A motion filed Monday by the defense attorney representing Greg Opinski, a contractor charged with bribing public officials, details allegations that the prosecution’s key witness in the case, Dominic Falasco, used his position as a defense attorney to solicit sex from a client’s girlfriend.
Falasco on Thursday denied wrongdoing and described the allegations as a public smear campaign designed to impugn his credibility as a witness in the public-corruption case. Falasco said he has not ruled out the possibility of suing the woman who made the claims against him.
“It’s completely untrue,” Falasco said. “I have never done any such thing. … It’s a clear indicator they’re trying to wipe me out.”
In the corruption case, Opinski and former Los Banos Unified School District trustee Tommy Jones are charged with bribing Falasco, also a school district trustee at the time, with $12,000. Prosecutors say Opinski and Jones bought Falasco’s swing vote approving a contract for Opinski’s company to build the Mercey Springs Elementary expansion project, according to investigation reports.
Falasco, however, was working undercover with the Merced County District Attorney’s Office at the time and secretly recorded multiple conversations to expose the reported bribery scheme, according to court records.
Jeffrey Hammerschmidt, the Fresno-based attorney representing Opinski, described allegations made in open court against Falasco on April 14. According to the motion, a woman told Commissioner Jeanne Schechter that Falasco solicited sex from her to lower his fees to represent her boyfriend in an unrelated criminal case. Falasco wasn’t at the hearing.
According to court transcripts, the woman told Schechter that she spoke with Falasco and had messages in which the defense attorney reportedly wanted a “sexual favor.”
According to the transcript, Schechter said Falasco’s alleged conduct was “absolutely unacceptable, and it may be criminal.” She also told the woman that the messages would be investigated.
Falasco said the claims were investigated by the State Bar of California and confirmed he was contacted by bar investigators in June of last year.
“I haven’t done anything wrong,” he said. “If I had, the State Bar would have put me out, disciplinary action, or anything.”
Complaints filed with the State Bar are confidential until charges are filed by the bar, according to State Bar spokeswoman Amy Yarbrough.
Falasco’s profile on the State Bar’s website lists no record of discipline or administrative actions.
Falasco said he showed State Bar investigators that he never met with the woman in question alone and said he never sent her any inappropriate messages.
The motion also claims the attorney has copies of notes from a “jail inmate” describing Falasco as a “sucker for dope & ladies.” Hammerschmidt requested investigation reports pertaining to the incidents.
The allegations against Falasco were raised around the same time as Opinski’s alleged crimes, Hammerschmidt states.
Hammerschmidt claims that the District Attorney’s Office has numerous conflicts of interest, including the personal friendship between Falasco and District Attorney Larry Morse II.
Hammerschmidt said a second motion is in the works seeking to recuse the District Attorney’s Office from the case.
“I am informed and believe that any reasonably prudent prosecutor would have immediately informed management at the Merced County District Attorney’s Office of the allegations,” Hammerschmidt states.
Morse said the claims against Falasco were not credible.
“My understanding is that it was completely without merit,” Morse said. “If we get complaints that have merit, then we investigate them.”
Morse said his office hasn’t received any such complaints.
“We’re certainly not going to be trying this case through motions and the press,” Morse said when asked for a response to the motion. “I certainly expect the defense attorneys to aggressively defend their client.”
Falasco recently lost a re-election bid to the school board. He also is fighting misdemeanor drug-possession charges. He has pleaded not guilty.
Hammerschmidt referenced the drug charges in the motion as well.
“All of it, it creates major problems for your star witness,” Hammerschmidt said, adding that one of the primary issues is to show the court that Falasco isn’t a credible witness.
Falasco said the attorneys for Opinski and Jones are trying not only to muddy the case against their clients, but also to harm Falasco’s family’s reputation and embarrass him publicly. Falasco questioned the ethics of detailing such explosive uncharged allegations in public documents.
“They’re trying to put me out of business,” Falasco said. “Even though it’s untrue, something like this out there is going to damage my reputation and my family.”
A hearing to discuss the motion is set for March 23.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562