Archive for the ‘District Attorney’ Category

Highlighting her efforts to transform department Becton launches re-election campaign for Contra Costa DA

Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

Will have to defend controversial policies as one of nation’s Soros-backed district attorneys; faces two challengers, including career prosecutor

Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton from her 2022 re-election campaign website.

By Allen D. Payton

In a press release issued Monday, Feb. 14 and received by the Herald on Tuesday, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton announced her campaign for re-election in the June 7th Primary Election.

According to the announcement, on February 12, 2022, at the U.A. 342 Union Hall in Concord, state and county elected and labor leaders joined more than 150 community members as Becton kicked off her campaign.

“Four years ago, Contra Costa voters elected me as your district attorney with overwhelming, majority support,” said DA Becton. “In these challenging times, feeling safe in our homes and our communities is what we all deserve. I am proud to say I have worked hard to deliver safety, justice and progress for the people of Contra Costa County. I am running for re-election to continue the important work of making our communities safer and our system more fair for everyone, and I thank the people of Contra Costa County for their support.”

The press release claims, since taking office, DA Becton has kept her promise to make real and lasting change, transforming the District Attorney’s Office into one that works for everyone in Contra Costa County and delivering justice for victims. She has worked to support victims, focus resources on violent crime and reduce mass incarceration. Under her leadership, the District Attorney’s Office also has developed and enhanced diversion programs and encouraged treatment for those who suffer from mental illness and drug addiction. She is also advancing youth justice by establishing a juvenile diversion pre-filing program and creating the Reimagine Youth Justice Task Force to recommend alternatives to prison for young people.

During her tenure 51 veteran deputy DA’s have left the department for one reason or another, and 40 rookie deputies were hired following their graduation from law school. No lateral hires of veteran prosecutors from other agencies to fill the vacancies have occurred.

“My priority has always been serving the people of Contra Costa and making our voices heard on issues that matter most,” said Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11). “When it comes to the safety of our families and our communities, there is no one who will work harder than District Attorney Diana Becton. Her proven leadership has led to tremendous progress to help keep our communities safe and our system more fair and equitable. I’m proud to support her campaign.”

Among her other accomplishments, District Attorney Becton:

  • Co-leads the FBI Safe Streets Task Force that coordinates the resources of federal, state and local law enforcement on violent crime.
  • Continues to file felony charges in organized retail theft incidents in Walnut Creek, coordinating with law enforcement partners throughout the Bay Area.
  • Eliminated backlog of untested sexual assault kits and established the county’s first Human Trafficking Unit.
  • Established Cold Case Homicide Unit to pursue justice for the victims and families of unsolved murders.
  • Joined Code for America initiative to dismiss thousands of old marijuana convictions, which disproportionately affect people of color in the community.
  • Piloted the California County Resentencing Program to address excessive sentencing.
  • Partnered with The Vera Institute of Justice (VERA) on data analysis to uncover and address bias in the disposition of criminal cases. (See related article)
  • Strengthened the internal investigative procedures associated with the investigation of officer-involved shootings and banned use of carotid hold by DA office investigators. (See related article)
  • Successfully held a local steel company accountable for dumping toxic waste in the community. The local steel company was forced to pay a $4 million fine. (See related article)

“District Attorney Diana Becton has made lasting changes in her efforts to transform and reimagine the DA’s office into one that works for everyone,” said BART Board Director Lateefah Simon, who represents District 7 which includes portions of West County. “We need a leader who is prioritizing safety for our communities while staying resolute in working to reduce mass incarceration’s harm on Black communities and communities of color. I thank her for her courage and historic leadership.”

