By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
In hindsight, however, the June 18 letter from foreperson Lewis seems designed more to cover up the mess at the grand jury than to thwart Cooley’s plans. Because by June 18, the transcripts of the Rampart hearings had already disappeared. And investigators from the Sheriff‘s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau were asking how that had happened when juror Sharp accused fellow juror Avery of stalking her.
According to a receipt released by the District Attorney’s Office, the 11-volume hearing transcript was delivered to the Grand Jury Offices on May 20. Just when it disappeared is unclear, as court officials declined to discuss any details of proceedings involving the grand jury.
But Candelario Arriola, a former aide to Mayor Sam Yorty and a member of the 2001 grand jury, said in an interview the documents were found missing soon after they were received. ”They just disappeared. Nobody knows where they went to,“ Arriola said. ”The foreman kept them in his desk drawer. He left them there one night, and the next morning they were gone.“
Sheriff‘s investigators declined to discuss their inquiry into the case, but according to a crime report, Tammi Sharp was interviewed as early as June 5. She made her first official complaint against Avery June 7, reporting an altercation in a courthouse hallway and filing for a restraining order. Sharp, who is 37, had befriended the 63-year-old Avery when both served previous terms on the 1999 grand jury, and the two had visited socially, each in the company of their spouses, on several occasions.
This time around, they shared membership on two committees. One was Speakers and Events, newly created to ”coordinate educational experiences“ like field trips to tour the harbor and attend a Sheriff’s Academy graduation. The second, on which Avery sat as co-chair, was Jails, which monitored conditions in the L.A. system pursuant to a mandate in the state penal code. Avery would soon get to learn first-hand the accuracy of the committee‘s findings.
Avery said in an interview last week he had no idea what happened to the transcripts, and declined to make any statement regarding Sharp. Contacted at her home in Bellflower, Sharp also declined comment.
Sharp told investigators that Avery’s friendship with her turned to obsession early this year. Avery‘s attorney disputed that account, asserting that Sharp filed her complaint in retaliation because she suspected Avery had named her as a culprit in the transcript caper.
That was not apparent in the next incident alleged against Avery, however, as reported by juror Arriola, who witnessed the altercation. On June 12, after the grand jury had concluded business for the day, Avery was suffering from a heart ailment and needed a dose of medication. When Arriola stepped in to assist, Avery said Sharp was holding his medicine. The two went looking for her, and soon spotted Sharp in the parking lot. Arriola left the pair talking, but an argument ensued. When Arriola was driving away, he said he saw Avery slap Sharp three times in the face.
Sharp filed a criminal complaint the next day, and Avery was arrested June 21 on charges of stalking and battery. Avery made bail two days later, but according to a Sheriff’s report, promptly resumed making calls and sending gifts to Sharp. Sharp also made calls to Avery, but said they were only to ensure that he was home in Burbank and at a safe distance.
Based on the renewed contacts, Avery was arrested again June 26 and held on $1 million bail. But Sharp‘s problems continued: On June 27, Sharp alleged she was cornered in Cerritos by two beefy men who identified themselves as police officers, handcuffed her and knocked her to the ground, leaving bruises on her buttocks. Sharp claimed the ostensible cops told her, ”This is about Jim Avery.“
Asked how he could resolve contrasting, fantastic accounts, Sergeant Conley said that Avery proved less credible during an in-person interview, in part because Avery continued to profess love for Tammi Sharp. Said Conley, ”If I were sitting in jail facing felony charges, by that point I’d consider the relationship to be on the rocks.“
Sergeant Conley added that he had no role in the investigation into the missing transcripts. But juror Arriola said his experience with the 2001 grand jury had left him disillusioned with the entire process.
”It was just a big waste of money,“ Arriola said. ”The level of discussions we had there reminded me of the seventh grade.“