Archive for the ‘District Attorney’ Category

DA’s office expands education outreach on cyber-bullying, campus and online safety for kids

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Starting on September 14, 2017, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office Sexual Assault Unit, in conjunction with the Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, expanded an outreach program directed at parents, teachers and students on the topics of cyber-bullying, campus sexual assault awareness and online safety for kids.  The presentations are aimed at educating parents and teachers on new trends involving social media, as well as providing students with information and tools to improve campus safety and prevent online exploitation.

“The effort was started last year, first at DVC,” according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves. “The first presentation in a high school was at Campolindo in Moraga.”

“Since then we’ve been working with police officers and those in our office on the task force,” he continued. “Campus sexual assault awareness is geared toward high school seniors and community colleges, due to the content. The cyberbullying and online safety for kids is for everyone, but mainly targeted to middle school students and parents, with presentations for both,”

“We’ve been working to have somewhere for schools to call to have presentations made for students and parents,” Graves added.

Schools, community organizations and parent/teacher groups who are interested in learning more can call Deputy District Attorney Lauren Whalen at 925-957-8603. 

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Graves to hold campaign kick-off for Contra Costa DA in Pleasant Hill Friday

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves. photo courtesy of Paul Graves for DA

The campaign for Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves, running for Contra Costa District Attorney in next June’s election, announced they will hold a Kickoff Celebration this Friday, September 22. The event will be held at the Pleasant Hill Senior Center, 223 Gregory Lane from 5:30 – 7:30 PM.

Join Paul Graves and his supporters for drinks and tacos to celebrate. All are welcome. RSVP through their Eventbrite page.

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Contra Costa Supervisors select first African-American and female District Attorney Diana Becton

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Diane Becton. Courtesy of CCLawyer.cccba.org

By Daniel Borsuk

On an initial split vote, Contra Costa County Supervisors picked Superior Court Judge Diana Becton to complete the nine remaining months of former Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson on Tuesday.

Supervisors initially made their preferences known on a 3-2 split vote, to pick Becton from a field of five well-qualified competitors, for the top county criminal prosecutor post that pays $21,415 a month. Supervisors John Gioia of Richmond who represents District 1 and Diane Burgis chose Becton, while Candace Andersen and Karen Mitchoff chose Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves. Board Chair Federal Glover broke the tie and stated his preference for Becton.

A few minutes later, supervisors voted to unanimously approve the selection of Becton as interim DA.

She has announced her retirement as judge in order to assume the DA position next Monday.

Becton, the first African American female judge to be selected by former California Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, will now become the first African American and first female in history to be in charge of the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, an office marred by scandal, most recently the June resignation of Peterson for illegally spending of $66,000 of his campaign funds over a five-year period for personal use, then not disclosing it on finance reports.  In 2008, the county DA office was rocked when deputy prosecutor Michael Gressett was charged with allegedly raping a female DA colleague.

Graves, who had won the endorsement from the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Association and most all of the police officers associations in the county, has already announced his candidacy to run for the DA office in the June election. Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vanier, another applicant for the interim post, has also announced his candidacy.  Vanier, who is running on a campaign of conducting a “comprehensive audit” of the department, did not draw a vote from any supervisor.

In addition to Vanier, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Danielle Douglas, a former San Francisco prosecutor, did not attract any votes from supervisors, either.  Douglas portrayed a conservative management “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it” style that may have turned off supervisors.

During the public hearing prior to the supervisors’ vote, Becton had scored the most support from 20 out of 40 speakers, many who had acknowledged the judge’s 22 years of criminal courtroom experience and progressive views about bail reform and the need to decrease the rising number of BART crimes, gang and freeway shootings.  Becton also earned the endorsement of the NAACP clergy, following the East County Branch’s public interview of the five applicants, last Saturday.

On the topic of plagiarizing material for her application for the post Becton admitted, “I did liberally copy from all sorts of sources.  I own those mistakes. But you have to look at my 22 years of service in this county of working with integrity to improve our criminal justice system.”

She also stated that she didn’t think U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) would have a problem with Becton’s use of her words.

Under questioning from supervisor Andersen, Contra Costa County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Kensok, a 30-year veteran of the DA office, also admitted he had copied material in his application without identifying his sources.

“I should have put in quotation marks, but I did not think of it,” he said. “There was no intent to deceive.  I’m sorry for the way it came out.”

So far Becton has not stated whether she will run in the 2018 election campaign for the full-time position.

Sheriff David Livingston chipped in a recommendation that supervisors might want to develop a duo DA position with Beckton/Kensok holding the post in a caretaking status until the June election. That idea did not draw any reaction from supervisors.

“There is need for change.  The department needs to be transparent,” said Glover of Pittsburg, who represents District 5. “We want the department to think differently, and Judge Beckton can bring that.”

On the initial vote, District 4 Supervisor Mitchoff voted for Graves because of his “integrity and extensive prosecution experience.” Later on the supervisor joined her colleagues to make the appointment of Becton unanimous on a second vote.

