April 4, 2016
Former sheriff candidate to be charged in break-in that led to evidence being compromised
Almost a year later, California Highway Patrol is now promising to soon resolve an investigation into the burglary at its local office that resulted in action against two officers and compromised pending cases.
Initial estimates were that as many as 127 criminal cases might have been jeopardized following the June 17 break-in at the evidence room of CHP's Crescent City location.
An unnamed CHP officer was placed on administrative leave and within months, the recently appointed commander, Lt. Rick Thoma, was transferred out of Del Norte County.
The officer is now being identified as Brian Clemann and he remains on administrative leave, according to investigators.
Clemann is a lifelong county resident with more than 15 years as a CHP officer and time as a Del Norte County Sheriff's deputy before that. In 2010, he unsuccessfully ran against Dean Wilson for the sheriff's office on a platform of expanding security to underserved communities in Klamath, Gasquet and Smith River.
Updates from CHP were scarce for much of this fall and winter, pending review of an investigation forwarded to the California Attorney General.
Then in December, Del Norte County District Attorney Dale Trigg confirmed 10 cases ended up impacted by corrupted evidence. Trigg said he was relieved it wasn't more.
Highway patrol Assistant Area Chief Todd Garr of Redding - in Crescent City last week to serve papers pertaining to upcoming charges against Clemann - said the public will know more explicit details later this month.
Clemann is still on administrative time off, said Garr, but his separation from the department is pending. The department has "initiated punitive action" against him, Garr said.
As for Thoma, who assumed leadership of CHP's local office in March 2015, Garr said he was transferred to Humboldt County due to the seriousness of the incident that happened under his watch.
"We need to send a very clear message that our leadership needs to step up," said Garr, even though Thoma was "never under any suspicion of criminal conduct."
"Administrative action will be taken against Lieutenant Thoma and he will not return to his position in Crescent City," he added.
Garr said he is unable to release any further details until after April 21.
Thoma and Clemann could not be reached for comment.
A representative of the state's Attorney General did not immediately respond to a request for details on their investigation.