Security in Obscurity
By Alex Distefano
It’s been three years since Samuel Clauder was charged with felony possession of child pornography in San Bernardino County. But now, the 61 year old former local Democratic Party activist can breath a sigh of relief, since all charges were dismissed against him last year, on Sept. 28, and on Dec. 7, a San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Glenn Yabuno made a ruling of factual innocence, a very rare action taken by a criminal court, which says in legal terms that there was never any reason whatsoever to have suspected the accused person of anything, and therefore no reason whatsoever for a criminal prosecution in the first place. It also issues an order for all law enforcement agencies to seal and destroy all records of the case.
This case, got coverage from most of the local newspapers and blogs, and was even a news blurb during the Tim Conway Jr. show on talk radio station KFI AM 640. For most, this type of charge would ruin everything: personal life, career and more. But Clauder (who used to work as an aide for Democrat and U.S. Rep. Joe Baca) is not going away anytime soon, now that he has been finally vindicated.
He told the Weekly that the San Bernardino Sheriffs Dept. and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office intentionally ruined his reputation, by trying to prosecute him, even though they knew they had no case against him. Clauder and his attorney Timothy Prince are now in the first stages of filing a whopping $7.5 million lawsuit against the County for damages they say nearly ruined Clauder’s life. The lawsuit claims that the fraudulent felony charges of possession of child pornography resulted in him losing his career, and reputation and intentionally causing him extreme and severe mental and emotional distress.
Things all began back in 2009, when amidst a brutal divorce with his wife Lana Pittman, his estranged son Trey Stancher claimed to have found the alleged child pornography on a computer in the family home, which then resulted in the authorities being called and charges being filed.
“My health has suffered a great deal throughout this entire ordeal,” Clauder said. “I have had to depend on friends and relatives for a long time. Now that my name has been cleared I am trying to work again, as much as I can. I was seriously impacted psychologically and mentally; I was homeless and destitute three times and had a nervous breakdown. I just decided to rebuild my life after these charges and have since moved to another part of the state that is more remote.”
Clauder has maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal, and has always insisted that his wife and/or son were trying to frame him. He spent around 50 days in jail, but once he was out, he did everything he could to raise over $40,000 to pay for legal bills and an expert computer analysis of his hard drive that would eventually exonerate him in court.
“Both my former wife and son took polygraphs tests in Jan. 2009,” Clauder said. “They both failed, which should have raised a red flag with the Sheriffs Department, but instead it was covered up.”
After my attorney filed for a motion of factual innocence, it came out in court that my son was told twice about failing the lie detector tests,” Clauder said. “They grilled him and eventually he confessed we got it on tape.”
Clauder said that the San Bernardino Sheriffs and certain individuals within the department have had it in for him ever since an incident in 2006, when Clauder allegedly witnessed a Sheriffs vehicle in North San Bernardino driving dangerous, wreck less and erratic. “I followed him and wrote down all the identifying numbers on that vehicle,” Clauder said.
He said he wrote a letter to the editor detailing what he saw, and then sent it out to 23 local papers.” It was published in nine papers that I know of. The sheriffs’ internal affairs dept called me and asked me if I wanted to file an internal affairs complaint, which I did. So it was on record they knew who I was.” Clauder also said that he was considered an enemy of the Sheriffs in San Bernardino for his local reporting and reports and criticized the Sheriffs Department.
“I am speaking with the FBI, they need to investigate this.” Clauder said I want to see these people criminally prosecuted for violating my civil rights,” he said. The San Bernardino Sheriffs Department is the most corrupt law enforcement agency in the state, of not nation.”
Oddly enough however, Clauder does not want his son to be prosecuted for everything that has happened. “My son did not produce any child pornography. He mere got pictures that were already there,” Clauder said. “I do not think someone who just looks at pictures should go to prison. Our country is just too punitive. We have too many people in prison we have more people in prison than any other country in this world.”
Clauder insisted that despite this ordeal, he doesn’t plan to leave politics. “I have already re-entered politics to as much of an extent as I can,” he said. “I am advising for a group for to decriminalize cannabis in 2016. I also intend to go back to developing a radio show called Jesus was a Liberal and I will eventually be reconnecting with the California Democratic Party.”