Archive for the ‘District Attorney’ Category

Former Contra Costa Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla pleads guilty to 9 counts

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Will serve one year in county jail

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

Joe Canciamilla

Martinez, Calif. – Yesterday, Monday, July 12, 2021, former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla pled guilty to perjury and grand theft, totaling nine counts, for illegal activity tied to his multiple political campaign bank accounts. The District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges against Canciamilla last year. Canciamilla resigned in 2019.

Canciamilla will serve 365 days in county jail per his guilty plea. Per the court, the Sheriff’s Office will determine how the custody time will be served. In addition, he was sentenced to two years formal probation by the Honorable Leslie G. Landu.  Due to his felony conviction, Canciamilla will not be able to act as an attorney and he will report his criminal conviction to the California State Bar. Further, he may no longer hold public office or any other elected office.

Canciamilla committed felony perjury for his misstatements on campaign disclosure statements (Form 460s). Canciamilla signed these campaign finance statements under the penalty of perjury. The illegal activity was conducted from 2010 to 2016. The grand theft counts against Canciamilla related to the use of campaign funds for his personal use.

The personal expenditures made by Canciamilla’s campaign committees for his own personal use were:

  • 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

In 2019, Canciamilla was fined $150,000 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission in a civil stipulation for his inaccurate campaign finance statements, which concealed the personal use of campaign funds for his own benefit.

The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Steven Bolen. DDA Bolen is assigned to our Office’s Public Corruption Unit.

Case information: People v. Joseph Canciamilla, Docket Number 01-193934-7.

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Contra Costa, three other county DA’s to finalize $400,000 settlement with MoviePass affiliated executives for unlawful Business Practices

Monday, June 7th, 2021

Following 2018 complaint filed by Contra Costa County resident with California Attorney General’s Office.

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

Martinez, Calif. – On May 20, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the District Attorneys’ Offices of Ventura, Sonoma, and San Joaquin Counties, entered into a negotiated settlement agreement with former MoviePass affiliated executives, Theodore Farnsworth and Mitchell Lowe, for engaging in numerous unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business acts and practices, while overseeing the operations of the now defunct movie theater subscription service. CCCDA MoviePass Documents

In total, Farnsworth and Lowe will have to pay $400,000 in civil penalties and cy pres restitution, as part of the signed Stipulated Judgment approved by the Honorable Nancy Davis Stark. In addition to the monetary payments, Farnsworth and Lowe are enjoined from engaging in any of the alleged unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business acts or practices committed during their tenure as MoviePass managers. The settlement gets divided by all the DA’s involved and some goes to the state. The DA’s then use the monies for consumer protection activities.

MoviePass, Inc. (MoviePass) was an American subscription-based movie ticket service headquarter in New York City. Founded in 2011, the service initially allowed subscribers to purchase up to three movie tickets per month for a discounted monthly fee. The service utilized a mobile phone app where users checked into a theater and chose a movie and showtime, which resulted in the cost of the ticket being loaded by MoviePass to a prepaid MoviePass debit card, which was then used to purchase the ticket from the movie theater.

In 2017, Helios and Matheson Analytics purchased MoviePass. Around the time of the purchase, the business model for MoviePass, shifted from a three movie per month subscription to offering, among other things, an “unlimited” subscription plan at $9.95 a month and an “unlimited” fixed rate annual subscription. However, over the course of the next two years, the business model and terms of service changed multiple times to the detriment of the consumers.
After the acquisition of MoviePass by Helios and Matheson Analytics, the Defendants engaged in numerous unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent acts and practices. These acts and practices include, but are not limited to:

• Falsely advertising that MoviePass subscriptions offer “unlimited” movie watching. Specifically, “any movie”, “any day”, at “any theater”, when in reality MoviePass continually added limitations to customers’ subscriptions.
• Unconscionably changing terms of service during a subscription period.
• Converting all prepaid “unlimited” plans to three movies per month.
• Shutting down the availability of movies when a certain dollar amount is reached. (Trip wire).
• Failing to notify autorenewal customers of material changes to their subscriptions.
• Continuously charging customers’ debit or credit cards after receiving notice of cancellation from customers.

