UPDATE - A judge today ordered jurors to forget about racy e-mail evidence sent by a woman suing the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department for workplace sexual harassment.
Lydia Lopez, a former records clerk, on Tuesday had confirmed sending a flirtatious note from a work computer describing herself dripping after a shower. But Superior Court Judge Hurl Johnson on Wednesday said he would not have allowed the intrusion into Lopez's private life if attorneys had made clear that the note's recipient was a boyfriend and not Lopez's co-worker.
The county's attorney had introduced the e-mail while questioning Lopez.
Johnson ordered the account stricken from the court record and told jurors they cannot consider it when weighing the case. He apologized to attorneys for having testily confronted them behind closed doors, but told them later, "I don't want to see this happen again."
In a pretrial ruling, Johnson had warned lawyers not to introduce evidence irrelevant to the case, including Lopez's romances. Morin Jacob, representing the county, argued that the titillating e-mail still was inappropriate to send while on the job, but the judge didn't buy it.
Lopez, 36, says retaliation forced her to quit after she rejected alleged sexual advances from Bill Pooley, a drug agent who was cleared in an internal investigation and subsequently promoted to police chief in Riverbank.
On the stand for a fourth day, Lopez testified Wednesday that she telephoned Sheriff Adam Christianson at home to plead for understanding six months before quitting. She had never spoken to him before, she said.
"I thought I was being picked on," Lopez said. "I told him I was calling (as) a last resort, that I'd talked to many people about what happened and I told him I felt I had no one else to go to."
The sheriff directed her to call his secretary "in a couple of weeks" to set up an appointment, she testified. Lopez did not, she said, because "he didn't sound like he cared too much."
A former clerk suing the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department for sexual harassment sent flirtatious e-mails to co-workers while on the job, the county's attorney brought out Tuesday in the trial's second week.
Lydia Lopez, 36, claims retaliation against her forced her to quit the department after she rejected sexual advances from then-drug agent Bill Pooley, who was cleared in an internal investigation and subsequently promoted to police chief in Riverbank. Pooley also is a defendant.
In her third day on the witness stand, Lopez confirmed having written e-mails to two other male drug agents in January 2007, calling one "Handsome" and asking the other for a photo "so I could put it on my desk and look at you all night" while working a graveyard shift.
In a note to "Handsome," Lopez described herself "getting out of the shower, all wet, dripping with ... OK, here we go. See what you do to me?"
Lopez also confirmed that she visited her then-husband, a Norteño gang member now serving a life sentence, in jail four to six times while she was a sheriff's employee. But she denied having found information on two of his co-defendants in a restricted database on her first day after having been transferred to the jail.
Under questioning by defense attorney Morin Jacob, Lopez seemed to abandon her claim that managers did not accommodate her depression disability, acknowledging that she never told anyone about it and did not seek psychiatric help despite a doctor's recommendation.
And Lopez acknowledged having chosen a graveyard shift, contradicting part of her attorney's version of retaliation against her.
'Scared and intimidated'
Lopez expanded on her reason for waiting 2½ years to report allegations that Pooley forced her to grope him in December 2004, blaming his alleged advances for causing some of the stress affecting her work.
"I had just started working there, I needed my job, I was scared and intimidated, and I didn't think anyone would believe me," she said.
The Sheriff's Department in recent months has faced legal challenges brought by 10 female employees. Sheriff Adam Christianson is expected to testify at the Lopez trial.
Lopez is expected to return to the witness stand today.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.