Justice runs afoul in Fowler?

FRESNO, Calif.

The latest Fresno County grand jury report is called "Justice Runs Afoul in Fowler." It details how some crime reports just sat in the former chief's office for years.

The grand jury says a majority of the cases were past the statute of limitations, so the suspects will never have to face charges. But prosecutors say that's turned around since the chief resigned in January. The report is damning.

The Fresno County grand jury says former Fowler Police Chief Darrell Jamgochian stopped the legal process in his city. It says after officers filed their reports, "most cases were kept in [Jamgochian's] locked office where they remained for many months and years until recently discovered."

In fact, their investigation revealed more than 600 cases were locked in his office -- some for as long as seven years. The unfiled cases include some as serious as attempted murder and sex crimes.

"Those are severe types of cases and you expect law enforcement to really jump on those cases because time is of the essence," said defense attorney Ralph Torres.

Torres says the grand jury's findings are shocking and they cast doubts on everything Jamgochian did in his ten years as chief.

"Who were the suspects in these cases and why were they sat on?" he asked. "Why did the chief sit on these types of cases? Did he know these people?"

Fresno County prosecutors say the former chief could possibly face criminal charges himself for withholding information. The grand jury also blasted Fowler's city manager for a lack of oversight.

The city issued a short statement saying the city manager and city council had no comment for now. But Mayor David Cardenas told Action News the report came as a big surprise.

"Have you gotten any complaints from members of the community about cases that have been sitting on the chief's desk?" a reporter asked him.

"Not to my knowledge," he said. "Not to me at all. I have not received any complaints from any officers of the department or any members of the community at all."

At the barber shop in downtown Fowler, several people told me Jamgochian was an honest man. But some admitted he might have let his emotions get in the way, trying to handle criminal problems on a personal level.

"I think his heart, his feelings were in front of his job," said barber Andy Gonzales. "That's what it was."

The city council is required to issue a response within 60 days, but the mayor says he wants it done by next week's council meeting.

Meanwhile, the district attorney's office received about 200 cases from Fowler in less than five months this year. It usually gets fewer than 200 a year, with even lower numbers in 2009 and 2010.

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