In addition to the above acts and practices, in 2019, MoviePass suffered a data breach. The data breach was the result of a MoviePass engineer creating an unsecured and unencrypted server as a debugging tool. This server had more than 161 million pieces of personal identifying information, including names, MoviePass card numbers, credit card numbers, billing information, email addresses and login information, belonging to at least 58,000 consumers. Despite being notified by private individuals, MoviePass allowed this server to operate for three months before it was taken down. MoviePass failed to advise the California Attorney General’s Office of the data breach, as required by law.

MoviePass shut down its operations in September of 2019. Both MoviePass and its parent company, Helios and Matheson Analytics, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in January of 2020.

In 2018 a local Contra Costa County resident filed a complaint against MoviePass with the California Attorney General’s Office. The complaint alleged that MoviePass was in violation of the Terms of Service as the company was not showing available tickets in the mobile app and limited the number of movies to the consumer even though they paid in advance for a year of “unlimited” service. In turn, the complaint was forwarded to our office for further investigation.

We welcome residents to file consumer complaints with our office via our website, www.contracostada.org. Case information: People v. Theodore Farnsworth and Mitchell Lowe, Docket C21-01045, Contra Costa County Superior Court.

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Tulare couple sentenced for 2019 road rage murder of Oakland man in Antioch

Friday, March 26th, 2021

Defendants Tearri Richard and Lakia Poles. Photos by APD

Life in prison for him, 25 years to life in prison for her

Antioch Police forensic artist’s sketch helped lead to their arrest

By Allen Payton

Homicide Case Update: Defendants Tearri Richard and Lakia Poles were sentenced on Friday, March 26, 2021 in Contra Costa County Superior Court for the road rage murder of 57-year-old Oakland resident Raul Garcia in Antioch on Sept. 1, 2019. (See related articles here, here, here and here)

Defendant Richard was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and defendant Poles was sentenced to 25 years to life. Both defendants were age 26 at the time of the murder and will serve their time in state prison. DDA Aron DeFerrari prosecuted the case on behalf of the People.

“Raul Garcia, the man Tearri Richard and Lakia Poles viciously murdered over a traffic dispute, received justice today,” said DDA DeFerrari. “It is unfathomable that a man’s life could be taken over disagreement about a lane merger that didn’t even result in a collision, yet defendants Richard and Poles hunted Raul Garcia down in the street and killed him for something that trivial; they both deserve the life sentences they were given.”

“The justice achieved today was only possible due to the outstanding investigation by the Antioch Police Department and their top-notch Detective Division,” he added.

APD forensic artist, Detective Joeng and sketch of Tearri Richard. Source: APD

On their Facebook page on Sunday, March 21 the Antioch Police Department posted praise for their sketch artist that helped lead to the couple’s arrest:

“On September 1, 2019, Raul Garcia was murdered after a road rage incident in Antioch. Members of the APD Investigations Bureau began investigating the case and learned of a witness to the incident. Detective Jeong (who is a forensic sketch artist) met with the witness and developed a sketch of the suspect. In the following weeks, detectives obtained additional evidence which led to the arrest of Tearri Richard and Lakia Poles. On November 24, 2020, a jury found both Richard and Poles guilty of murder. Last week, Richard was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and Poles was sentenced to 25-years-to-life. As you can see, Detective Jeong has a special talent in the field of forensic sketches, and we are very lucky he is a member of our team.

The Antioch Police Department will not tolerate violent crime in our city and works hard to achieve justice. We do this not just for our community, but also in memory of those who are lost to senseless violence. We are grateful to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, especially Deputy District Attorney Aron DeFerrari, for his tireless prosecution of this case.

On behalf of the men and women of APD, we express our condolences to the Garcia family.”

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Owner of Concord landscaping company charged with two felonies for 2018 death of employee from Antioch

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Had suspended contractor’s license at the time; occurred in San Ramon

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

Segundo Collazos. From
his Facebook page posted on April 26, 2019.

On Monday, March 1, 2021, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office filed a felony complaint against Segundo Collazos, the owner of Amazon’s Landscaping Company based out of Concord. (See Complaint Collazos February 2021)

The charges relate to the 2018 death of Manuel Peralta, then 68, of Antioch, California, who died while operating a rented tree stump grinder in San Ramon. At the time of the incident, defendant Segundo Collazos had a suspended license with the Contractors State License Board. The investigation began from the California Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety & Health Bureau of Investigations.

