Archive for the ‘District Attorney’ Category

Contra Costa District Attorney Becton issues ban on carotid holds by DA’s Investigative Unit

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Legislation also introduced to ban carotid restraints by law enforcement statewide

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

Martinez, Calif. – Today, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton issued a new policy for peace officers within the DA’s Office to ban the use of the carotid hold technique. The DA’s Office employs peace officers as senior inspectors within the Investigative Unit. The ban is effective as of June 23, 2020.

“The use of the carotid hold has proven to be an unnecessary and deadly police technique and will not be used by members of my Investigative Unit. The risks associated with this technique far outweigh any potential benefit. This important policy change reflects a positive move forward in police community relations and reinforces the continuous need to focus on de-escalation, training, and tactics,” stated Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton.

In addition to Becton’s ban for her staff, earlier this month, in response to the death of George Floyd, Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson) introduced AB 1196, making it illegal to use a carotid artery restraint tactic to forcibly detain a suspect.

The “bill would prohibit a law enforcement agency from authorizing the use of a carotid restraint or a choke hold, as defined,” according to the text of the legislation.

As used in the legislation, “carotid restraint” means a vascular neck restraint or any similar restraint, hold, or other defensive tactic in which pressure is applied to the sides of a person’s neck for the purpose of restricting blood flow to render the person unconscious or otherwise subdue or control the person.

AB 1196 passed the Assembly and is now awaiting hearing before the CA State Senate.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Golden State Killer arrested for attacks in late 1970’s in Contra Costa to plead guilty Monday to multiple murders, kidnappings, admit to rapes, more

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

By Allen Payton

Golden State Killer suspect Joseph DeAngelo in his arrest photo from August 2018. Photo courtesy of Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.

A court hearing in the case of the People vs. Joseph James DeAngelo, known as the East Area Rapist and Golden State Killer, will be held in Sacramento on Monday, June 29, 2020. He is expected to plead guilty “to 13 murder and 13 kidnap for robbery counts, as well as admit responsibility for 62 other rapes and crimes that prosecutors say were committed in 11 California counties from 1974 through 1986,” according to the Sacramento Bee. Those include four felonies from his alleged attacks in Contra Costa County from 1978 to 1979. It is reported DeAngelo’s plea will spare him from the death penalty.

The 74-year-old former Auburn Police Officer was arrested at his Citrus Heights home in August 2018 and the Contra Costa DA’s Office announced that he had been charged with his crimes in this county, that same week. (See related article) For the crimes in Contra Costa County DeAngelo could have faced four life sentences plus ten years, if he was convicted.

The cases were prosecuted jointly by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office and Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office in Sacramento County. The joint prosecution also included cases from Orange, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Tulare Counties. An amended complaint, charging crimes from all six counties was also filed in August 2018.

Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton will participate in a multi-agency press conference immediately following the hearing, at approximately 3:00 p.m., that day. She will be joined by Orange County D.A. Todd Spitzer, Sacramento County D.A. Anne Marie Schubert, Santa Barbara County D.A. Joyce Dudley, Tulare County D.A. Tim Ward and Ventura County D.A. Gregory Totten.

The court hearing is expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. and will be livestreamed on Sacramento Superior Court’s YouTube for Department 24 linked here. The press conference will be livestreamed on the Sacramento County District Attorney’s YouTube channel linked here. Both the court hearing and the press conference will be held in the Sacramento State Ballroom, large enough to accommodate the over 150 victims, their families and the media and due to the concerns of the coronavirus and need for social distancing.

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DA charges former Contra Costa County Clerk Canciamilla with 34 felonies for perjury & grand theft related to campaign accounts

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

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

Joe Canciamilla.

Martinez, Calif. — Today, Wednesday, June 17, 2020, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office filed a criminal complaint of 34 felonies against defendant Joseph Canciamilla of Pittsburg. Canciamilla is the former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder and a former county supervisor and assemblymember. He also created a campaign account for Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge. Canciamilla is also a licensed member of the California State Bar. Canciamilla’s first court appearance will be on July 27 at 8:30 a.m. in Department 31.

Canciamilla is accused of 30 felony counts of perjury for his alleged misstatements on 30 separate campaign disclosure statements (Form 460s). Canciamilla signed these campaign finance statements under the penalty of perjury. The additional four felony counts relate to personal grand theft of campaign funds for his personal use, totaling $261,800.68. The allegations span conduct from 2010 to 2016.