As part of that transformation and efforts to “reimagine the DA’s office”, Becton has taken controversial positions on various issues during her term in office, including supporting banning campaign contributions for DA candidates from police officer unions. (See related articles here and here)

She has also issued controversial policies for her department. In 2020 Becton issued a policy requiring prosecutors consider the reason for looting during a state of emergency before charging suspects with a crime. (See related article)

Then in late 2020, she announced a policy that prevents her department from prosecuting certain first-time criminals including drug offenders arrested with small amounts or for other crimes such as shoplifting, petty theft, disorderly conduct. (See related article)

In addition, in an effort to fulfill a campaign promise from 2018, in December, Becton announced a new Neighborhood Restorative Partnership program, a voluntary, neighborhood-focused, adult diversion, restorative justice initiative addressing root causes of criminal behavior, reducing recidivism, enhancing community relationships, and promoting public safety and quality of life. She put her office’s Assistant Investigator/Facility K9 Handler in charge of the program, who said in December, the procedures, guidelines, and logistics are still under development. As of Wednesday, Feb. 16, a group of volunteers was interviewed and selected to participate, but the program has not yet launched.  (See related article)

Appointed by the Board of Supervisors, Becton took office in 2017 as the first woman and first African-American District Attorney in the County’s 167-year history “with overwhelming countywide and community support” her campaign press release stated. She was then elected in 2018 as one of several left-leaning, progressive DA’s in the nation backed by billionaire George Soros in an effort to reshape America’s criminal justice system. According to a report by RepublicBroadcasting.org, Becton was “backed by $275,000 from Soros in 2018,” and is “one of the first in the position to have zero prior experience as a prosecutor. During Becton’s first years in office four Contra Costa cities (Richmond, Antioch, Pittsburg and Concord) made the list of the top 100 most dangerous cities in California in 2018, and both violent crime and property crime increased by several percent during 2019.”

Becton married a Richmond minister in summer 2020 and stirred controversy by hosting the wedding and reception in her back yard violation of COVID-19 orders. She was chastised by the Board of Supervisors for her actions. (See related articles here, here and here).

Becton is currently the only African-American District Attorney in California. According to the Contra Costa Elections office, as of Tuesday, Feb. 15, she faces two challengers in the race, including criminal defense attorney Lawrence Strauss, who placed a distant third in the 2018 election, and veteran Contra Costa Deputy DA Mary Knox. Read more about DA Becton at www.dianabecton.com.

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Candidate filing period for June 7 Primary Election begins Monday

Saturday, February 12th, 2022

For county DA, sheriff, supervisor, Superior Court judges and other offices, U.S. Senate, Congress, governor and other statewide offices, and State Assembly

By Dawn Kruger, Civic Outreach/Engagement Specialist, Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder-Elections Department

On Monday, February 14, the June 7, 2022, Candidate Filing Period will begin, and nomination papers will be available for candidates running for Statewide Constitutional offices, County offices, Superior Court judges, United States Senator, United States Representative in Congress and Member of the State Assembly. The nomination period runs through 5:00 pm Friday, March 11, 2022.  A list of offices currently up for election can be found here: https://www.cocovote.us/wp-content/uploads/22Jun07_PositionsUpForElection-1.pdf

Papers for offices that are up for election will be available at the Contra Costa Elections Office, 555 Escobar Street, Martinez.

For further information on the primary election and key dates, visit www.cocovote.us.

With COVID-19 still in play, the Contra Costa Elections Division is asking interested candidates to schedule an appointment through email at candidate.services@vote.cccounty.us or by calling 925-335-7800. Walk-ins are accepted, but subject to the availability of staff. Appointments are available on weekdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Filing documents and information will be provided to interested constituents at their appointment. The process takes 20 minutes.

All visitors will be asked to check-in at the Elections lobby and will be required to wear a mask and observe social distancing guidelines.

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Contra Costa DA announces restorative justice program U.S. DOJ found to be moderately effective or worse

Friday, December 17th, 2021

By Allen Payton

The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office announced, last Friday, their new Neighborhood Restorative Partnership program. It is a neighborhood-focused restorative justice initiative addressing root causes of criminal behavior, reducing recidivism, enhancing community relationships, and promoting public safety and quality of life. The NRP is a program in which eligible individuals are given an opportunity to take responsibility and repair the harm they caused through a community-based process, instead of a courtroom.

This program is:

  • A community-based pre-filing program.
  • A program designed to give individuals an opportunity to take responsibility and repair harm they cause.
  • And will consist of community volunteers trained as panelists to find solutions that help address the harm caused by these offenders and by focusing on restoring all who have been impacted.