The first felony alleges that defendant Collazos permitted the victim Manuel Peralta to use a stump grinder in a manner contrary to manufacturer recommendations and to work in the danger zone of the cutting wheel, resulting in his death. The second felony alleges that Collazos failed to properly train Peralta on the proper and safe use of the stump grinder, also resulting in his death.

The District Attorney’s Office reminds homeowners to check that a contractor is currently licensed and insured before hiring them for residential construction work. Homeowners can check the validity of a license number on the Contractors’ State Licensing Board website or call (800) 321-CSLB (2752).

“When a Cal/OSHA investigation reveals evidence a worker’s serious injury or death involves criminal misconduct, our Bureau of Investigations Unit refers those cases to the local District Attorney’s Office for prosecution,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker. “We thank the Contra Costa County District Attorney for their work on this case. Employers must be made aware that disregarding the requirement to train and supervise workers using dangerous equipment can lead to tragedy and possible jail time.”

Deputy District Attorney Ryan Morris is prosecuting the case on behalf of the People. DDA Morris is assigned to our Office’s Special Operations Division.

Case information: People v. Segundo Collazos, Docket Number 01-195521-0.

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Contra Costa DA Becton supports California Supreme Court decision to prevent minors from being tried as adults

Friday, February 26th, 2021

By Allen Payton

Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton issued a statement regarding Thursday’s California Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutionality of Senate Bill 1391 (Lara).

Proposition 57, passed in the November 2016 general election, requires prosecutors to commence all cases involving a minor in juvenile court. Senate Bill No. 1391 enacted in 2018, amended Proposition 57 to prohibit minors under the age of 16 from being transferred to adult criminal court.

In the case of O.G. v. The Superior Court of Ventura County, the Court of Appeal held that Senate Bill 1391 is inconsistent with Proposition 57 and thus invalid. The state Supreme Court overruled the lower court’s decision.

“We agree with the majority view that Senate Bill 1391 was a permissible amendment to Proposition 57 and we reverse the judgment in this case,” the decision reads.

“Today’s unanimous decision by the Supreme Court is an important moment for the criminal justice system to give children a chance at rehabilitation for crimes they committed during their youth,” said Becton. “I have always believed this law was constitutional and should be followed. Our local judges in Contra Costa County have also agreed with me.”

“The juvenile justice system currently is not working,” she continued. “I established a task force to examine how to reform our juvenile justice system. We must think differently on how we treat children and ensure we strategically allocate resources to focus on prevention and rehabilitation efforts.”

The full Supreme Court decision is available here.

Scott Alonso, PIO, CCCDA contributed to this report.

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Formal charges of murder, other crimes filed against suspect in Antioch drive-by shooting and Discovery Bay homicide

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Also tied to store robbery in Brentwood; bail lowered from $11 million to $9.8 million

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

This morning detectives from the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff, Antioch Police Department and Brentwood Police Department jointly filed their cases against 26-year-old Darryon Williams of Stockton. He is the suspect in Saturday’s multiple shooting of first responders in Antioch, a murder in Discovery Bay and robbery in Brentwood. The Contra Costa D.A.’s Office has filed the following charges against Williams: Complaint filed vs. Williams February 24 2021

  • Murder
  • Second degree robbery
  • Shooting from a vehicle
  • Assault on peace officer/firefighter with semiautomatic firearm (6 counts)
  • Assault with a semiautomatic firearm (3 counts)
  • Fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving recklessly

Williams remains in custody at the Martinez Detention Facility. He is being held in lieu of $9,790,270 bail. According to Scott Alonso, PIO for the Contra Costa DA’s Office, Williams’ arraignment will be held Thursday, Feb. 25 at 1:30 p.m. in Department 1 of the Contra Costa County Superior Court building in Martinez.

The Office of the Sheriff would like to thank the Antioch and Brentwood Police Departments for their assistance during our homicide investigation. The three agencies worked together closely and collaboratively. The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information on the Discovery Bay homicide is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office Investigation Division through Sheriff’s Office dispatch at (925) 646-2441 or at (925) 313-2600. For any tips, email: tips@so.cccounty.us or call (866) 846-3592 to leave an anonymous voice message.

The Antioch Police Department can be reached at (925) 778-2441. Anonymous text tips can be sent to 274637 with the keyword ANTIOCH. The Brentwood Police Department can be reached at (925) 809-7911.

