A rather unusual series of criminal charges have come to light over the past few months in Modesto. Criminal allegations against none other than a criminal defense attorney coupled with charges of conspiracy are setting the stage for an even more unusual trial. Bizarre twists have popped up along the way, including allegations that the defendant has verbally harassed the prosecutor in court. The formerly prominent defense attorney, Frank Carson, has been accused of orchestrating a criminal conspiracy which led to the death of a 26-year-old man, Korey Kauffman, and a cover-up of the murder. “When you add it all up, it’s a crazy case,” says Professor Michael Vitiello, professor of criminal cases and procedure at the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law.
On August 19, 2013, more than a year and a half after Korey Kauffman disappeared, his body was discovered by hunters in the Stanislaus National Forest. Authorities now believe that Kauffman, a known scrap metal thief, stole his last piece of metal in March of 2012. Carson, who had gone to great lengths to stop thefts from his property, allegedly organized this fateful date for Kauffman long in advance. Carson kept metal on his property in Turlock and made it well known that thieves were interfering with his daily life. The evidence suggests that in an attempt to stop thieving, he laid in wait with a rifle on more than one occasion. Two brothers who owned a liquor store in town were enlisted to discard Kauffman’s body. First, he was allegedly buried in a shallow grave behind the liquor store. Later, he was moved to the densely packed forest. Officers of the California Highway Patrol were arrested in connection with the cover-up. In total, nine people have been charged in relation to the murder. Among the accused are Carson, his wife, his stepdaughter, four highway patrolmen, and the two owners of the liquor store.
The arrest of Frank Carson came as the result of a three year investigation and a 326 page affidavit. Prosecutors, while refusing to comment publicly on the arrest warrant, have said in open court that there are over 10,000 pages of discovery evidence and a few hundred potential witnesses. “It would be unethical for us to comment publicly on the facts of this case when it may impact the potential jury pool,” John Goold, spokesman for the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office, explained. Defense counsel has criticized the prosecution’s search of Carson’s office claiming that it was all-too-convenient that it took place over three and half years after the investigation began. “Why is it in the course of a three-and-a-half-year investigation the office was not searched but only after Frank and Georgia (Frank’s wife) are in custody,” posed Stephen Krimel. The investigators were looking for a specific rifle, which was not found, but left with four computers, one of which was found inside a safe.
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