The personal expenditures made by Canciamilla’s campaign committees for the defendant’s own use were for various purposes, such as:

  • Personal vacation to Asia
  • Restaurants
  • Airfare via Southwest Airlines and American Airlines
  • Repayment of a Personal Loan
  • Transfers from his Campaign Bank Accounts to his Personal Accounts

All of these campaign statements started initially in 2010 with Canciamilla not reporting investment gains in a campaign bank account. While this practice is permissible, using the proceeds of any stock gains for personal use is prohibited. Canciamilla concealed from his Form 460s the gains and losses associated with this investment account. Ultimately, Canciamilla spent more on personal expenses than the unreported investment gains. He therefore had to then transfer personal funds into this campaign bank account to make up the difference.

“In total, the false statements signed by Canciamilla omitted critical information from the campaign finance disclosures. The information left off these forms left the public in the dark about how a candidate and then county-wide elected official spent campaign funds. Given the recent history of misconduct by various elected officials in Contra Costa County, Canciamilla’s behavior is troubling and he must be held accountable,” stated Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton.

The DA’s Office was notified of possible criminal activity associated with Canciamilla’s campaign accounts in early 2017 by the Franchise Tax Board. The criminal investigation by the DA’s Office included hundreds of hours examining seven different bank accounts held by the defendant. The two primary financial institutions Canciamilla used were Contra Costa Federal Credit Union and Charles Schwab.

Ultimately, Canciamilla was fined $150,000 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission in a civil stipulation for the multiple errors in his campaign finance statements, which concealed the personal use of campaign funds for his own benefit.

The statements signed by Canciamilla included various campaign accounts, such as his campaign account for judge (“Friends of Joe Canciamilla for Judge 2012” and campaign account for clerk-recorder (“Joe Canciamilla Canciamilla for Contra Costa County Clerk/Recorder”).

See related articles on this matter, here and here.

 

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Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton issues statement on murder of George Floyd

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

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

Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton. From CCC website.

Today, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton issued a statement regarding the murder of George Floyd:

“I am heartbroken and horrified by the murder of George Floyd and the other unjust deaths of Black men and women in this country. As the chief law enforcement official of Contra Costa, I took an oath to ensure justice for everyone under the law. The fight for justice does not end at the borders of our County or in our communities. We all have a responsibility to speak out against and eradicate injustices wherever we find them. The officers responsible for the murder of George Floyd must be held accountable.

The right to peacefully assemble and protest are a vital part of the fabric of this nation, and the majority of participants have been peaceful and even inspiring. I am disappointed that the righteous marches and gatherings are being infiltrated and hijacked by a small minority of people with other agendas. The individuals who are exploiting the pain, and the cause of so many in our community by committing acts of violence and destruction will be held accountable. We must not let the acts of the detractors deter us from the issue at hand. We must never stop working to eradicate racism and bring about systematic change throughout all systems, especially in our criminal justice system. I will continue to fight for criminal justice reform not only just in Contra Costa but throughout this nation.”

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Contra Costa District Attorney, others want to prevent police unions from contributing to DA candidates during elections

Monday, June 1st, 2020

Call on state bar to create a new ethics rule claiming it “would help restore the independence, integrity, and trust of elected prosecutors by preventing them from taking donations from police unions.”

“They’re trying to hamper pro-law enforcement candidates who will run against them” – law enforcement official (who chose to remain anonymous)

Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton. From CCC website.

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, Monday, June 1, 2020, in the wake of mass protests following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, a coalition of current and former elected prosecutors representing millions of Californians in diverse counties banded together to call on the California State Bar to cure the conflict of interest created by police unions’ outsized influence in local elections.  The new rule would explicitly preclude elected prosecutors – or prosecutors seeking election – from seeking or accepting political or financial support from law enforcement unions. (Read letter, here).

“The legal representation of an accused officer is generally financed by their law enforcement union,” said Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton.  “It is illogical that the rules prohibit prosecutors from soliciting and benefiting from financial and political support from an accused officer’s advocate in court, while enabling the prosecutor to benefit financially and politically from the accused’s advocate in public.”

“District Attorneys will undoubtedly review use of force incidents involving police officers,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “When they do, the financial and political support of these unions should not be allowed to influence that decision making.”

“When videos emerge like the one depicting the killing of George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery, the damage it does to the entire criminal justice system cannot be overstated,” said former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. “That damage, however, is further compounded by delays in the condemnation, arrest, and charging of the involved law enforcement officers. These feelings, these protests, and the pain we’re seeing, would not be as raw and widespread if we had seen police held accountable by local prosecutors quickly and with regularity.  An important step in curing this pain is curing the conflict of interest that gives, at minimum, the appearance that police do not face consequences swiftly – or at all – due to the proximity and political influence of their union.”

