Archive for the ‘District Attorney’ Category

Becton expands lead, may have won Contra Costa District Attorney’s race, Graves not conceding

Friday, June 8th, 2018

Election results as of Friday, June 6, 2018. From cocovote.us.

By Allen Payton

After counting about 20,000 of the remaining ballots from Tuesday night’s election in Contra Costa County, appointed Interim District Attorney Diana Becton has expanded her lead by another 1,000 votes to 50.01% over her main opponent, and Supervising Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves who now has 42.29%. She now leads him by 11,398 votes. To avoid a runoff in the November election, she only needs to win by 50% plus one vote.

However, Graves is not conceding, yet.

“There are still thousands of provisional votes to be counted,” said Katie DeFerraria, his campaign manager. “When the votes are all in there will be an opportunity for comment. Right now, Paul Graves will continue to focus on his responsibilities as a prosecutor for the people of Contra Costa.”

According to County Clerk-Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla, his office has counted “174,000 ballots so far, and we have 50,000 vote-by-mails to go and 10,000 provisionals. So, 60,000 total, roughly.”

Asked when the next update will be, her responded, “We’re going to hopefully have all of the vote-by-mail done and a semi-final by Wednesday. Then on June 22 we should have a full, final report with the provisionals included.”

For all of the latest election results in the county, click here.

Please check back Wednesday for the next update to the election results in Contra Costa County.

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Editorial: Graves is the clear choice for Contra Costa District Attorney

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

Paul Graves

By Allen Payton, Publisher & Editor

In the race for District Attorney there is one candidate who has the experience to be the top prosecutor we need in Contra Costa County. That’s Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves.

Unlike his current boss, Interim D.A. Diana Becton, who was appointed on a 3-2 vote of the Board of Supervisors, last year, Graves has 22 years of experience prosecuting crime in our county. She has never prosecuted a single case. Yes, Becton served for 30 years as a judge, but that’s not the same thing.

Also, Graves was the first candidate to declare and was willing to run against his former boss, Mark Peterson, who had not yet resigned following a controversy regarding lack of disclosure of loans to himself from his campaign funds.

Becton only entered the appointment process after Peterson’s resignation, which doesn’t show me a serious interest or commitment to the position.

Although accused of being part of the problem, Graves was not part of Peterson’s inner circle. He’s running to restore integrity to the office. Becton on the other hand, admitted to plagiarizing large portions of her application for the position. Yet, three supervisors still voted to appoint her.

The third candidate in the race, businessman and attorney Lawrence Strauss, is opposed to the death penalty – even for cop killers. That to me is an immediate disqualification. If you’re going to be the top prosecutor in the county, you need to be willing to follow and enforce all laws in our state, whether you agree with them or not.

Another thing to look at is who is backing the candidates. Graves has the support of all the Deputy District Attorneys, as well as all of the police officer associations, in the county. Those who enforce the law know Graves is the one candidate who will do the same.

Becton’s backers include the ultraliberal, former San Francisco D.A. and now U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and worse, the soft-on-crime billionaire George Soros. Why are they interfering in our county’s law enforcement? Do we really want to model our D.A.’s office after San Francisco’s? Of course not.

Worst of all, Becton is missing too many days from the office for a job that pays her more than $250,000 per year.

We need a prosecutor who will restore leadership and integrity to the Contra Costa D.A.’s office. Voting for Paul Graves will accomplish that.

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Billionaire Soros backs plagiarist in Contra Costa DA’s race: candidate of ‘integrity’

Sunday, May 27th, 2018

By Randy DeSotoWestern JournalRepublished with permission

Originally published May 24, 2018 at 12:20 pm

Soros. Photo from ff.org

Billionaire George Soros is backing an admitted plagiarist in a district attorney’s race in northern California, funding campaign literature that describes her as a candidate of “integrity.” Hers is just one of multiple DA races in which Soros is trying influence the election’s outcome.

The Los Angeles Times reported Soros has dropped over $2.7 million in California DA races this election cycle, and since 2014 has spent more than $16 million in 17 county races in other states. His chosen candidates have won 13 of them.

“Wealthy donors are spending millions of dollars to back would-be prosecutors who want to reduce incarceration, crack down on police misconduct and revamp a bail system they contend unfairly imprisons poor people before trial,” according to The Times.

Soros has waded into the Contra Costa County DA’s race to the tune of $275,000 backing interim Democrat DA Diana Becton.