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Supervisors chastise DA Becton over outdoor wedding, OK demolishing old admin, county jail buildings

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

Historic photo of old Contra Costa County jail. Source: Architectural Preservation Foundation of Contra Costa

Architectural Preservation Foundation wants old jail preserved for other uses; Board hears from Budget Justice Coalition on COVID related equity issues; COVID-19 variant draws concern

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa Supervisors Candace Andersen and Karen Mitchoff chastised Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton, during the Board’s meeting on Tuesday, for holding her wedding reception in the backyard of her El Sobrante home in August in violation of COVID-19 health protocols.

“I think we give up hope when our top public officials improperly conduct themselves,” District 4 Supervisor Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill said.

“What District Attorney Becton did was wrong.  There were so many events that so many of us had to give up that were important,” Mitchoff later said. “It just needs to be called out.  We cannot sweep it under the rug and act as if this did not happen.”

“I feel very frustrated about the wedding District Attorney Becton had at her home” remarked District 2 Supervisor Andersen of Danville.  “I was very surprised that she would have a party after a wedding, knowing it was in violation of county health codes.”

In her defense, Becton said: “I did everything I believe was in proper guidance with what I thought was allowed.  I realize public officials like myself are held to a higher standard as we should be.”

Becton married Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Bernstine, a fourth-generation preacher and the author of his most recently published book, Hope Us, Lord. (See related article)

Approve Demolition of Old County Administration Building, Old County Jail

Over the concerns of preservationists, supervisors flashed the green light for Contra Costa County Public Works officials to hire a design-build contractor to demolish the old 12-story county administration complex at 651 Pine Street in Martínez and the old county jail across the street from the administration complex so that either a two or three-story office building can be constructed on the site of the old administration building.

In December, the county opened a new four-story, 71,000 square foot Administration Building across the street from old the Pine Street building.

It would cost about $65 million to demolish the old building and then build a two-story building and $75 million to build a three-story office building.  The County plans to provide parking and open public space on the land cleared through demolition.

“Four years ago, we presented over 300 signatures to you for preservation,” said Architectural Preservation Foundation of Contra Costa President Cheryll Grover. “There has been no current relevant community outreach on this issue.”

According to the organization’s website, “In 1989 the entire Contra Costa County ‘Court House Block’ was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the 1903 County Jail and the present-day Finance Building.  The National Register described these as classically inspired dignified structures of Vermont granite ‘designed to represent stability and permanence.’”

County officials have shown interest in using the Pine Street site for office space for the Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, Public Offender’s Office, Health Services and the Office of Racial Justice and Equality.

Supervisors said because of the old jails building material – concrete to keep prisoners inside along with concerns about the presence of asbestos, made it problematic to renovate the old jail.  Grover said her preservation group did propose alternative proposals to rehabilitate the old jail, but their proposals apparently fell short of the mark as far as meeting County Public Works criteria.

From slide show presentation to CCCBOS 020921.

Hear from Budget Justice Coalition on COVID Related Equity Issues

In other action, the Supervisors heard a presentation from the Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition and the Bay Area Equity Atlas on COVID Related Equity Issues, to ensure all county residents are treated fairly during recovery from the pandemic.

According to their slide show, “The Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition advocates for community engagement in the Contra Costa County budgeting process and for a set of values-based budgeting principles that support safe and affordable housing, stable employment with fair wages, sufficient healthy food, essential health care, access to critical social services, and quality early care and education.”

Presenters spoke on the subjects of Disparate COVID Health, Housing, and Economic Impacts, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) Community Challenges and Stabilizing Neighborhoods and Equitable Relief.

They offered proposed solutions and plans of action in response including: “Producing and Maintaining lasting affordable housing”; “Prioritize equity and those most in need – evictions, food, housing, health, essential services”; “Protect and stabilize vulnerable households and workers”; “Connect low-wage workers with economic opportunities”; and “‘Build Back Better’ through equitable investments in a stronger, fairer, more sustainable economy”; among others.

Santa Clara County COVID-19 Variant Draws County Warning

A deadly Coronavirus variant now prevalent in Santa Clara County could surface in Contra Costa County, Contra Costa County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano informed supervisors.

“Getting a vaccine is still the most important thing one can do to protect oneself,” said Dr. Farnitano upon informing supervisors about the Santa Clara County variant.  So far, 800 patients in Santa Clara County have been stricken with this variant and “there have been a couple of cases of this variant in Contra Costa County,” he said.  “We expect to be more knowledgeable about this variant in the next couple of weeks.”

