Tuesday, February 9 , 2016, 2:11 pm | Fair 81º

DA’s Office Won’t Retry Tony Denunzio on DUI Charge After All

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli | updated logo 3:45 p.m. |

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office has dismissed the driving under the influence case against Tony Denunzio, though it planned to retry him after the first trial resulted in a hung jury.

Tony Denunzio
Tony Denunzio

Denunzio, of Santa Barbara, was arrested in October 2011 in a traffic stop that was caught on video in the arresting officer’s patrol car.

The Santa Maria Superior Court jury was deadlocked in the DUI trial in March, and defense attorney Darryl Genis successfully argued to get the second count — driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher — thrown out.

Denunzio was later found guilty on the remaining charge of driving with a suspended license, which was separated from the DUI case and was related to past DUI convictions.

Since Judge James Rigali “ruled that evidence that Mr. Denunzio’s blood alcohol content of .09 percent at the time his blood was drawn was irrelevant to a determination of whether he was driving under the influence of alcohol, this office has determined that we have insufficient admissible evidence to retry this case,” District Attorney Joyce Dudley wrote.“A Department of Justice expert testified in the first trial that Denunzio’s BAC was 0.09 percent at the time of his blood draw after his arrest.”

That evidence was the basis for any opinion that Denunzio was driving under the influence, and without it, the prosecutors cannot prove the charge without a reasonable doubt, according to her statement.

“This office will continue to work with our esteemed colleagues in law enforcement to support public safety, uphold the law, and prosecute offenses whenever we have admissible evidence that we can present to a jury which we believe proves each charge to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt,” chief trial deputy Kelly Scott said.

After the trial, Dudley said her office would retry Denunzio “given the present state of evidence in this case.”

“Although members of our community disagree regarding the events that occurred during the arrest of Mr. Denunzio — some believing he unlawfully resisted arrest, while others believing he was the victim of excessive force — that issue, although significant in its own right, does not control the issue of whether Mr. Denunzio was driving under the influence,” Dudley said. “Clearly, the crime of driving under the influence can destroy lives and those who do drive under the influence should be held accountable.”

In a statement released Thursday, Genis accused prosecutors, during the trial, of using a state Department of Justice witness “to mislead a jury with junk science and academically dishonest testimony” about Denunzio’s blood-alcohol content the night he was arrested.

He also assailed Dudley for what he called her “waste of tax dollars on continued prosecution.”

Denunzio was pulled over in October 2011 by Santa Barbara police Officer Aaron Tudor on suspicion of DUI after allegedly changing lanes without signaling on Las Positas. He has been spotted earlier leaving Arroyo Burro Beach, where he had a cocktail at the Boathouse Restaurant.

Statements released by the police said Tudor couldn’t get Denunzio to get on the ground and put his arms behind his back to be handcuffed and was resisting arrest, so the contact escalated from a hand on the arm to a trip, hand and knee strikes, and using a Taser multiple times.

Some of the confrontation was captured by a dashboard video camera in Tudor’s patrol car.

Tudor and police officials say Denunzio was resisting arrest, while Denunzio and a number of eyewitnesses say he was not resisting, and have alleged that Tudor used excessive force.

An investigation by the District Attorney’s Office did not find sufficient admissible evidence to file either resisting-arrest charges against Denunzio or excessive-force charges against Tudor.

An internal investigation was initiated against Tudor, although Police Chief Cam Sanchez has said his officer did nothing wrong.

“The citizens of Santa Barbara must demand to know how much more than a half a million dollars will their DA spend to protect corrupt and violent members of law enforcement,” Genis said in his statement. “If Aaron Tudor had beat a dog the way he beat Mr. Denunzio, he might just now 18 monts later be getting out of prison on parole.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

» on 04.11.13 @ 05:52 PM

The very public flip-flop the DA did in this case does not impress me, nor does it reassure me about the competence of the DA’s office from the top down…

» on 04.11.13 @ 07:13 PM

The DA’s office has so far refused to file charges against Dario Pini, and I doubt they will. Denunizo now has an excellent civil case against the City of Santa Barbara and Pini will have an excellent case against the City and the wealthy property owners who accused him of a felony crime if the DA does not file. All of that remains to be seen but this is an example of what happens when you have a police force and a DA’s office who pick a fight with people that can afford good lawyers.

» on 04.11.13 @ 08:43 PM

So when Denunzio drives drunk again (like anyone actually believes he won’t?) and this time kills someone, possibly someone you know, then we can all sit back socked at the tragedy.  The DA should be held accountable for not retrying this case.

» on 04.11.13 @ 09:12 PM

Genis sure makes some bold comments about law enforcement personnel.Kinda looks like slander if not true. Be kinda like karma for him.

» on 04.11.13 @ 09:17 PM

Good.  Now that this case is over, please go after Tudor.  Or did the DA delay long enough that Tudor is now past the statute of limitations?

» on 04.12.13 @ 08:47 AM

Had the judge understood the law submitted to him, he would never have allowed the threat of a retrial to proceed, since the law is clear that an acquittal on an alternative version of the same charge [and 23152(a) and 23152 (b) have been ruled to be thus] prevents, on double jeopardy grounds, retrial of the hung alternative version. I have been watching the garbage that occurs in the Santa Barbara courts, especially on DUIs, for a couple of years now [and had to come over to straighten one of them out myself!] and I am appalled that there is such ignorance on the bench and such extremism in the executive branch. Thank God! you all have someone like Genis to try to keep that reckless ship of reactionary state on an even keel.

I note with interest the promise of the DA to prosecute malefactors - does that include corrupt cops, or just misstepping civilians?  Most communities would not put up with the sort of administration of “justice” you have over there for a moment!

» on 04.12.13 @ 01:32 PM

Clearly our DA does not get the concepts of “corrupt cops” or “unjustified shooting by a peace officer” or “police brutality”.  We can vote her out just like the Sheriff.

» on 04.12.13 @ 05:31 PM

Why is this officer still employed by the SBPD?

Dudley is a politician, she is only there for her own self interest and preservation.  And as such, any and every thing she does is self serving…

» on 04.12.13 @ 06:19 PM

Why is the officer still employed?  Why is he not under arrest!/?  The system there [DA, judges, cops] appreciates those kinds of officers, sad and ominous to say. Constabularial terrorism is far more dangerous to our constitutional way of life than the antics played out by turbanned mullahs in distant lands, but the president would rather distract us from our own fundamental ills by focusing attention on the less serious things elsewhere.

» on 04.14.13 @ 02:51 PM

Dudely, Chief Sanchez, Judge Ochoa…they are all political confederates who play a masterful game of CYA.  VOTE THESE CORRUPT IDIOTS OUT OF THEIR JOBS.  In any private sector environment, they all would have been summarily fired for obvious self-serving nonsense long ago.
And if Mayor Schneider doesn’t understand what this is all about, then she needs to simply be impeached a.s.a.p.

Otherwise, it’s complete anarchic chaos held in check only by the SBSD and SBPD massive firepower.  Assault rifles on traffic cop motorcycles?
Are you KIDDING me?

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