Archive for the ‘District Attorney’ Category

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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Second murder charge filed against driver in stolen vehicle crash in Antioch last Wednesday

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Screenshot from ABC7 News of Camila and Lenexy Cardoza, the victims of a fatal stolen vehicle crash in Antioch, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018.

Second Cardoza daughter dies; Bail for suspect increased to $2,130,000

By Jimmy Lee, Director of Public Affairs, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has filed an additional murder charge against 23-year-old Noe Saucedo of Pittsburg.

On Friday the DA’s Office filed formal charges against Saucedo. He was charged with murder, felony evading, possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of heroin.

Saucedo remains in custody at the Martinez Detention Facility. He is being held in lieu of $2,130,000 bail.

We are saddened to report that 2-year-old Camila Cardoza was officially pronounced deceased at the hospital. Camila was a passenger, along with her sister Lenexy, in a vehicle that was struck by a stolen pick-up truck driven by Noe Saucedo on Wednesday on Somersville Road in Antioch. Lenexy was killed in the collision.

The investigation into the collision is ongoing by the Contra Costa County D.A.’s Office, California Highway Patrol, Antioch Police Department and the Office of the Sheriff per the officer-involved protocol. Investigators are trying to determine why suspect Saucedo stole the Ford F-250 pick-up truck in Pittsburg, why he accelerated away from a Deputy Sheriff who was following him, and why he ran through a red light at the intersection of Somersville Road and the eastbound Highway 4 off-ramp before colliding into another vehicle. In addition, tests are being conducted to determine if Saucedo was impaired in any way.

Anyone with any information on this incident or who may have witnessed it is asked to contact the Office of the Sheriff Investigation Division at (925) 313-2600. For any tips, please email: tips@so.cccounty.us or call 866-846-3592 to leave an anonymous voice message.

For further news about this case on ABC7 News, click here.

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Murder, other charges filed against driver of stolen vehicle in Wednesday crash in Antioch

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Bail set at $1,130,000 for Pittsburg resident Noe Saucedo

By Jimmy Lee, Director of Public Affairs, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff

Noe Saucedo arrest photo. By Contra Costa County Sheriff

Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office this afternoon filed formal charges against Noe Saucedo, the suspect who drove a stolen pick-up truck on Wednesday that crashed into another vehicle on Somersville Road in Antioch. He is being charged with murder, felony evading, possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of hero-in. 23-year-old Saucedo of Pittsburg remains in custody at the Martinez Detention Facility. He is being held in lieu of $1,130,000 bail.

The investigation into the collision is ongoing by the Contra Costa County D.A.’s Office, California Highway Patrol, Antioch Police Department and the Office of the Sheriff per the officer-involved protocol. Investigators are trying to determine why suspect Saucedo stole the Ford F-250 pick-up truck in Pittsburg, why he accelerated away from a Deputy Sheriff who was following him, and why he ran through a red light at the intersection of Somersville Road and the eastbound Highway 4 off-ramp before colliding into another vehicle. In addition, tests are being conducted to determine if Saucedo was impaired in any way.

Yesterday, the four-year-old girl who was killed in the vehicle collision was identified as Lenexy Cordoza. Her two-year-old sister and mother remain at the hospital.

“Clearly, suspect Saucedo took a series of actions that led to this tragedy,” said Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston. “We are saddened by the loss of life and offer our deepest sympathies to the family.”

Anyone with any information on this incident or who may have witnessed it is asked to contact the Office of the Sheriff at (925) 646-2441. For any tips, please email: tips@so.cccounty.us or call 866-846-3592 to leave an anonymous voice message.

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Progressive prosecutor Patrick Vanier drops out of DA’s race backs Becton

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Patrick Vanier. Herald file photo

Today, Friday, January 12, 2018, Patrick Vanier, Supervising Prosecutor in Santa Clara County, and a candidate for Contra Costa County District Attorney issued the following statement:

“When I announced my candidacy for District Attorney last spring, I made it clear that my candidacy was not about me, but about bringing real reform to the office of District Attorney and instituting best practices to bring Contra Costa County’s criminal justice system into the 21st Century.  I was the first to declare my candidacy to challenge former DA Mark Peterson and I am proud to have started the dialogue for change.

A little more than a month later, Mark Peterson resigned from office.  Upon his resignation, the County initiated an appointment process to fill the vacancy. I was honored to be selected by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors as a finalist in that process.

During the appointment process in the summer and fall, I again made it clear that if a person was appointed who can bring progressive leadership to the office of District Attorney and will modernize and standardize how cases are prosecuted, I may not seek election.

Ultimately, the Board of Supervisors voted to appoint retired Judge Diana Becton to be District Attorney. (See related article) Although I was disappointed in not receiving the appointment, I respected the Supervisors’ decision as they recognized the importance of selecting a candidate from outside the dysfunction of the current office. While I was in this race to win, as I felt that I possess the skills this County needs, I also realize the importance of ensuring that change does indeed occur.

Over the past several months I have been following the developments within the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office under District Attorney Diana Becton.  I believe she has undertaken a course of action to run the department in an honest and ethical manner and will utilize the latest technologies, data analytics, and community prosecution models to prevent crime and prosecute cases. I want this County to be focused on ensuring that change continues.

For these reasons, I have decided to withdraw from the race for Contra Costa County District Attorney and fully support and endorse Diana Becton.

I want to thank my supporters for their unflagging support and encouragement and I will be urging them to support Diana Becton.”

On his campaign website, Vanier said he offered “progressive leadership” to the people of Contra Costa County. With him out of the race the remaining candidates, currently are the appointed incumbent, Interim Contra Costa DA Becton and Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves, who entered the race last spring to take on Peterson, prior to his resignation and has the support of most law enforcement organizations in the county. If no other candidates enter the race the winner of the Primary Election in June will be elected. According to the County Elections Office website, the filing period for the election begins February 12 and ends March 9.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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