Andersen of Danville, who represents District 2, had also initially voted for Graves, but later voted to support Judge Becton. “We need to have a person who can restore public trust, public safety, and protect the mentally ill who enter our criminal justice system,” she said in support of Graves.

District 5 Supervisor Burgis of Oakley said, “My first choice is Judge Diane Becton.”  Burgis said Becton will promote diversity and that “she’s earned the trust of our community.”

Supervisors to Consider Rubicon Contract

In a related matter, supervisors will get an update at their Tuesday, Sept. 19 meeting on the status of a $408,750 contract with the non-profit ex-felon organization Rubicon Programs, Inc.

With the contract expiring at the end of September, a political tiff has developed between Livingston and Gioia, who had opposed the recently approved $70 million West County Detention Jail expansion in north Richmond, a major project of the sheriff.

The problem is the CCP panel is not scheduled to convene until November, too late to renew the Rubicon Contract for the West County Reentry Success Center.

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BREAKING NEWS: Retired Judge Diana Becton appointed Interim Contra Costa District Attorney

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

Retired Judge Diana Becton. Courtesy of CCLawyer.cccba.org

Three County Supervisors prefered retired Judge Diana Becton as Interim Contra Costa District Attorney over Supervising Deputy DA Paul Graves. Supervisors Gioia, Burgis and Glover favored Becton, while Andersen and Mitchoff favored Graves. 

However, they then voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to appoint Becton who starts in her new job next Monday. She will be the first woman and as an African-American, Judge Becton will be the first person of color to hold the position.
Please check back later for more details.
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East County NAACP Branch to hold public interviews of applicants for Interim DA, Saturday Sept. 9

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

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Antioch Police, Contra Costa law enforcement associations issue joint endorsement of Graves for interim District Attorney

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves. photo courtesy of Paul Graves for DA

The Antioch Police Officers Association along with nearly all of the law enforcement associations in Contra Costa County have announced their joint endorsement of Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves for the position of Interim D.A. They issued the following statement, this week:

“We have either met or are very familiar with all five finalists for the interim District Attorney position. We watched yesterday’s Board of Supervisors public forum and have read the applicants’ platforms and listened to input from our members.

“The work of fighting and prosecuting crime is ongoing. An interim District Attorney must be experienced and ready to step into the position and function effectively immediately. We believe there is one clear choice ready to lead the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office at this critical moment, and that choice is Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves.

“County Supervisors have also expressed their desire to appoint an interim District Attorney who can hit the ground running, and Paul Graves is uniquely ready as someone who already knows how to lead other prosecutors. He has supervised both the Homicide Unit and the Family Violence units with distinction – two of the toughest units in the DA’s office.

“Paul Graves’ extensive experience also makes him the best choice for improving public safety. As law enforcement officers, we know that our ability to protect and serve our communities is greatly strengthened by the experienced, seasoned judgement that Paul Graves will bring as a prosecutor with 22 years of experience right here in Contra Costa County. He has tried over 70 jury trials and prosecuted two capital cases, and over the course of that career he has worked extensively with our colleagues in law enforcement to build strong cases and fight for justice for the victims of crime.

“We have witnessed Paul Graves’ commitment to preventative justice that reduces incarceration rates. At each step in his career, Paul Graves has taken a proactive approach to crime prevention that emphasizes youth and community engagement and other preventative measures as evidenced by his support of the Children’s Interview Center and especially his leadership in the fight against human trafficking in Contra Costa.

“We encourage everyone who hasn’t had the benefit of our years of working with Paul Graves to read his application for interim District Attorney. There you will see the thoughtful, experienced, professional that we’ve come to know and respect.

“One last important point. The law enforcement officers we represent share a ’24-7’ full-time commitment to public safety. We know Paul Graves is a prosecutor who shares that dedication. We’ve been able to count on him over the years for counsel and advice on any case at any time, day or night. We believe that character and commitment is what the people of Contra Costa will value most in Paul Graves. He’s a ‘24/7’ leader who is fully committed to serving the people with dedication and integrity at all times.

“We stand ready to fully support Paul Graves as interim District Attorney. We hope the Board of Supervisors of Contra Costa will support him as well. The events of the last few months have led us to this critical moment, and Paul Graves is the experienced, trusted prosecutor who is ready to meet that moment and move all of us forward.”

Respectfully Submitted,

Antioch POA, Brentwood POA, Clayton POA, Concord PA, Contra Costa Co DA Investigators Assn., Contra Costa Co Deputy Sheriffs Assn. (County Probation, Orinda, Lafayette, Danville Officers), El Cerrito PA, Hercules POA, Martinez POA, Moraga POA, Oakley POA, Pinole PEA, Pleasant Hill PA, Richmond POA, San Pablo PEA, San Ramon POA, and Walnut Creek PA.

Graves is one of five finalists who have applied for the appointment by the Board of Supervisors which is expected to make their choice at either their Sept. 12 or 19 meetings.