“We have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us to restore trust in our profession, but trust must be earned, it cannot be demanded,” said San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar.  “The first step to earning that trust back is ensuring the independence of county prosecutors is beyond reproach.”

Prosecutors are in a unique position of having to work closely with law enforcement and simultaneously evaluate whether crimes have been committed by these same officers.  Recent events involving police misconduct in which prosecutors either delayed or failed to file charges have shined a light on the importance of prosecutors making decisions regarding law enforcement officers’ conduct without any undue influence or bias.  Yet when prosecutors initiate an investigation or prosecution of an officer, the law enforcement unions often finance the legal representation of the accused officer. Prosecutors who have received an endorsement from the entity that is funding the defense of the officers being investigated or prosecuted creates, at a minimum, the appearance of a conflict of interest for elected prosecutors.

By precluding elected prosecutors—or prosecutors seeking election—from seeking or accepting political or financial support from law enforcement unions, the State Bar will reduce the presence of conflicts of interest and ensure independence on the part of elected prosecutors.  This proposal also aspires to help reestablish community trust in the integrity of prosecutors at a time when national events have damaged that trust.

For more information, follow #CureTheConflict.

In response, the following questions were sent to Becton’s public information officer, Scott Alonso:

“Is she saying that currently a prosecutor cannot solicit and benefit from financial and political support from an attorney representing a police officer accused of a crime while in court or during the court case? But the police officer’s attorney can support the prosecutor financially and politically when not in court or during the court case?

Please clarify who the accused is in her comment about the ‘accused’s advocate’. I assume it’s the same accused officer she refers to twice before in her comment. But, not sure.

Also, are she and the rest of the DA’s willing to forgo any financial contributions from criminal defense attorneys and public defenders? How about no financial support from any organization and only from individuals who live within their counties? How far should this go to ensure fairness in prosecutions? Isn’t this really one-sided? Also, if the police unions have so much influence in our county and they all backed Becton’s opponent in the last election how did she still win? Isn’t she in effect attempting to violate the free speech rights – which political campaign contributions have been defined as by the courts – of the police unions?

June 2 UPDATE: Alonso responded with, “Any questions about political contributions I cannot answer as a public employee. You would need to direct those to DA Becton’s campaign.”

This reporter then emailed him, “Please pass on my questions to DA Becton. I’m not asking you to answer them. I’m asking for her to.”

Alonso responded, “Her statement speaks for itself. Not sure what else to provide. Her reference to the advocate is the law enforcement union.”

A further email was sent to him with, “Her statement and the effort is clearly one sided and doesn’t answer my questions that I emailed you. Did you pass on my questions to her?  If not can you, please? I really don’t want to have to write that she’s refusing to answer them. Surely neither you nor she expects the media to just run press releases on controversial matters unchallenged and without question.

Thanks for the partial answer to my one question. But it still doesn’t clarify what she’s saying in that quote. How would a prosecutor solicit and benefit from financial and political support of a law enforcement union in court? I seriously don’t understand that.

I really need to hear back from her on the questions I sent. I don’t want to just write she refused to respond.”

Alonso responded with, “With all respect we do answer your questions. Your comment that this ‘effort is one side’ is odd. Not sure what you mean by that. There are standards in place for prosecutors in terms of receiving or benefitting from opposing defense counsel. This is outlined in the letter that you were provided. In terms of any questions on donations I cannot answer that as I have said.”

This reporter further responded by email with, “Yes, in the past you’ve answered my questions and I appreciate that. But I’m talking about this press release on a very controversial, political issue, which is rare if not the only one I recall ever receiving from you.

About the effort being one sided, that’s because all the DA’s and former DA quoted in the press release are attempting to silence one side in the political battle for who should be elected DA. Diana wasn’t backed by any of the police unions in the county, if I recall. They backed her opponent, DDA Paul Graves. Now she’s trying to prevent police unions from contributing to her potential opponents in future elections in effectively silencing their voice during a political campaign. Yet, I don’t see anything in the press release in which she or the other DA’s call for limiting the contributions to candidates from those on the criminal defense side.

Again, I’m not asking you to answer my questions. I’m asking you to pass along my questions to DA Becton, who as an elected official can answer them and should. You sent out on official CCDA letterhead a press release about a political matter. Frankly, that should have gone out on her campaign letterhead if you or she aren’t going to answer questions about it.

Now, please quit being a gatekeeper for her and pass on my questions to her. Another day has passed since you sent me the press release and I still don’t have but one question answered.

I’m trying not to go around you. I do have her cell phone number and have called her before when it was after hours. But I am avoiding calling her. I guess I’ll have to if I can’t get you to simply forward my questions to her.