In addition to supporting Becton, the self-described philanthropist has intervened in the DA contests in San Diego County spending $1.5 million, according to San Diego Tribune, and Sacramento County with another $375,000, The Sacramento Bee is reporting.

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Becton, 66, was chosen as Contra Costa County’s interim DA last September among five applicants to the position, in a narrow 3-2 vote by the county’s board of supervisors.

The choice by the board of supervisors came despite the revelation that the former judge plagiarized significant portions of her application and unlike other candidates, including Contra Costa County District Attorneys’ Association endorsed Paul Graves, has no prosecutorial experience.

Becton is the county’s first female and African American district attorney, which Soros made a top selling point in a recent mailer sent to voters throughout the county ahead of the June 5 election to decide who will take up the seat for a full term.

The piece describes Becton as someone with “experience, integrity, and progressive values.”

The East Bay Times reported in Becton’s plagiarized application to become interim DA that she “took more than 100 words from a widely publicized letter written by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, regarding criminal justice reform.”

She also cut and pasted portions from neighboring Alameda County’s District Attorney’s website regarding the issue of community development.

Do you think Soros is seeking to undermine traditional American values?

Other text came word-for-word from a March 1994 issue of Harvard Business Review. Even a direct quote from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech made it into her application, which read, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was an heir.”

In all, at least seven portions of her application were plagiarized from others’ words, which were chronicled in an anonymous letter sent to multiple media outlets.

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Last September, Becton described her actions to the board of supervisors as a “mistake,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“I drew liberally from all kinds of sources because I wanted to lift certain issues up,” she said. “I recognize that I should have used quotation marks when I used words of other people, and I didn’t do that. I own the mistake.”

“That is the same kind of leadership and transparency and accountability that I will bring to the district attorney’s office,” Becton added.

The editorial board for the East Bay Times backed Graves over Becton earlier this month, citing her plagiarism, in part.

“It’s the sort of plagiarism that’s unacceptable from a high school student, much less the county’s most powerful law enforcement official. But, to this day, Becton still doesn’t fully comprehend what she did wrong,” the editors wrote.

Her “mistake” is surprising, given her experience as a judge, and being a law school and college gradate. The proper citation of sources is central to the legal craft.

Aron DeFerrari — president of Contra Costa County District Attorneys’ Association — told The Western Journal he thought Becton would no longer be under consideration for the position after admitting to plagiarism.

“There is no way they can appoint somebody who plagiarized her application,” he recalled thinking at the time.

His group had endorsed Graves for the appointment and is supporting his candidacy in the election.

Graves, a Republican, is a current Contra Costa County prosecutor, who oversaw the Homicide Unit and now oversees the Family Violence Unit.

“The biggest compliment you can pay a prosecutor is to call him a grinder,” said Deferrari, who serves with Graves in the DA’s office. “Paul is a straight up grinder. There is a reason for that. This job is important. This job takes a lot of time and effort. You don’t do this job well between 8:30 to five, four or five days a week.”

“Paul Graves has demonstrated that commitment to victims of crime and he’s done so for the last 22 years,” DeFerrari added. “He is the only candidate in this election that has done that. It’s how he has earned the respect and support of every law enforcement agency in this County.”

According to his website, Graves is endorsed by over a dozen police officers’ organizations, as well as a plethora of local officials, from city council members to multiple judges.

Paul Graves Speaks Out Against George Soros Trying to Buy Contra Costa District Attorney’s Race http://eastcountytoday.net/paul-graves-speaks-out-against-george-soros-trying-to-buy-contra-costa-district-attorneys-race/ …

eastcountytoday.net (@eastcountytoday) 11:22 AM – May 9, 2018

Becton puts Sen. Harris at the top of her endorsements list followed by various Democratic members of Congress, mayors, government and non-government labor unions, and city council members, but support from the law enforcement community is all but absent.

DeFerrari told The Journal there is a reason law enforcement groups are backing Graves over Becton.

“Her actions and her lack of commitment to this job, from the moment she submitted her application to the place we are standing today, have not earned our respect as criminal prosecutors,” said DeFarrari. “This job requires absolute commitment to fighting for victims of crime each and every day and not just Monday through Friday.”

A review of Becton’s calendar obtained by a public records request by a Graves supporter shows the interim DA spent a substantial amount of time away from the office during her first six months in office, particularly for someone with no prosecutorial experience.

Just weeks after being sworn in as DA in late September, Becton traveled to Atlanta for a National Association of Women Judges convention, missing three work days.

