Archive for the ‘District Attorney’ Category

DA Becton announces second Community Academy Class for Spring 2019

Monday, January 21st, 2019

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Office of the Contra Costa County District Attorney

District Attorney Diana Becton announces today that the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office will launch a second Community Academy class this March. The goal of the academy will be to strengthen community relations and provide residents a better understanding of our criminal justice system.

The academy is free and is open to residents who live or work in Contra Costa County. Individuals must complete an application and background check when they apply. Residents can access an application on our website or residents may also apply in-person at one of our offices at the following locations:

  • 900 Ward Street, Martinez, CA 94553
  • 10 Douglas Drive Suite 130, Martinez, CA 94553
  • 100 37th St. Rm 220, Richmond, CA 94805

Residents can submit the applications to the attention of Janet Era. Applicants may also email DA-CommunityAcademy@contracostada.org with their completed application. The application period ends on February 11, 2019.

The Community Academy will be made up of at least 20 residents of Contra Costa County for a 12-week course held at the DA’s Office in downtown Martinez, 900 Ward Street from 5:30-7:30 p.m. every Wednesday starting March 6, 2019. The Community Academy, which is similar to Citizens’ Academies hosted by many law enforcement agencies, is the only academy of its kind at a District Attorney’s Office in Northern California.

The academy helps underscore the office’s commitment to engaging and educating residents of Contra Costa County. Admitted applicants can expect to learn how cases are filed, the different types of crimes our office investigates and prosecutes, and the work we do not only prosecuting cases but also the community outreach efforts underway to prevent crime and to support children, parents and crime victims.

Presenters for the academy will include deputy district attorneys, investigators, victim advocates, support staff, community-based organizations and justice partners. The comprehensive overview by our office will allow residents to get an in-depth examination and review of the criminal justice system in our community.

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D.A. charges ConFire EMS Chief with embezzlement and possession of controlled substances

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

Richard P. Stephenson

Due to the investigation by the Martinez Police Department, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office charged 50-year-old Martinez resident Richard P. Stephenson with two felonies for embezzlement and two misdemeanor charges of possessing a controlled substance. 

The embezzlement charges relate to Mr. Stephenson stealing controlled substances belonging to the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District in order to support his personal drug addiction. 

An arrest warrant in the amount of $50,000 was issued on January 9, 2019.  Stephenson was arraigned at the Contra Costa County Superior Courthouse on January 10, 2019, the next court date is February 26th.

The charges filed against Richard Stephenson include:

  • Count 1, Embezzlement by Public or Private Officer – Felony
  • Count 2, Embezzlement by Clerk, Agent or Servant – Felony
  • Count 3, Possession of Fentanyl – Misdemeanor
  • Count 4, Possession of Midazolam – Misdemeanor

Case information: People v. Richard Paul Stephenson, Docket Number 01-188454-3

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Contra Costa County launches Human Trafficking Task Force with $1.2 million federal grant

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Office of the District Attorney, Contra Costa County

Contra Costa County recently received $1.2 million under the Federal Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to establish a new Human Trafficking Task Force. Under the three-year grant from OVC, $500,000 is going to the Employment and Human Services Department (EHSD) for victim services and $700,000 goes to the District Attorney’s Office. This federal grant will assist both departments in developing this multidisciplinary task force that will implement victim-centered and coordinated approaches to identify victims of sex and labor trafficking through services and investigating and prosecuting these trafficking cases.

The Task Force will be an enhancement of the Contra Costa County Rescue and Restore Coalition (commonly referred to as the Human Trafficking Coalition) that was jointly formed with the Office of the District Attorney, EHSD and other partners in 2009 to address human trafficking in our county and the greater Bay Area. The Task Force’s “core team” will be co-chaired by Assistant District Attorney Venus D. Johnson and the Director of the Alliance to End Abuse Devorah Levine to ensure effective and efficient collaboration between investigation and prosecution and victim support and services.

To further combat trafficking in the county, District Attorney Diana Becton recently created a Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit within the District Attorney’s Office, which will be staffed by a dedicated sex trafficking prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Dana Filkowski.

“Our law enforcement partners will be able to focus on the growing problems associated with human trafficking in our community with this task force,” Becton stated. “We know that sharing confidential information and conducting complex investigations is challenging and resource intensive. However, with this new framework, we can prosecute those perpetrators who often times go unnoticed and provide comprehensive services to victims of trafficking. We have to keep raising awareness with the public and our law enforcement partners about the real threats that human trafficking poses to Contra Costa County.”

