NewsKristin Smart Case


Judge denies defense motion to disqualify prosecution in Flores preliminary hearing

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Posted at 11:03 AM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 22:31:35-04

The judge in the preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores on Wednesday denied a motion by the defense to disqualify the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office from prosecuting the case.

The two men are charged in connection with the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. Paul is charged with murder while his father, Ruben, is charged as an accessory.

Two weeks ago, Paul's attorney, Robert Sanger, filed the motion to disqualify the DA's Office, claiming the prosecution was biased because Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle had worn purple ties several times during the preliminary hearing. Purple was Kristin Smart's favorite color.

Sanger also pointed out that San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Detective Clint Cole as well as the DA's investigator and Victim/Witness Coordinator for the DA's office had also been observed wearing purple throughout the hearing.

Sanger argued Wednesday that they were wearing "team colors" to convict Paul Flores and that it was a bias that shouldn't be tolerated.

A representative from the state Attorney General's Office, which would have to take over the case if the SLO County DA's Office was disqualified, spoke during the motion hearing. He argued that California appellate courts have determined that colors do not matter during the preliminary stage of the case when there is no jury.

Judge Craig van Rooyen said he understood the defense's argument but did not agree that it was so pervasive that the defendant would be prejudiced, and he denied the motion.

Judge Van Rooyen did grant a defense motion for a review of Det. Cole's personal records. The judge said the review will look for any alleged misconduct related to his dealings with witness Jennifer Hudson during the Kristin Smart investigation or any other misconduct in any of Cole's cases from the past five years.

That reportedly includes any unprofessional communications or any other conduct that could have impacted witness statements in those past cases.

Hudson previously testified during the preliminary hearing that in 1996, she heard Paul Flores use a derogatory term to refer to Kristin Smart and said, "I'm done playing with her and I put her out underneath my ramp in Huasna."

She said she didn't tell law enforcement about it until she talked to Det. Cole in 2019.

After Wednesday morning's motions, court was adjourned for the rest of the week. The hearing is expected to resume on Monday.

This was week 4 of the preliminary hearing. On Monday, the court heard testimony from retired San Luis Obispo County Deputy Sheriff Henry Stewart who was one of the early investigators on the case.

Court was not in session on Tuesday so attorneys could work on discovery. Discovery is the process in which the two sides collect and exchange information about evidence and witnesses in the case.

Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested this past April, nearly 25 years after Smart's disappearance. She was last seen walking back to the dorms with Paul Flores after an off-campus party on the early morning of May 25, 1996.

Kristin's body was never found but she was declared legally dead on May 25, 2002.

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