U.S. DOJ Study Found “Moderate” and Lower Program Results

A U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs study, published in 2017, that “systematically reviewed all available research that, at a minimum, compared participants in a restorative justice program to participants processed traditionally by the juvenile justice system”, found that such programs had a “moderate reduction in future delinquent behavior” and the “results were smaller for the more credible random assignment studies”.

“Abstract – The distinctive feature of restorative justice programs is the objective of addressing the causes of the offender’s delinquent behavior while remedying the harms caused to the victims. A fundamental component of restorative justice programs is some form of dialog or interaction between the offender and the victim or a victim surrogate, with some programs extending participation to family and community members. Examples of restorative justice programs include victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, and sentencing circles. Also, some routine practices of the juvenile justice system such as restitution are consistent with restorative justice principles, and some programs incorporate some aspect of the framework, such as teen courts. This systematic meta-analysis of evaluation research on restorative justice programs identified 99 publications, both published and unpublished, reporting on the results of 84 evaluations nested within the 60 unique research projects or studies. From these studies, the meta-analysis extracted results related to delinquency, non-delinquency, and outcomes for the youth and victims participating in these programs. Overall, the evaluations of restorative justice programs and practices showed a moderate reduction in future delinquent behavior relative to more traditional juvenile court processing; however, these results were smaller for the more credible random assignment studies, which raises concerns about the robustness of this overall result. Additional high-quality research of such programs is warranted, given the promising but uncertain findings. 14 tables, 30 figures, and search notes”

Questions for DA Becton & Program Coordinator

Both District Attorney Diana Becton and program coordinator and Janet Era, Assistant Investigator/Facility K9 Handler with the DA’s office, were asked the following questions about the program on Monday:

Do you have more details about the Neighborhood Restorative Partnership that you can share?

How will the community-based process work? Is it just for juveniles or adults, too?

How many panelists per neighborhood panel? When and where will the panels meet?

How can you assure an individual that is the focus of the effort will actually attend their meeting with the neighborhood panel?

What percentage of individuals assigned to such programs actually show up for their neighborhood panel meeting? If they do, what are the kinds of assignments that can be ordered by the panel for the individual to “to take responsibility and repair the harm they caused”? Who provides the enforcement to ensure the assignment is completed?

Are the assignments based on a negotiated agreement with the individual and victims?

What if there are costs involved to repair the harm they caused will the individual be required to pay those costs? What if they can’t afford to do that, will the costs be paid for by the program?

Once the assignment is completed, what happens next? Is their record expunged?

How much will the program cost?

Finally, are you aware of the US DOJ study published in 2017 showing such programs for juveniles have a moderate impact or less?

Program Coordinator Responds

In an email response received, today, Era wrote, “The Neighborhood Restorative Justice Partnership (NRP) is an adult diversion program. NRP provides an opportunity for the participant to resolve their case in the community as opposed to a courtroom, by utilizing restorative justice practices. Offenders are given an opportunity to take responsibility and repair the harm they caused through a community-based resolution process.

NRP provides an opportunity for the victim to be heard and for the community to participate in the resolution process. We anticipate three panelists per panel. Eligible cases are diverted by the District Attorney’s Office into the NRP program. While participation is voluntary, participants must be willing to take accountability for their actions that caused the harm. Each case is unique; therefore, panelists will prepare individualized obligation plans for each participant.

Upon successful completion of the program, criminal charges will not be filed. NRP will track recidivism of the participants who complete the program for a period of 24 months. We have shadowed other agencies in other counties, including Yolo County, Los Angeles City Attorney, and San Francisco County. These counties have published a high rate of success at reducing recidivism. If the individual does not complete the program, criminal charges will be filed by the District Attorney’s office.

The procedures, guidelines, and logistics for the Neighborhood Restorative Justice Partnership are still under development. Participation is voluntary and confidential. There are no program fees, however there may be costs associated with repairing the harm caused by the individual.”