The Human Trafficking Task Force of Contra Costa County will be a collaboration of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies working together with victim service organizations to; 1) better identify all types of human trafficking victims; 2) enhance investigation and prosecution of all types of human trafficking; 3) address the individualized needs of all identified human trafficking victims by linking them to comprehensive services; 4) enhance awareness of human trafficking among law enforcement and service providers, as well as within the broader Contra Costa community; and 5) improve trauma-informed practices for human trafficking victims within law enforcement and victim service providers.

Task Force partners on the law enforcement side, headed by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office, will include agencies such as the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the F.B.I. and local law enforcement agencies. Task Force partners on the victim service side, headed by Contra Costa County’s Alliance to End Abuse, include Calli House Youth Shelter (Contra Costa Behavioral Health Services), Community Violence Solutions, Bay Area Legal Aid, International Rescue Committee, and STAND! For Families Free of Violence.

Contra Costa County is a natural corridor for human trafficking activities with its linkage to major metropolitan areas like Oakland and San Francisco via public transportation (BART) and its accessibility to Los Angeles and Sacramento via major highways such as 680, 80 and 5 (via Hwy 4). Though human trafficking is illegal, victims often do not know where to turn for help and community members may not know where to report suspicious situations.

The Contra Costa Human Trafficking Task Force, in partnership with the Contra Costa Human Trafficking Coalition will be working with local agencies to raise awareness about human trafficking in Contra Costa County throughout the month of January. The FBI has identified California as one of the nation’s top destination states for trafficked persons.

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Antioch man found guilty of animal cruelty for dog Attack on calves in Contra Loma Regional Park

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County Office of the District Attorney

On October 31, a Contra Costa County jury found defendant Vinicio Santos of Antioch guilty of three misdemeanors, including animal cruelty. On December 1, 2017, Santos’ dog attacked the three calves owned by grazer Paul Daysh. The brutal attack left the three calves permanently injured.

Santos now faces a sentence of up to three years in county jail. Sentencing for Santos will occur on November 30 by the Honorable Leonard Marquez in Department 34 at the Contra Costa County Superior Court in Pittsburg. Restitution for Daysh will also be decided on November 30. Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Whitnee Goins prosecuted the case on behalf of the People for this misdemeanor jury trial.

“I am grateful the jury held the defendant accountable for his crimes. He ignored repeated orders from East Bay Regional Parks Rangers to control his dog. Consequently, these calves needlessly suffered serious injuries. We will continue to prosecute animal cruelty cases to ensure the public is protected and animals are cared for in a humane manner,” DDA Goins stated.

Santos and his dog were at the Contra Loma Regional Park in Antioch on December 1, 2017. Santos’ dog was not on leash when spotted by park rangers. After rangers saw Santos, they heard animals in distress. When the rangers connected again with Santos they saw the white Husky mix dog viciously attacking one calf, then moving to attack two more calves. Santos was told repeatedly to leash his dog and bring the dog under control. Santos ignored the rangers’ commands.

Santos was found guilty of the following misdemeanor offenses:

·         Animal Cruelty

·         Vandalism Over $400 Damage

·         Resist, Obstruct, Delay of Peace Officer

Case information: People v. Vinicio Arturo Santos, Docket Number 04-193968-5.

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East County transient man convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter in 2017 Hwy 4 fatal crash

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Crash in Pittsburg on Oct. 4, 2017 took life of Discovery Bay woman

On October 2, a Contra Costa County jury found defendant Frank J. Newkirk, a 26-year-old transient, guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter. The victim, Theresa Frazer, was killed on October 4, 2017 during the morning commute on Highway 4 in Pittsburg. Newkirk was driving westbound on Highway 4 in a 2004 Chevy Tahoe in the slow lane when the incident occurred.

Newkirk now faces a sentence of up to six years in state prison. According to the D.A.’s Office Public Information Officer Scott Alonso, “Newkirk was a transient and his last known address according to court documents was Discovery Bay. But he lived all over including Bay Point and may have lived in Antioch at the time of the crash.”

Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Aron DeFerrari prosecuted the case behalf of the People for this felony jury trial. Sentencing for Newkirk will occur on November 16 by the Honorable Barry Baskin in Department 7 at the Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.

On the morning of October 4, 2017, Newkirk was driving his girlfriend’s 2004 Chevy Tahoe without a license and careened into Frazer’s Nissan Sentra. Frazer was driving her friend to work when the accident occurred. The impact of the crash spun the Nissan around and crushed the vehicle. In total, five cars were impacted by Newkirk’s crash into Frazer.