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Contra Costa prosecutors endorse their colleague Paul Graves for Interim DA

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves. photo courtesy of Paul Graves for DA

The Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney’s Association has endorsed Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves for the position of Interim District Attorney of Contra Costa County. 

On Friday, August 18th, 2017, the Contra Costa County District Attorneys’ Association, made up of over 80 criminal prosecutors, voted for the endorsement.

Paul Graves distinguished himself as a leader when he stepped forward to run for election against Mr. Peterson, a sitting incumbent at the time, despite the great professional risk he was taking, because it was the right thing to do,” said Aron DeFerrari, President of the DA’s Association.

“Our prosecutors are currently working on hundreds of cases and the interim DA will immediately have immense responsibilities to manage these cases,” added Simon O’Connell, a member of the District Attorneys’ Association Board. “Paul Graves’ experience managing and leading prosecutors gives us full confidence in his ability to keep those cases on track until voters choose the next District Attorney.”

Amongst a field of five candidates seeking the appointment, Paul Graves has distinguished himself in both public forums, his written applications and, perhaps most importantly, his actions and proven integrity as a veteran prosecutor for the last 22 years.

With the support of almost every police association, nonprofit and community based organizations Graves has worked with throughout the years, and the endorsement of the East Bay Times, “We are tremendously proud to endorse Paul Graves, he is a truly talented prosecutor, a proven leader in the law enforcement community and, perhaps most importantly, a person of genuine character and integrity – what we need most right now in our office” said Lauren Whalen, a DA’s Association Board Member and young prosecutor in the District Attorney’s Office.

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Interim Contra Costa DA forum draws questions on wide range of issues

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

The five semi-finalists for the interim Contra Costa County District Attorney appointment participated in a three-hour public forum at Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors hearing chambers Tuesday. Participating in the forum conducted by the League of Women Voters of Contra Costa County were from left Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Diana Becton, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Danielle Douglas, Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vanier, Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney Tom Kensok and Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves. Supervisors plan to announce their choice by either their September 12 or September 19 meeting.

Lasts for three hours

By Daniel Borsuk

In the packed Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors hearing chambers, supervisors and citizens learned a great deal about five candidates in the running for the interim District Attorney post, vacant since the mid-June resignation of Mark Peterson on charges of lying about illegally spending $66,000 from his election campaign fund for personal use.

Before responding to questions pooled from the League of Women Voters of Contra Costa County and emceed by former Contra Costa County Clerk and Register of Voters Steven Weir, supervisors conducted a one hour hearing to allow the public to vent thoughts about the supervisors selection process of the five choices:  Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Diana Becton, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Danielle Douglas, Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves, longtime Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney Tom Kensok, and Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vanier, a Contra Costa County resident.

Graves and Vanier have already announced they are running for election in 2018.

During the public hearing, Graves received oral endorsements from eight speakers.  One supporter, Laura Dean Swanson described Graves as “Competent and widely respected by people for working for victims’ rights.”

But Richmond City Councilman Melvin Willis cautioned supervisors saying, “We need a district attorney who will look at alternatives other than incarceration.  We need new leadership promoting racial justice.”

Nancy Kelly, a retired public defender, urged the supervisors to select an interim DA who would eliminate the bail system, which is racially and financially biased against minorities.  Kelly also said the county’s interim DA should be one who picks “juries that reflect the community and not that reflects the upper class or white people.”

During the forum, the five semi-finalists answered a wide variety of questions to shed light regarding their opinions about “restorative justice,” a concept that all the candidates supported.

On the question about the death penalty, the responses varied.

Judge Douglas said she would seek the death penalty for cases meriting it and “would set up a death penalty review panel.”  She noted that the cost and racial disparity associated with the death penalty has shown that it has been “abused in this country.”

Vanier said he would use the death penalty for cases that genuinely merit them like the “Ted Bundy” murder case.

Kensok said he, like most Contra Costa voters, voted to abolish the death penalty.  “It’s not a deterrent, but I will never say never.”  He said there might be murder cases meriting the death penalty.

“The death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime,” said Judge Beckton.

On prosecuting environmental pollution crimes, candidates’ responses varied, but Kensok seemed to have the best response to that question.  “We have an environmental prosecutor,” said Kensok. “We have gone after Chevron.  But as DA my priority will be to use our resources to prosecute cases involving violence.”

When asked what his thoughts were about the DA office’s track record on victims’ rights, candidate Vanier said, “Less than one half of the crimes are prosecuted.  We need to do a better job of prosecuting crimes that occur in this county.”

On the topic of how to work with at-risk youth, Judge Becton said she would implement a successful program she developed in Richmond, “The Color of Justice.”  It teaches school children that African Americans do succeed academically and become lawyers and judges.

As a mother of three daughters, Judge Douglas said she would promote anti-gang awareness programs beginning in the elementary and middle schools.  “We need to publicize about the dangers of the Internet and how gangs are able to lure youth at very young age.”

All five candidates said they would not cooperate with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Supervisors plan to interview finalists for the interim post on September 12; they could announce a selection then or reveal their choice at their September 19 meeting.

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