Program Contact Information

If interested in becoming a panelist with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, please complete an application and send to:

Contra Costa County

District Attorney’s Office

Attn: Janet Era

Assistant Investigator/Facility K9 Handler

Contra Costa County Office of the District Attorney

Neighborhood Restorative Partnership

900 Ward Street, 2nd Floor

Martinez, CA 94553

DA-NRP@contracostada.org

Click on this link for a copy of Application

Click on this link to view NRP Flyer

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Antioch Police won’t release body, dash cam videos of October incident at councilwoman’s home, yet

Monday, December 13th, 2021

Antioch District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker.

Claim they’re privileged and “exempt from disclosure at this time”; DA says they’re evidence

Torres-Walker surprised by misdemeanor charge for interfering with police, denies bullet casings found on her property

“There were multiple shell casings that were located in the street directly in front of Councilwoman Torres-Walker’s residence.” APD Captain Schnitzius

By Allen Payton

In response to a Public Records Act (PRA) request for copies of the police officer body and vehicle dash cam videos of the October 2, 2021 incident at Antioch District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker’s home, Interim Antioch Police Chief Tony Morefield said his department won’t release them because at this time as they are privileged. In addition, Captain Trevor Schnitzius said the Contra Costa DA’s office says the reason is they are evidence. (See related article)

The request was made on Oct. 4, 2021 in an email to the then-acting chief and City Attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith. It was sent, again on Oct. 6 and included City Manager Ron Bernal asking, “When will a press release be issued about this very serious incident? Also, how soon can the police body and dash cam videos be released? I know it’s new technology for our city, but how quickly can that happen?”

In response to that email that same day, Bernal wrote, “Thanks for the info Tony. I have a call into Rolando to discuss this and a couple of other things. I expect to have something to discuss by our 4:00 pm meeting today,” referring to the City’s public information officer, Rolando Bonilla.

But no press release was issued by the City, at that time, nor since.

Then on Oct. 10, APD Police Records Supervisor Lynn Dansie said the incident was still under investigation and the videos would not be released but, provided some details of what occurred, as previously reported. (See related article)

“The Antioch Police Department is in receipt of your recent Public Records Act request for body camera footage and dash camera footage of a recent incident that resulted in case #21-8418, involving a local Councilwoman. Because this is an active investigation and still considered to be an open case, the records that may be responsive to your request are being denied for release under GC 6254(f), GC 6254(k) and GC 6255(a), at this time,” she wrote.”

“A press release is not planned to be released,” Dansie continued. “As described in GC 6254(f)(2), the following details regarding the call, are available. Officers responded to the 500 block of Gary Ave on October 3, 2021 at 0027 hrs, for a report of a loud party and shots heard, in the area.  There were no victims, no injuries, and no property loss determined at the time of officers [sic] arrival.  As mentioned, this is an open and continuing investigation at this time.”

In a follow up email sent Monday, Nov. 8, asking when the body and dash cam videos will be available, if the investigation has been completed and if not, when expected it to be.

DA Charges Torres-Walker for Interfering with Police

Finally, on Tuesday, Nov. 9, another email was sent to Morefield asking, again for the videos. Referring to an East County Today news report about Torres-Walker being charged by the Contra Costa DA with a misdemeanor for her actions during the incident, the interim chief was asked, “Now that it’s out, will you please send out a press release about it to the rest of the media and release the dash and body cam footage to all of us?”

Denial Letter Received Nov. 9

In a letter to the Herald received Nov. 9, Morefield wrote, “The City…has concluded that” the videos “are statutorily exempt from disclosure at this time.” His letter then cited several state government codes supporting the decision.

Torres-Walker Surprised by Charge, Denies Bullet Casings on Her Property

On Nov. 10 KTVU FOX2 reported Councilwoman Torres-Walker said she was surprised to be charged by the District Attorney’s office and denied there were any bullet shell casings on her property.

Additional Questions for Antioch Police

Questions were then sent to Morefield about his decision asking, “why are the dash and body cam videos of the incident at Councilwoman Torres-Walker’s home privileged? I don’t understand and most likely neither will the public. Won’t you be able to say that about all of the dash and body cam videos the department acquires of all incidents? If not, what makes this one special? Because it involves a councilwoman? Or because she was only charged with a misdemeanor?