California Highway Patrol investigated the crash and found Newkirk was traveling at an unsafe speed between 54 to 61 miles per hour in traffic with cars slowed in front of him due to an unrelated accident. Evidence gathered by CHP showed the vehicle’s brakes were never activated before the crash. Newkirk also did not take his foot off the throttle. Newkirk’s collision led to the unfortunate death of Frazer, a 47-year-old mother of three children. Restitution for this case will be determined at a later date.

Traffic collisions can cause very serious injuries and even result in fatalities. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, traffic fatalities are increasing, totaling 3,623 in 2016 and serious traffic injuries are on the rise.

Earlier this year our office filed the following counts against Newkirk:

  • Count 1, Vehicular Manslaughter – Felony
  • Count 2, Driving Without a License – Misdemeanor

Case information: People v. Frank J. Newkirk, Docket Number 05-181281-7.

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Contra Costa DA’s Office partners with ASK and Brady Center for Gun Safety campaign

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is committed to preventing gun violence in our communities and educating youth about the dangers and consequences of gun possession. This month, the District Attorney’s Office is collaborating with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the American Academy of Pediatrics in the ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Gun Safety Campaign to educate parents and children about gun safety.

Nationwide, approximately 1.7 million youth live in a home with an unlocked, loaded gun. More than one in five U.S. teenagers (ages 14 to 17) report having witnessed a shooting, and an average of seven children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day. The ASK campaign is a nationwide effort which includes numerous leading national organizations, including education, healthcare, and law enforcement groups who are dedicated to stopping gun violence in America. 

We must address the growing trends of gun violence, not only in our schools but on our streets and in our homes. Common sense gun safety laws do work along with educating parents and guardians on how they can best protect their children at home. My office will continue to partner with law enforcement, our schools, and our community to ensure we are doing all we can to keep our kids safe and to prevent further gun violence,” stated District Attorney Diana Becton.

In honor of the annual summer “ASK Day” kickoff this week, representatives from the District Attorney’s Office will host tables at the Farmers’ Markets in Pittsburg and Martinez on Saturday, June 23rd and Sunday, June 24th to provide the community with information about the risks associated with unsafely stored guns in their homes.

In partnership with the Contra Costa County Probation Department, the District Attorney’s Office will continue to teach the Gun Information for Teens (“GIFT”) Program to youth throughout the county. In 2012, the GIFT Program started as an initial pilot to educate youth about gun violence and prevention, which focused on the intersection between gangs, guns, drugs and youth in our county. The GIFT Program expanded in 2015 remains an important tool for our office to empower students to protect themselves and their communities from gun violence. Representatives from the District Attorney’s Office and Probation Department currently teach this 6-course anti-violence curriculum to approximately 1,000 students each year.

All school district administrators are encouraged to join this collaborative effort to keep our schools and neighborhoods safe; to schedule the GIFT Program at your school, please contact Deputy District Laura Delehunt at ldelehunt@contracostada.org. Courses will be tailored to address the specific needs at your school site and will provide students with valuable skills to make positive choices.

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Graves concedes to Becton in District Attorney race

Friday, June 15th, 2018

By Allen Payton

In the face of interim appointed District Attorney Diana Becton’s growing lead, her main opponent in the June election, on Thursday Supervising Assistant D.A. Paul Graves sent out a letter to his supporters conceding the race.

Becton now has 921 more votes than is needed to win, with 50.49% of the vote, up from 50.01% in the last update on June 8. The County Clerk’s office announced on Wednesday that they have approximately 10,000 ballots left to count and that some of those might be disqualified.

In addition to thanking his supporters, during a brief interview Friday morning, Graves also thanked those who voted for him.

A Heartfelt Thank You

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Nearly all the votes have been counted, and although it is very close, it is unlikely we will have a runoff in November. This afternoon, I called Diana Becton to congratulate her on her expected election as District Attorney.

I am grateful for the support of Contra Costa’s law enforcement community and firefighters, Marc Klaas, and the support and confidence of my fellow prosecutors.

I have been especially moved by the survivors who have reached out to reconnect, and in doing so reminded me why I am a prosecutor. Most of all, I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from friends and my family, most of whom already knew that I was probably a better prosecutor than a politician.

I want to say to all my supporters that your dedication to this campaign has been humbling and inspiring, and I complete this chapter knowing that I would do it all over again for the privilege of fighting the good fight alongside you all. We didn’t just fight for “change,” we fought for the right change, and I know that we will continue to fight for the safety of our communities and justice for crime victims.