So, let’s please stop the back and forth. I’m not asking you any questions about a political matter. I’m asking her.”

No response to that email was received.

When reached for comment, Becton said she was in a meeting and to “send questions to Scott.”

Please check back later for any updates to this report and responses from the DA.

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Antioch Police focusing on serious crimes, DA working to lower jail population during coronavirus shelter in place

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

“I’m trying to keep our officers as healthy as possible, for as long as possible, to keep our community as safe as possible.” – Antioch Police Chief Brooks

We are still filing criminal cases against violent or serious felonies and some misdemeanors like domestic violence,” – Scott Alonso, PIO, CCDA’s Office

Antioch Police Chief Tammany “T” Brooks. Photo by APD.

By Allen Payton

In response to questions asked and concerns expressed by residents about how crime and criminals are being dealt with during the coronavirus pandemic and shelter in place, the Herald reached out to Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks and the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office.

When asked what the Antioch Police Department is doing right now to fight crime and if they are not responding to certain calls, Chief Brooks responded, “Antioch police officers are still responding to all serious, emergency, and in-progress calls.  Other calls for service like suspicious circumstances or low-level crimes without suspect information may result in an officer not responding.  Instead, these are being handled by telephone or by filing an online report.  When appropriate, we are still taking reports, we are still making arrests, and we are still filing cases with the DA’s office.”

“I can understand residents’ frustration with these new temporary protocols, as they are accustomed to receiving full service from us. However, during this global pandemic, we are all figuring out ways to adjust to the health threat we are facing and change our daily routines to fit current circumstances,” he continued. “The general public is being ordered to stay at home and only go out to conduct essential business.  They can control the social distancing around them when out in public or choose what they will or won’t touch.  Police officers don’t have those same safeguards.”

“In an effort to keep our officers safe and healthy, we are trying to limit their exposure to situations that are truly necessary.  This in turn helps keep our community members healthy as well,” Brooks explained. “Think about it, officers can contact multiple people on duty from various lifestyles, with unsanitary hygiene habits, or who may be sick or have been exposed to someone who was sick.  By limiting the number of people officers contact, it reduces the likelihood that the officer will get infected, or the officer infecting others if they are asymptomatic.”

“We have taken several steps to reduce the number of officers who may be quarantined if any of them get exposed to COVID-19 or becomes ill. But there are a number of police agencies that have upwards of 20% of their police officers out of work due to illness or quarantine.  For us that would amount to 22 officers out of work. Such a hit would have drastic effects on our ability to respond to emergency or life-threatening calls,” he explained. “So, I’m trying to keep our officers as healthy as possible, for as long as possible, to keep our community as safe as possible.”

“Nothing in our world is normal right now, and we are all being asked to make sacrifices.  When this virus is under control and these orders are lifted, service levels will be restored.  Until then, I ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we all do the best we can,” Brooks concluded.

District Attorney’s Office Actions

When asked what is happening with those who are arrested, Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer for the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office responded, “We are working with our justice partners to lower the jail population. As you may know the Judicial Council…issued new rules on bail effective April 13. (See related article) We are still filing criminal cases against violent or serious felonies and some misdemeanors like domestic violence.”

“The local agencies are citing and releasing certain individuals. We are also not filing non-serious cases at this time,” he continued. “Defendants are also making motions in court to be released and plead their case for release pending final disposition. We are usually not objecting to an ‘OR’ release (release on your own recognizance).”

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Contra Costa DA: price gouging is illegal during state of emergency

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Violators can face one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000

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

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office wants to remind all residents that price gouging is illegal while our community is under a State of Emergency from the emergence of the novel coronavirus/COVID-19.

Price gouging is when a retailer or seller is attempting to take unfair advantage of the public during an emergency by increasing prices in an unreasonable manner for essential consumer goods and services. California’s anti-price gouging statute, Penal Code Section 396, prohibits raising the price of many consumer goods and services by more than 10 percent after an emergency has been declared.

Members of the public are encouraged to report any instances of gouging to our Consumer Protection Unit by email at DA-ReportFraud@contracostada.org. Individuals may also fill out a consumer complaint form on our website. Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in a one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The DA’s Office is charged with enforcing this statute. Additional civil enforcement action may also be taken by our Office to protect consumers. The California Attorney General’s Office also issued information on price gouging during this emergency.

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DA seeks help identifying person in human trafficking investigation

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

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

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation, Human Trafficking Unit, is seeking the identity of the pictured subject related to an ongoing Human Trafficking investigation. Anyone with information regarding the identity of this subject is requested to contact Sr. Inspector Kevin Coelho at (925) 957-8629.

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