In addition, he was asked, “when will a press release about what occurred that night and the charges against her be sent? Don’t you agree the public has a right to know what their elected officials do that is illegal, especially when it involves gunshots at their house?”

Regarding the videos being statutorily exempt from disclosure at this time, Morefield was asked why and if it’s because the prosecution of Councilwoman Torres-Walker is underway. He was also asked if it also means the videos will eventually be released, possibly once the prosecution is completed.

APD Responds: Bullet Casings Located Street in Front of Torres-Walker’s Home; DA: Video is Evidence

In an email response on Nov. 22, Captain Trevor Schnitzius wrote, “With respect to Councilwoman Torres-Walker, we understand PRA and the balancing test of public interest vs. right to privacy as well as other provisions within PRA.  In this instance, we have reached out to Simon O’Connell from the CCC DA’s office regarding yours and others request.  It has been our position, and also the position of the CCC District Attorney’s Office that this particular video is and continues to be evidence.  Upon our inquiry with the DA’s office, they also advised our agency the release of this video prior to a trial could be detrimental to the prosecution of the pending criminal case.  Regarding your inquiry as to whether or not Councilwoman Torres-Walker was arrested/cited, any information with regards to this cannot be released.  After a period of 30 days any arrest information becomes local criminal history and is not subject to release pursuant to PC 1330.  This advisement is not to be construed as to indicate an arrest was made/not made in this particular case.”

In addition, Schnitzius wrote, “The one bit of information I can provide (public interest outweighs privacy) is in reference to your inquiry regarding shell casings.  There were multiple shell casings that were located in the street directly in front of Councilwoman Torres-Walker’s residence.”

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Candidate for Contra Costa DA, Mary Knox offers three-point plan to prevent smash-and-grab retail theft

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

Sources: (Left) Herald file photo and (Right) Mary Knox for DA campaign.

The current DA has been slow to respond to flash mob robberies, and once she responds, she’s ineffective. Given my 36 years of experience as a Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney, I know the District Attorney can do more. We need to implement these three steps immediately:

  1. Convene a Bay Area-wide law enforcement response to track and apprehend suspects 

Contra Costa law enforcement agencies are partnered to provide mutual aid during emergency situations.  This “mutual aid” concept should be employed throughout the Bay Area to strategically shut down access routes for potential retail targets to intervene and prevent crime before it happens.

The investigative and technological expertise of this team will:

  • Identify the criminal syndicates who organize the smash-and-grab robberies
  • Intercept the “chatter” on social media planning these events
  • Share information between law enforcement agencies to quickly locate and arrest perpetrators

The ideal team to coordinate this activity is the DA/FBI Safe Streets Task Force, comprised of local, state, and federal task force agents who are partnered with prosecutors assigned to the Community Violence Reduction Unit (a unit that I created in the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office).

Given the violence involved and the value of the merchandise being stolen, the Task Force will collaborate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to charge qualifying cases under the Hobbs Act and prosecute them in federal court.

The criminal syndicates committing the smash-and-grab robberies, as well as strings of residential burglaries in Contra Costa, are mobile and active in surrounding counties.  During the past four years, regional law enforcement agencies have done an impressive job of sharing information to identify the true scope of the criminality of these crews and to provide investigative support.  The information supplied by this well-coordinated network provided me with the evidence required to file multiple counts following very significant organized retail theft and residential robberies.  I worked with the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill Police Departments through the investigative challenges of the looting in 2020 and filed charges on a number of suspects.  As District Attorney, I will continue to support this allied inter-county effort.

  1. Prevent the use of our freeways as crime corridors, deploy cameras 

Organized shoplifting gangs have been using the regional freeway system to quickly move between targets in neighboring law enforcement jurisdictions.  By the time an investigation starts at the first crime, the gang has moved on to loot another store in the next county.