The Santa Clara County COVID-10 variant is one of a number of Coronavirus strains to have surfaced globally, particularly in Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Dr. Farnitano said because Contra Costa County remains in the Purple Tier, at or under 46.2 new infections as it was in late January, school grade levels K to 6 can “bring back students as soon as tomorrow (Wednesday).”  The restart of school for grade levels 7 to 12 will be determined later.

County health officials made the COVID-19 announcements at the same time United States health officials announced Tuesday that the most severe surge of the COVID-19 pandemic in the nation has weakened significantly based on major metrics.  Nationally, newly reported cases have declined 56 percent over the past 30 days.  Hospitalizations have declined 38 percent since January 6.  The seven-day average of COVID-19 tests returning positive declined to 6.93 percent over the past week, the lowest rate since October 31.

Dr. Farnitano announced religious institutions can reopen at 25 percent occupancy, but chanting, singing and the serving of food are prohibited, he said.

Contra Costa Health Services Director Anna Roth also confirmed the county will receive $40 million in stated COVID-19 vaccine distribution funding but, could not provide details.  Last week, there were initial reports the state aid the county would receive would be shared with health organizations Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield.

County Health Equity Officer Gilbert Salinas said the county’s efforts to equitably distribute the vaccine throughout the county, especially in parts of the county where there are more people of color or economically disadvantaged is gaining traction.  He reported that about 70,000 vaccine shots had been administered to county residents and retailers like Safeway, RiteAid, and WalMart are participating in the administration of vaccine shots.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

 

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Contra Costa DA Becton marries minister and preaches at their Richmond church

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

Rev. Dr. Alvin Bernstine introduces his wife, Rev. Diana Becton who then preaches at their Richmond church on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. Video screenshots.

A fourth-generation preacher, Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Bernstine introduces her as his “fellow colleague in the ministry”, says she faces the “yeast of Americanism…white supremacy”; during Martin Luther King Sunday sermon Rev. Diana Becton says attack on U.S. Capitol “fueled by the hate of white supremacists”; both teach theology at Oakland institute

By Allen Payton

Following news articles on Sunday that Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton held her wedding and reception in the backyard of her El Sobrante home, last August, in violation of COVID-19 restrictions, a YouTube video revealed that her new husband is Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Bernstine, MDiv, DMin. He has been the pastor of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in Richmond since 2006.

According to his ministry website, he is a fourth-generation preacher, who has been preaching for over 40 years. Bernstine recently authored a book entitled, Hope Us, Lord. Among his previous publications are The Evening and The Morning Ministry, and In A Disaster Zone: The Seven Sayings of Jesus as Preached in an Urban African American Church.

He introduced Becton during a virtual service from their church on Sunday, Jan. 17 as “my incredible wife” and “my dear friend, and buddy, golf partner, book sharer reader, fellow colleague even in the ministry.”

“By the way, I have been married with her for 138 days…and I am grateful to God,” Bernstine added.

Becton can also be seen in a video on the church’s Facebook page introducing him during the service, this past Sunday, Feb. 7.

During Bernstine’s introduction of Becton on Jan. 17, which he labeled Martin Luther King Sunday, the day before the national holiday, he said, “One of the things we have to guard ourselves against is this whole notion of individualized salvation and individualized freedom. Because what is plaguing our nation, now is we got some folk, they are free, but they don’t want you to be free. And so, if I’m going to be free you need to be free, then we need to celebrate that we are free.”

“It is on that note that I want to do something special, today. The Lord laid it on my heart to invite the Rev. Diana Becton to speak to us,” Bernstine stated.

“Beware of the yeast of the Sadducees and the Pharisees…beware of their teaching,” he said. “Their teaching tends to be anthropocentric and ethnocentric. In other words, it’s so focused on who they were as people and who they were as a culture, that it literally displaced God. Whenever you do that, you’re in trouble. So, he said don’t focus, don’t give so much attention, don’t give so much of your life to their teaching.”

“Because one of the things that kind of teaching can do, because that’s what it has done in America, it can make you think you’re something you’re not. And the yeast of America is this, you all,” Bernstine continued, then getting political. “The yeast is a bad teaching because it will have you doing crazy things like storming the Capitol or have you doing crazy things by plotting to storm the capitols of fifty states. Because it got you thinking you’re something that you are not. I wish I can make it plain. Amen?”

