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Public Defenders

Inmate Files Suit Claiming His PD Is a ‘Surrogate Prosecutor’ Advocating a Plea Bargain

Posted Sep 7, 2011 9:56 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A California inmate accused of molesting his teenage niece is apparently unhappy with his lawyer.

The inmate, Charles David Berlinghoff, has filed a pro se lawsuit in Sacramento federal court against senior deputy public defender Max Ruffcorn, the Record Searchlight reports. The suit claims Ruffcorn is acting as a "surrogate prosecutor” who is advocating a plea bargain, despite evidence of innocence.

Ruffcorn is "fraudulently posing as a defender while violating my 1st, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 13th and 14th (constitutional) amendment rights," Berlinghoff wrote.

Berlinghoff was charged with 87 felony counts, including unlawful detention of a minor, incest and lewd acts with a minor, after disappearing for a month with his niece late last year.

Ruffcorn told the Record Searchlight that his client’s allegations are “gibberish” but he would continue to do his best to represent him.

A judge delayed Berlinghoff’s trial last month to give him time to find private counsel. The new trial date is Jan. 10.

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