Contra Costa’s Freeway Security Network has the technological capability to combat organized retail theft.  The Allied Freeway Agencies have received additional funding for the Network and direction to develop a plan to augment and expand the Network county-wide in order to provide technological leads in preventing and investigating criminal syndicates involved in the violent organized retail theft.

I am proud to have originated the creation of this freeway camera system to combat freeway shootings.  Since the network was installed, freeway shootings have been reduced by 90% in Contra Costa while remaining all too frequent in neighboring counties. I continue to work with law enforcement and elected leaders to propose that additional funding that Governor Newsom included in the state budget be used to incorporate additional technology to target organized retail theft into the Freeway Security Network.

  1. Disrupt the use of social media as a key enabler of looting 

Organized retail theft would not exist without social media, which is the key element to planning and profiting from these crimes.

Looting is coordinated through social media 

Social media platforms provide the means of communication which allows criminals to conspire to commit take-over robberies. These platforms are directly aiding and abetting the commission of large-scale crimes, which may result in criminal liability for the social media platforms.  I will call on the social media platforms, as well as private communication platforms, to monitor and immediately report to law enforcement any communications planning a smash-and-grab robbery or the “fencing” of stolen property.

We must make it clear to technology companies that failure to monitor and report the coordination of criminal enterprise should not be a protected business activity and should instead be considered as aiding and abetting that crime.

Stolen goods are sold via online marketplaces 

If a market for the merchandise that is being stolen did not exist, the criminal syndicates would have no motive to steal.  While I am out talking with community members, most are surprised to learn that the merchandise that is stolen from CVS, Walgreens, Lululemon and the high-end retailers is often sold on the internet via OfferUp, LetGo, and the Facebook and Amazon Market Places.

As District Attorney, I will actively engage and educate our community members about the crime occurring in our county and ways we can work together to combat it, such as not buying merchandise off the internet that does not have a means of guaranteeing that it is not stolen merchandise.  I will also work with retail stores to modify their return/exchange policies to ensure that they are not accepting the return of their own stolen merchandise.

———————————————————-

About Mary Knox: Mary Knox was born and raised in Walnut Creek and has 36 years of experience advocating and fighting for victims, their families, and the larger community. She is a lead prosecutor in the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office, who has prosecuted and won high profile cases against some of the most notorious criminals in county history. She has broken the chokehold that criminal gangs have had on the most disadvantaged communities and has engaged in meaningful violence reduction by instituting effective strategies to reduce crime and prosecute violent criminals. Learn more about Mary at maryknox4da.com

 

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Contra Costa DA joins forces with other prosecutors to combat organized retail theft

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

As thieves turn to new tactics, Bay Area, San Joaquin County prosecutors form alliance to ensure accountability

By Bobbi Mauler, Executive Assistant, Contra Costa County Office of the District Attorney

Today, Nov. 24, 2021, Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton announced an alliance between Contra Costa, Alameda, San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Joaquin counties, law enforcement, and state agencies to combat the recent increase in organized retail theft. Each office has pledged a prosecutor to collaborate and participate in the joint effort. (See related article)

“Fencing and organized retail theft rings operate across jurisdictional boundaries,” said Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton. “As prosecutors, we must respond to the nature of these crimes and operate with our partners to more effectively meet this challenge. Those responsible for perpetuating these crimes are working together as a team, and to ensure accountability for their crimes, law enforcement needs to work together as a team too. These caught and arrested will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

“Organized retail theft has adverse and costly impacts on business owners and consumers alike,” said San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. “Through a partnership with our neighboring counties, we will hold all parties accountable, including fencing rings and individuals who purchase stolen goods. We commend Governor Newsom and Attorney General Bonta for taking organized retail theft seriously and we implore the community to report suspicious resell activity to assist law enforcement’s efforts in tracking organized retail theft rings.”

While police work to strengthen investigations and collaborations across jurisdictional boundaries, prosecutors’ offices similarly can better ensure accountability through information sharing. The partnership between counties and local agencies would allow for the sharing of information through data collection, crime analytics, as well as pooled investigative tools to successfully prosecute those involved with organized retail theft schemes. In addition to the shared resources between counties, the District Attorney’s Offices would continue to collaborate with their local retailers and State Representatives to ensure statues that cover organized theft rings are enforceable and improve safety for consumers.

