of Chamberlain’s coworkers who said they had seen Chamberlain act in a friendly manner toward Tyrer. However, no witnesses ever observed Chamberlain touching Tyrer or acting inappropriately toward her. Nor did any department witness ever hear Chamberlain or Tyrer speaking inappropriately to each other. Finally, the department presented testimony of its handwriting expert, who testified that the handwriting on the greeting cards was from Chamberlain.

The Legal Defense Fund presented its own handwriting expert witness, Dr. Duane Dillon. Dillon testified that the handwriting on the greeting cards was not that of Chamberlain. Dillon further testified that while he could not positively conclude who signed the greeting cards, he believed they were forgeries by Tyrer.

Chamberlain presented the testimony of Charlene Tyrer, inmate Tyrer’s mother. Charlene Tyrer testified that her daughter had a long history of fabricating elaborate and dishonest stories for her own benefit. For example, Charlene Tyrer testified that on more than one occasion, her daughter told people that she and her husband had been killed in various types of accidents. On one occasion, Tyrer presented a false Will to officials at the Tyrer’s local church and said that Mr. & Mrs. Tyrer had been killed in a plane crash. Most importantly, Charlene Tyrer contradicted inmate Tyrer’s testimony that she had told her mother about her sexual relationship with Chamberlain. Charlene Tyrer denied that inmate Tyrer ever told her this information.

Finally, Chamberlain testified where he adamantly denied any type of inappropriate contact with Tyrer.

The Arbitrator’s Decision: In a 44-page decision and award, Arbitrator Henderson thoroughly analyzed the evidence against Chamberlain. He reinstated Chamberlain to his position with the department with full back pay, back benefits, and all seniority rights. Henderson imposed no discipline against Chamberlain.

In his decision, Henderson found, “The department wants the arbitrator to believe the story of Tyrer, who is a convicted felon, a known forger and falsifier of documents, and a repeated liar. Not only did she lie to investigators, she lied to a judge and she lied repeatedly at the arbitration hearing before this arbitrator.”

Chamberlain returned to work at the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department on October 18, 2001, more than two years from the date of his termination. While Chamberlain was happy to return to work, he felt he has been permanently affected by the false allegations of Tyrer. “My case shows how vulnerable you can be working with people such as inmate Tyrer. Never in my life did I think I would be charged with a crime or fired from my job. Unfortunately, I will never forget the hardship I was put through.”

About the author: Paul Q. Goyette, of Goyette & Associates, located in Sacramento, California, represented Chamberlain.

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