Archive for the ‘District Attorney’ Category

DA Becton announces end of backlog of untested sexual assault kits

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

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

On Tuesday, March 12, 2019, District Attorney Diana Becton and staff attended an event in New York City to announce the end of the backlog of untested sexual assault kits in Contra Costa County. These results come from the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office participation in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Elimination Grant Program, a three-year grant program to test sexual assault kits.

Our Office was one of 32 grantees funded, totaling $1,841,535 to test 1,246 kits since 2015. The testing of these kits allowed for DNA evidence to be uploaded to the national DNA databank to assist in investigations and identify offenders.

“We partnered with 24 law enforcement agencies in our community to erase the backlog of sexual assault kits in Contra Costa County,” said Becton. “I want to express my gratitude for our partners working with our office to end the backlog. Testing these kits can help bring closure and justice to sexual assault victims. We are going to continue working on this issue to ensure we never have a backlog in our community again.”

To ease the burden of testing these kits, through this grant our Office collected the untested kits from participating agencies and sent the kits to Sorenson Forensics in Utah. The collaboration between Sorenson Forensics, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Crime Lab and our Office allowed for a more efficient process of testing these kits.

Due to state law in California, law enforcement agencies have mandated reporting timeframes to test these kits. If an agency chooses not to test, they have to substantiate their reasons to the California Department of Justice. Our Office will continue to monitor the progress of all agencies in Contra Costa County to ensure state law is followed and no kits remain untested.

Overall, the Manhattan District Attorney’s program tested 55,242 kits and resulted in 18,803 DNA profiles uploaded into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). Locally, the results here for our kits were:

  • 1,246 kits DNA tested (1978 to 2016)
  • 182 DNA profiles entered into CODIS
  • 122 Confirmatory hits
  • 51 Offender hits
  • 8 Cases reopened for further review by law enforcement agencies
  • Full compliance of all participating agencies
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Antioch man found guilty for attempted murder of 4 victims in 2016 shooting

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Herald file photo.

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

On March 4, a Contra Costa County jury found defendant Kamani Stelly of Antioch guilty of five felonies, including the attempted murder of four victims and shooting at an occupied motor vehicle that contained innocent passersby, all stemming from a shooting committed by Stelly in broad daylight in December 2016. (See related article).

In the late morning of December 19, 2016, Stelly opened fire on a group of men at the corner of Cavallo Road and East 18th Street in Antioch. Stelly fired 18 shots from a semi-automatic pistol at the group of men as he paced from Cavallo Road towards the men at a nearby Little Caesar’s Pizza. One member of the targeted group was injured from Stelly’s shooting.

The busy intersection in Antioch is surrounded by local businesses and homes. One of Stelly’s bullets hit an innocent victim while she rode as a passenger in a moving car. As a result of the shooting, this young woman lost an eye and will use a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

Stelly now faces a maximum sentence of 160 years to life in state prison. Sentencing will occur on April 12, 2019 in front of the Honorable Nancy Stark – Department 20 of the Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez. Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Richard Ewenstein prosecuted the case on behalf of the People. The case originated in the Office’s Community Violence Reduction Unit.

“The defendant’s decision to resolve an argument with gunfire gravely wounded two people and endangered countless others. We are grateful to the members of the jury for their service and attention to this case and to the victims and witnesses of this crime for their courage in testifying,” stated DDA Ewenstein.

Stelly’s half-brother, Ronvell Scheneck pleaded no contest last year to being an accessory after the fact to the shooting and was sentenced to two years in prison. Another co-defendant, Cody Moss, will be sentenced to 12 years in state prison for his role in the attack.

Case information: People v. Kamani Stelly, Docket Number 05-171136-5

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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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