“Retail theft crimes are affecting all counties in the Bay Area as well as across the nation.  Collaboration and shared strategies with neighboring prosecutors and law enforcement partners are critical to both preventing and responding to organized retail theft,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.  “This alliance of prosecutors is committed to developing strategies to combat these organized crimes.  Together, we are determined to stop those who participate in organized retail theft, including by dismantling the fencing networks that make this type of crime profitable.”

“The recent premeditated retail theft mob action in multiple cities across Northern California is intolerable and will not be accepted by District Attorneys, law enforcement officials and our community members,” said San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.  “Anyone caught engaging in such criminal conduct should expect to find themselves facing prosecution, conviction and incarceration. There is no leniency for such behavior.”

“The recent acts of retail thefts, robberies and mass-mob burglaries throughout Northern California will not be tolerated. These are clearly carefully orchestrated crimes, working together in large groups to create a mob-like mentality,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. They are instilling fear in merchants, customers, and the wider community. This is especially appalling at a time where many are out and about during the holiday season. Be assured that those caught and arrested will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

“California has seen shifts in crime trends and tactics, and Bay Area prosecutors are forming this partnership to meet the moment,” said Cristine DeBerry, Executive Director of the Prosecutors Alliance of California.  “Partnerships like these reflect the need to implement modern solutions to modern problems. These crimes happen quickly, and they may not be caught in the act.  Through information sharing and coordination, there will be greater likelihood of arrests and accountability than everyone working in isolation.”

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Contra Costa, 22 other DA’s reach settlement with gas station owner for underground storage tank environmental violations

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

Gas station underground storage tank diagram. Source: EPA

$1.1 million in civil penalties; 113 tanks statewide, seven in Contra Costa County

By Bobbi Mauler, Executive Assistant, Contra Costa County Office of the District Attorney

Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton announced today that the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, together with 22 other California District Attorneys and City Attorneys, have reached a settlement with the Orange, California-based Hassan & Sons, Inc., H&S Energy, LLC and H&S Energy Products, LLC (formerly known as Colonial Energy, LLC),  (collectively referred to as “H&S Energy”) over allegations that the companies violated state laws regarding the operation and maintenance of motor vehicle fuel underground storage tanks (“USTs”). The settlement includes $1,100,000 in civil penalties, and investigative costs. H&S Energy has 113 fueling stations in California, of which, seven locations are in Contra Costa County. The settlement follows an investigation by local environmental health agencies of H&S Energy stations’ non-compliance with many provisions of the UST regulations.

The companies, started in 1996, have built and acquired gasoline and convenience stores throughout the state under the Chevron, Texaco, Shell, Extra Mile, and their own, Power Market brand, including locations in Bay Point, Brentwood, Oakley, Pittsburg and Martinez.

“UST owners and operators must comply with the applicable regulations in order to prevent potential harm to the environment,” said D.A. Becton. “H&S Energy was cooperative with the People’s investigation and expended significant resources in order to bring their stations into compliance.”

Under the settlement, which includes a Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction entered in Solano County Superior Court Case No. FCS057332 by the Honorable E. Bradley Nelson, H&S Energy must implement certain compliance assurance programs including hiring an environmental compliance manager and bi-annual environmental audits and reports submitted to the People. In addition, H&S Energy must pay $900,000 in civil penalties and $200,000 in costs. $550,000 is due within five days after entry of judgment, and the remaining $550,000 is due October 22, 2022.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

 

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PG&E disputes Shasta County criminal charges related to 2020 Zogg Fire

Saturday, September 25th, 2021

2020 Zogg Fire statistics. Source: CalFire

SAN FRANCISCO — PG&E Corporation shared the following statement from CEO Patti Poppe today, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 regarding criminal charges filed by the Shasta County District Attorney’s office related to the September 2020 Zogg Fire. The utility company was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of four people, and other felonies and misdemeanors for the Zogg Fire and other fires that started in the county over the last year and a half.

