SOLANO COUNTY -- Lawyers' careers are built on the quality of their questions but as he speaks out for the first time, Sal Giambona says he was repeatedly threatened when he started to inquire about an alleged rape between then fellow deputy public defenders in the Solano County Public Defender's Office.
"He heard I was asking questions about what happened and, essentially said, 'If I knew what was good for me I would stop asking questions,'" Giambona said, describing the actions of a man who was not the rape suspect.
He claims a smear campaign was promised by that colleague and that he was stalked and harassed by coworkers in other ways.
"I started receiving a variety of phone calls, derogatory text messages," he said.
In a face-to-face confrontation in his Vallejo branch office, Giambona claims one public defender was "very aggressive, actively being intimidating, to 'stop acting questions or else.'"
Giambona sent a complaint to Solano County human resources.
He also got pressure from his boss, Head Public Defender Lesli Caldwell.
"I was approached by the chief deputy of the Vallejo office who told me that Lesli Caldwell was aware of the incident and that what was relayed to me is she was trying to keep quiet what happened," Giambona said.
The "what" now involves an indictment of Rahul Balaram. He's accused of plying Alana Kopke with alcohol while the two public defenders attended their office holiday party last December and then raping her after he and a group of coworkers delivered her home, unresponsive.
While FOX40 typically does not identify alleged assault victims, Kopke wants her name used as she seeks justice.
Giambona was at the holiday party at Zia Fraedo's but not in the group that brought her home.
In the days following the party, he heard about something inappropriate happening. But since he had no direct accounting from Kopke or Balaram, it was difficult for him to choose the next step.
"Clearly something was wrong. Something potentially horrible had happened and it was ... I was at a loss," Giambona said.
Balaram resigned from the Public Defender's Office four days after the alleged incident, something Giambona says the suspect was told to do by coworkers to avoid any reports being made.
He didn't think fellow employees should be trying to mete out justice in this case.
According to Giambona, after trying to do the right thing by reporting the situation himself brought on threats, he felt additionally let down by HR not following county policy.
He says he was told his account did not meet the criteria for workplace violence, but he reads the county policy differently.
He also says he was told that his own office had done an investigation and was taking remedial action.
That did not make any sense to him since some of the behavior he had taken to human resources was allegedly done by the leaders of the Solano County Public Defender's Office.
"Not at all. It seemed like a conflict of interest for that to be done," he said.
Giambona has also had a human resources complaint filed against him since he says he fought back against the alleged threats. Due his safety concerns about working in his old office, he's gone into private practice.
The head public defender and Solano County's District Attorney have not responded to any of FOX40's requests for comment about the case.