She then traveled from there to Virginia for the Women in Power and Politics event the following week. In late October, the former judge went to an event at Stanford University. In November, Becton was out of the office for two days to participate in a “Fair and Just Prosecution” event focused on rolling back the “tough on crime” approach to law enforcement.

In a statement endorsing Becton, the Soros aligned Real Justice PAC indicated this will be top priority of the candidate.

“If elected she will make history as the prosecutor who took on mass incarceration by pushing through much needed bail reform, restorative justice programs, and an end to racial disparities in charging and sentencing,” said the group’s co-founder Shaun King.

The DA took vacation from Nov. 23 – 30, as well as Dec. 26 and Dec. 29 to Jan. 2, 2018, missing another six work days.

A review of the key card access to the Contra Costa Country DA office, also obtained through a public records request, showed that Becton did not come to her office a single weekend during her first six months in office from Oct. 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018.

However, Graves was in the office over a dozen weekend days. Paul Thompson, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County, noted it is common for prosecutors to work weekends in the lead up to a trial.

“If we’re in trial, which happens for the typical trial attorney 6-15 weeks out of the year…weekly work hours double, meaning that we’re working nights and weekends,” he said.

Scott Alonso, the Public Information Officer for the Contra Costa County DA’s office told The Western Journal just because Becton is not physically in the office, it does not mean she is not working.

“She works long hours inside the office and outside the office,” he said. “With this type of work, she’s on call 24-7. She’s in constant daily communication with her attorneys and with members of her leadership team.”

DeFerrari fears Becton is more interested in the position than the work it entails.

“You want somebody who wants to do the job,” he said, “not just somebody who wants to have the job.”

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Contra Costa District Attorney Candidates Forum May 29 in Pittsburg

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

Candidates for the Contra Costa County District Attorney will speak from 6:00-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29 at Los Medanos College.  The Candidates Forum, sponsored by the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley, will be held in the college’s Recital Hall, 2700 East Leland Road in Pittsburg.

Candidates Diana Becton, Paul Graves and Lawrence Strauss will give a brief opening statement followed by prepared questions from the Chamber and screened questions from the audience. Questions will focus on current issues, such as the management of the District Attorney’s Office, public safety, and concerns of the business community. Gail Murray, longtime League member and former Walnut Creek mayor and BART Board member, will be the moderator.

The meeting is open to the public, but reservations are requested at mypittsburgchamber.org.

The League of Women Voters and the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce are jointly sponsoring the event to inform and educate voters. Neither the nonpartisan League nor the Pittsburg Chamber is endorsing any candidate. 

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Contra Costa County Clean Slate Day set for May 19 in Antioch

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

This Saturday is Clean Slate Day in Antioch that allows individuals to apply for and receive a reduction or dismissal of a prior conviction. The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office and Antioch Police Department are co-hosting Saturday’s event.

The event is open to the public. Residents can register for Saturday through Code for America at www.clearmyrecord.org

“Clean Slate Day will help remove barriers for members of our community trying to get a fresh start. With this partnership, we are able to assist hundreds seeking legal assistance,” stated Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton. “Prior convictions can leave a lasting mark on an individual’s record and life. We must continue to seek opportunities to bring law enforcement and the legal community together with the community to ease tensions and clear old convictions.” Becton initially organized a Clean Slate Day in Richmond, California when she served as a Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge in 2016.

The Clean Slate Program operates throughout the entire year and is managed by the Public Defender’s Office. Individuals can contact the program at 925-335-8150 for questions about seeking Proposition 47 relief, record sealing, legal advice and dismissals of convictions.  Residents can also register on an ongoing basis for the Clean Slate Program through Code for America at www.clearmyrecord.org

“Far too many people face barriers in accessing employment, housing, and education because of a prior criminal record.  Having one’s record expunged can have a transformative effect by making it easier for individuals to reintegrate back into their communities,” said Robin Lipetzky, Chief Public Defender. “Our Clean Slate team specializes in assisting people with clearing their records and giving them a second chance at life.”

This is the first event co-hosted with a law enforcement agency. Clean Slate Day starts at 10:00 a.m. and ends at 2:00 p.m. at Antioch Middle School.

“This event helps our community heal and thrive,” conveyed Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks. “We must work to reduce recidivism and assist individuals in navigating the criminal justice system.”

Other community partners offering services on Saturday will include the following organizations: Bay Area Legal Aid, Rubicon Programs, Contra Costa Reentry Network, and the Safe Return Project.