“We are all devastated by the effects of wildfire here in California. My heart aches. I have seen firsthand how devastating it is and have spoken with many of those most harmed. These communities are the hometowns where my coworkers live and work, too. While I am new to this environment, I hope my heart never becomes hardened to the devastation that catastrophic wildfire can cause.

I came to PG&E to make it right and make it safe, which is a commitment that my 40,000 coworkers and contract partners all share. We’ve already resolved many victim claims arising from the Zogg Fire, along with the claims by the counties of Shasta and Tehama. And we are working hard to resolve the remaining claims.

We’ve accepted CAL FIRE’s determination, reached earlier this year, that a tree contacted our electric line and started the Zogg Fire. We accept that conclusion.  But we did not commit a crime.

Today’s climate and unprecedented drought have forever changed the relationship between trees and power lines. And please know we’re not sitting idly by. We have established a new standard for our lines and the vegetation near them because it poses such a real risk to our communities.

For example, on the Zogg Fire, the tree that started the fire is one of over 8 million trees within striking distance to our lines. Here are a few other facts.

Between October 2018 and last year’s Zogg Fire:

  • Two trained arborists walked this line and independent of one another determined the tree in question could stay.
  • We trimmed or removed over 5,000 trees on this very circuit alone.
  • This year we will remove 300,000 trees statewide.

This vital safety work is all done by real people who are trying every day to do the right thing. Trained, professional people – my PG&E coworkers and our extended contractor family. Arborists, specifically, are trained professionals and sometimes, just like doctors or architects, they can have professional differences. There will be debates about the facts around the tree that started the Zogg Fire. Professional debate in the service of doing what is right and continuously improving.

This was a tragedy, four people died. And my coworkers are working so hard to prevent fires and the catastrophic losses that come with them. They have dedicated their careers to it, criminalizing their judgment is not right. Failing to prevent this fire is not a crime.

Right now, PG&E is:

  • Investing more than $1.4 billion this year alone in vegetation management;
  • Removing 300,000 trees and trimming 1 million more;
  • We’re working toward burying 10,000 miles of power lines;
  • We’re installing remote and micro grids to eliminate the wires altogether; and
  • We’re reestablishing and building our system to a new standard of resilience that keeps our communities safe and powered as our climate continues to change around us.

We are seeing signs of progress. For example, even during this year, with extreme drought conditions, we have reduced our ignitions over 50%.

That is our best ever performance since we have been tracking this and yet, we are still dissatisfied. That’s why we are not going to stop there.

We’re putting everything we’ve got into preventing wildfires and reducing the risk. Though it may feel satisfying for the company of PG&E to be charged with a crime, what I know is the company of PG&E is people,  40,000 people who get up every day to make it safe and to end catastrophic wildfire and tragedies like this.

Let’s be clear, my coworkers are not criminals.  We welcome our day in court so people can learn just that.”

Poppe’s statement is also available on PG&E Currents and broadcast quality video is available here.

Details about PG&E’s efforts to further reduce the growing wildfire risk, harden its systems, and use new technologies to help keep its communities safe can be found in the company’s 2021 Wildfire Mitigation Plan.

About PG&E Corporation

PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG) is the parent company of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E or the “Utility”), a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pgecorp.com.

Forward-Looking Statements

This news release contains forward-looking statements that are not historical facts, including statements about the beliefs, expectations, estimates, future plans and strategies of PG&E Corporation and the Utility, including but not limited to the criminal charges filed in connection with the 2020 Zogg fire and the Utility’s vegetation management and system hardening efforts. These statements are based on current expectations and assumptions, which management believes are reasonable, and on information currently available to management, but are necessarily subject to various risks and uncertainties. In addition to the risk that these assumptions prove to be inaccurate, factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated by the forward-looking statements include factors disclosed in PG&E Corporation and the Utility’s joint annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020, their most recent quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2021, and other reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which are available on PG&E Corporation’s website at pgecorp.com and on the SEC website at www.sec.gov. PG&E Corporation and the Utility undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether due to new information, future events or otherwise, except to the extent required by law.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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