Most of all, we can be proud of our effort and that we maintained our integrity throughout this election, including the appointment process. The District Attorney’s office is an office built on trust, and we met our obligation to the people of Contra Costa with the type of campaign we ran from start to finish – armed with real knowledge, focused on real issues, and fueled by real, local grassroots support.

Now we must come together and support our newly-elected District Attorney for the sake of Contra Costa residents who are counting on us to put politics aside for their benefit and safety. This campaign has ended, but our worthy cause continues in our courtrooms every day.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart,

Paul Graves

According to County Clerk-Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla, the final election results are expected to be announced next Friday, June 22 by 5:00 p.m. Please check back later for that final update.

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Nationwide Operation Broken Heart results in online child exploitation arrests in county

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Investigators with the Contra Costa County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force recently participated in the nationwide Operation Broken Heart, a nationwide effort to investigate individuals exploiting children on the internet. Throughout March, April and May, the team conducted investigations of subjects who distributed child pornography over the internet and focused on individuals traveling to Contra Costa County to meet minors to engage in sexual activity.

In addition to the proactive investigations the ICAC team participated in, a significant school outreach program was also undertaken to teach parents and students about the risks associated with smartphones and social media. During the three-month period, investigators and prosecutors delivered presentations at six schools, reaching 140 parents and over 300 students. During the 2017/2018 school year, the ICAC task force has delivered presentations to over 300 parents and over 2,800 students in Contra Costa County.

The three-month nation-wide operation by the ICAC Task Force Program resulted in the arrests of 2,300 suspected online child sex offenders.

“No child should ever have to endure sexual abuse,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “And yet, in recent years, certain forms of modern technology have facilitated the spread of child pornography and created greater incentives for its production. We at the Department of Justice are determined to strike back against these repugnant crimes. It is shocking and very sad that in this one operation, we have arrested more than 2,300 alleged child predators and investigated some 25,200 sexual abuse complaints. Any would-be criminal should be warned: this Department will remain relentless in hunting down those who victimize our children.”

Some notable arrests and investigations conducted during Operation Broken Heart include:

-On April 6, 2018, investigators arrested Russell Meirose of Milpitas, California. Meirose was arrested after chatting online with someone he believed to be a 13-year old girl and enticing her to meet for sex. Meirose was arrested at a hotel in Pleasanton after he rented a room for the girl and himself. The girl he was talking to was actually an undercover police officer. Meirose has been charged with multiple felonies including attempted lewd acts with a child and arranging to meet a minor for sex.

-On April 19, 2018, investigators arrested Andrew Lund, a fourth grade teacher and school supervisor at Glen Cove Elementary school in Vallejo. Lund was arrested after it was determined he was sending harmful material to a person he believed to be a minor and attempting to arrange a meeting with that 14-year-old girl for sex. In reality, Lund was chatting with an undercover police officer. When investigators searched his house in Vallejo, they located child pornography on Lund’s cell phone. Lund has been charged with possession of child pornography and sending harmful material to a minor, among other charges.

In conjunction with Operation Broken Heart, on May 25, 2018, which is nationally recognized as Missing Children’s Day, the ICAC task force executed three search warrants in Contra Costa County, targeting offenders distributing child pornography.

-Investigators with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Contra Costa FBI Safe Streets Task Force, San Ramon Police Department, United States Secret Service, San Jose Police Department, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and the Contra Costa County Probation Department served a search warrant in the 1200 block of Elmwood Drive in Walnut Creek. Investigators located a significant quantity of child pornography on computer devices inside of the home and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing the case for potential criminal charges.

-Investigators with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant in the 200 block of Hillside Ave in Antioch. Investigators located a significant quantity of child pornography on computer devices inside of the home and arrested Raymond Myers for possession of child pornography. The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing the case for potential criminal charges.

-Investigators with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations, Child Exploitation Unit, served a search warrant on Brush Creek Drive in Pittsburg. Investigators located a significant quantity of child pornography on computer devices inside of the home and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing the case for potential criminal charges.

The Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is managed by the San Jose Police Department. In Contra Costa County, detectives and investigators from the Walnut Creek, Martinez, San Ramon, Concord and Moraga Police Departments, the Sheriff’s Office, Contra Costa County Probation Department and Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office participate in the task force along with Special Agents from the United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Secret Service.

Parents are encouraged to discuss online safety with their children and can visit the website www.kidsmartz.org for further information. If you believe your school or community organization would benefit from a smartphone and social media awareness presentation, please contact Deputy District Attorney Lauren Whalen at lwhalen@contracostada.org or Senior Inspector Darryl Holcombe at dholcombe@contracostada.org.

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