“So, the yeast of Americanism is white supremacy, where white people, they believe they’re superior and then it makes black people inferior,” he said. “Beware of any yeast that makes you think that you are inferior. I wish I could make this plain, and that some other folk are superior.”

“So, it’s on that note that I want to introduce our preacher, for today,” said Bernstine. “She’s been experiencing the yeast, because as an attorney, she experienced the yeast. As one of the first judges in our county she experienced the yeast. And Lord knows she’s been experiencing the yeast as the first woman and the first person of color to be elected as District Attorney of Contra Costa County. The yeast is still out there, ya’ll.”

“But we are excited that in the midst of all that, as an attorney, a retired judge, District Attorney,” he shared. “But we celebrate her, here. But she wears that tag…of the First Lady of the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church.”

“She’s my first lady, my only lady because I don’t have no firsts and seconds. Amen,” Bernstine continued. “My mama was my first, but she’s gone. So, she’s my first…my only.”

Becton then preached a sermon entitled “A Maladjusted Jesus” and opened in prayer, thanking God for the life and example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (See the 37:38 mark of the video) Her message was from Matthew 9:36-38 and she spoke of “the full-blown insurrection, that attempted coup that took place in our capitol…the violence, the crazy madness fueled by the hatred of white supremacists and even the words of the President of the United States. That stuff is not normal. What we see is a national tragedy, and in this abnormal moment, I share the words of Dr. Martin Luther King. ‘God grant that we be so maladjusted that we will never be able to go out and feel that all of this is normal.’”

Becton then quoted from a speech by Dr. King, that “he argues that there are some things in this world, in our society to which we ought to never become adjusted” including “the viciousness of a mob rule…the evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination…the inequalities of an economic system that takes the necessities of the masses to give luxuries to the classes.”

“We have adjusted to what is truly abnormal,” she said.

Becton then brought her sermon back to the text, “because that’s where we find Jesus. He is seeing those who are sick, blind, stressed, grieving, with souls that are uncared for. And what Jesus saw broke his heart. Take note because you just walked into the space with a maladjusted Jesus. He’s a compassionate Jesus who demonstrates that He never intended to accept the inequalities of this world. Jesus was maladjusted.”

She then exhorted listeners to be like Jesus, to see the need, feel compassion, and be troubled by their pain.

“We are just not moved anymore. We have adjusted, accepting the things that are just not normal. Things that would have broken the heart of Jesus,” Becton said. “We have to shake off our lethargy, stop walking past human brokenness in our communities. We have to feel compassion for the people. We’ve got to stop normalizing these painful circumstances. For surely anything that broke the heart of Jesus should break our hearts, too.”

She shared a quote from Rev. Raphael Warnock, the new U.S. Senator from Georgia, and then encouraged people to help others with “basic things like food and they still need to feel safe. So, we can think about ways to fulfill those needs.”

“The hallmark of Jesus’ ministry was compassion,” Becton shared. “Jesus saw the need. Jesus felt the need and Jesus was moved to meet the need. So, if we’re going to be like Jesus, we too have to see, we have to feel and then we have to be moved by compassion to do something.”

She concluded with quotes by Dr. King.

“In the spirit of Martin Luther King, today, let us remember some of the words that were spoken by a man who changed the world. ‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great of a burden to bear.’” Becton said. “In the words of Martin Luther King I call upon all of you to be maladjusted, today. God grant that we will go. That we will be so maladjusted that we will be able to go out and change the world. See, feel, move and be maladjusted.”

Becton, Bernstine Also Teach Theology

As previously reported by the Herald, Becton earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Pacific School of Religion. (See related article) The school’s website includes the following description.

“Vision: Living a Radically Welcoming Gospel – Whether ministering to the local homeless community or participating in our MultiFaith Transgender Summit, PSR students embody a message of radical inclusivity. Our two centers, Ignite Institute @ PSR and Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion, share an expansive, hopeful message of spiritual and social transformation.”

The school is a member of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), an interreligious consortium of seminaries and institutes in the Bay Area. That includes the Berkeley School of Theology affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA, of which Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland is a member.

Both Becton and Bernstine teach at the Leadership Institute at Allen Temple in Oakland. She is Professor of Theological Studies and he is Professor of Homelitics/Preaching and Christian Ministry Cohort Leader.

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