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Deputy DA’s endorse Graves for Contra Costa District Attorney

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

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

The Contra Costa County District Attorneys’ Association endorses Paul Graves for District Attorney.  Delivering the news, Association President Aron DeFerrari noted “Paul has the experience and integrity Contra Costa deserves in its next District Attorney.”

Stephanie Kang, a DAs’ Association Board Member, noted “Paul Graves is exactly the type of person who should be leading the change and reforms Contra Costa needs.  Paul Graves had the courage and leadership to stand up against Mark Peterson’s misconduct and run against him even though taking a stand risked Paul’s career.”  

Lauren Whalen, another Association Board Member, and lifelong Contra Costa County resident, said “Paul’s actions put Contra Costa first and we know he’ll continue to do so as District Attorney.”

Steve Bolen, an Association Board Member noted “Our prosecutors are eager for change. We embrace the idea of a fresh start and the possibilities it offers. Most importantly, we care about the safety of the residents and communities we serve.  We know Paul Graves puts public safety above politics, that’s what matters to us.” 

The people of Contra Costa deserve an experienced, trusted prosecutor who can provide the leadership needed to keep our communities safe.  Paul Graves alone offers both that experience and integrity. He should be Contra Costa’s next District Attorney.

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Former state Associate Attorney General appointed Contra Costa Assistant DA

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Worked for former CA Attorney General Kamala Harris and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

Newly appointed Contra Costa Assistant District Attorney Venus D. Johnson.

Interim Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton today, Friday, February 2, 2018 announced the hiring of Venus D. Johnson as Assistant District Attorney. Mrs. Johnson will help shape criminal justice policy for the office, in addition to overseeing the Family Violence Prosecution units, the Community Violence Reduction Unit, and the Homicide and Gang Units. Johnson will begin her new role on Monday.

Most recently, she served as the Director of Public Safety for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. In that role, she served as a policy advisor to the mayor and co-led the Oakland Police Department’s working group responsible for creating the curriculum and teaching the second phase of procedural justice training for all sworn and professional staff. Johnson also worked with the California Partnership for Safe Communities, the Oakland Police Department, and city and community leaders to support Ceasefire, Oakland’s data driven violence reduction strategy. She also worked closely with Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth to promote those principles within the city, school district and criminal justice system.

Previously, Johnson served as the Associate Attorney General for California Attorney General, Kamala Harris. She managed the Attorney General’s executive team and served as a senior legal and policy advisor, focusing particularly on criminal justice, law enforcement, the interplay of technology and privacy as it relates to law enforcement, police and community relations, and criminal prosecutions, as well as criminal appeals, habeas proceedings, and cert petitions. Prior to that, Johnson was a Deputy Attorney General in the Attorney General’s Office of Legislative Affairs. As an expert in criminal law, she represented the Attorney General’s Office on a wide variety of matters before the California Legislature. Her duties included assisting in the development of the Attorney General’s legislative agenda and advising legislative staff and committee consultants on the technical and policy implications of proposed legislation.

Venus Johnson’s Facebook cover photo, and profile photo which shows her in a shirt with the words “Phenomenal Female”.

Johnson began her legal career as a prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in January 2006. She spent eight years as a deputy district attorney prosecuting a wide variety of misdemeanor and felony cases. She served as a member of both the Child Sexual Assault Unit, and the Strike Team — a two-person team charged with handling Oakland’s most violent and repeat offenders. Johnson also served as a member of the Officer Involved Shooting Team.

Prior to her departure from Alameda County, Johnson worked in the DNA Cold Case Unit, a two-person unit responsible for investigating and prosecuting unsolved homicide and sexual assault cases with the use of modern DNA technology. The unit was also tasked with working with local law enforcement agencies throughout Alameda County to reduce the backlog of untested sexual assault kits.

Johnson earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Government from Loyola Marymount University in 2001, and her law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 2005. She previously served as a member of the Board of Directors for Holy Names High School in Oakland and is a past president of the Charles Houston Bar Association. Appointed by former Attorney General Harris, she currently serves as a member of the California Commission on Access to Justice, a state commission responsible for developing solutions to improve access to civil justice for low and moderate-income Californians.

Posted by Johnson on her Facebook page, Jan. 21, 2017.

“I am honored to join the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office,” Johnson said. “As prosecutors, we are responsible for ensuring the safety of our communities, protecting victims of crime, and ensuring the scales of justice remain fair and balanced for everyone. I look forward to working side by side with local law enforcement and our community partners as we work toward creating safer communities and a more fair and just system.”

