BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Kern County prosecutor has been removed from a torture and kidnapping case after a judge determined she could be called as a witness at trial.
Judge Kenneth C. Twisselman II did not, however, recuse the entire District Attorney’s office in taking prosecutor Courtney Lewis off the case last week.
Lewis will be replaced by Deputy District Attorney Kim Marshall.
At an earlier hearing, Twisselman said he found it likely Lewis would be called as a witness by the defense in an attempt to impeach a detective who Lewis has said falsely attributed comments to her.
Twisselman has said it would be improper for Lewis to prosecute the case if called as a witness.
The case involves three people — Norik Ter-Galstanynan, Ingo Gonzalez and Alexis Pule — charged in connection with the 2015 kidnapping of a couple who allegedly owed Ter-Galstanyan money. Investigators say the couple was tortured and sodomized.
About 2 1/2 years ago, Lewis wrote a memo to her supervisors saying investigators told her the lead detective on the case had said not to execute a warrant.
The detective, Dustin Contreras, told other investigators Lewis was not interested in the warrant being served and was concerned for her safety, according to the memo.
Lewis said in the memo she never told Contreras not to execute the warrant, and she never made statements regarding concern for her safety.
The memo says Contreras was placed on leave Feb. 3, 2017. It does not contain details as to why he was put on leave, but he returned to duty and remains employed by the Sheriff’s Office.
Defense attorneys have said they plan to call Lewis as a witness at trial in an attempt to impeach Contreras. They have argued the memo raises concerns about his credibility.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 6.