Learn more about ADA Johnson’s background on her LinkedIn profile and her Facebook page.

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Walgreens to pay $2.25 million in price scanner and expired products case in Contra Costa, other Bay Area counties

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

At the corner of happy, healthy and higher prices? Violations attributed to human error.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday that its Consumer Protection Unit joined with the District Attorneys of Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties in a civil law enforcement action against Walgreen Co., the operator of more than 600 Walgreens stores in California. Walgreens, a nationwide corporation, has its headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois.

The civil action was based in part upon scanner inspections conducted by local Weights and Measures offices, including the office of Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture Division of Weights & Measures, Humberto Izquierdo Director. The District Attorneys alleged that Walgreens violated state law by charging customers more than the lowest posted or advertised price for items.

The alleged violations also included Walgreens’ failure to comply with laws prohibiting selling or offering to sell infant formula or baby food after the “use by” date and over-the-counter drugs after the expiration date has passed. These violations were discovered as a result of inspections by the County Environmental Health Services Divisions and District Attorney Investigation Units. The Santa Clara County Superior Court approved the Modified Stipulated Judgment on January 29, 2018.

“It seems that Walgreen’s couldn’t get their act together here, more than other counties,” said Deputy District Attorney Gary E. Koeppel of the Consumer Protection Unit. He was the lead Deputy DA from Contra Costa County, prepared much of the documentation and was the main contact for negotiations with Walgreens’ law firm in San Francisco. “We were having probably a larger problem here in Contra Costa.”

Without admitting wrongdoing, Walgreens agreed to pay $2,250,000 in civil penalties and costs. The judgment also prohibits violating applicable laws and requires Walgreens to institute a compliance program. That program includes procedures to ensure the removal of infant formula, baby food and over-the counter drugs prior to the “use by” or “expiration” dates. The program also requires procedures to ensure that consumers are charged accurate prices, such as removal of shelf tags from store shelves prior to expiration and adjusting charges at point of sale to reflect the lowest advertised, posted or quoted price on the sales floor for in-store purchases.

The present Modified Stipulated Final Judgment “superseded” or replaced a 2013 pricing violations judgment against Walgreens, by adding new injunctive, compliance and civil penalty and costs provisions to address the new pricing and expired product violations. Walgreens cooperated with prosecutors during the investigation and the resolution of this case.

District Attorneys work with Departments of Weights & Measures to protect consumers from pricing errors and with Environmental Health Divisions to enforce laws prohibiting the sale of certain expired products. Consumers should always check receipts to verify that they are charged the correct price and make sure that the products they purchase are not beyond their expiration dates.

“If there’s a tag on the shelf that indicates a price and when scanned it indicates a higher price, it’s a violation,” Koeppel said. “The provisions in the state Business and Professions Code are clear. You have to sell it at the lowest, advertised price, even if it has expired. If it’s still on the shelf at the lower price with a tag in black and white, they have to sell at the expired price.”

“The County Agriculture Department’s County Weights and Measures are responsible for this, including gas stations,” he added.

“During the course of our negotiations over the scanner violations we did an undercover operation with our health departments throughout the state and we came up with about 33% of the stores that came back with over the counter pain medication and baby formula that had expired dates,” he stated.

Part of the injunction includes the requirement that at least 90 days before the expiration on pain medication and 30 days for baby formula Walgreens must remove those items from the shelves,” Koeppel explained, “Then other requirements such as posting of conspicuous signs.”

“Regarding the scanner violations, we’ve had this term placed in other injunctions with other big box stores, requiring managers have to walk through the aisles once a week and pull expired tags,” he continued. “Plus, they’re required to keep records whenever customers complain any time prices are higher and enter that data into a system that keeps track of scanner price modifications, when the shelf price was lower than the scanned price.”

Asked if the stores are required to provide a period report, Koeppel replied, “No. But, Weights & Measures has the right to go in any time and request a copy of the report.”

He wanted to point out that “Walgreens has been very cooperative and primarily blame the violations on human error,” due to “the turnover in employees and difficulty training them. Nothing constitutes an intentional violation. For clarity, they’re not alone. I’m not going to name other stores. But, scanner violations are very common in big box situations. It’s been pretty rampant, over the years. Unintentionally, for the most part.”

Asked about the liability the stores face, Koeppel responded, “It’s a big, potential liability issue with the baby formula and pain medication if someone got sick. But, from our discussions with experts, the best would be weaker potency, not greater health risks.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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